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The world's most misunderstood novel
04.05.2021 Hephzibah Anderson
literature
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Few characters in literature or indeed life embody an era quite so tenaciously as Jay Gatsby does the Jazz Age. Almost a century after he was written into being, F Scott Fitzgerald's doomed romantic has become shorthand for decadent flappers, champagne fountains and never-ending parties. Cut loose by pop culture from the text into which he was born, his name adorns everything from condominiums to hair wax and a limited-edition cologne (it contains notes of vetiver, pink pepper and Sicilian lime). It's now possible to lounge on a Gatsby sofa, check in at the Gatsby hotel, even chow down on a Gatsby sandwich – essentially a supersize, souped-up chip butty.

Incongruous though that last item sounds, naming anything after the man formerly known as James Gatz seems more than a touch problematic. After all, flamboyant host is just one part of his complicated identity. He's also a bootlegger, up to his neck in criminal enterprise, not to mention a delusional stalker whose showmanship comes to seem downright tacky. If he embodies the potential of the American Dream, then he also illustrates its limitations: here is a man, let's not forget, whose end is destined to be as pointless as it is violent.

bbc.com
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