Re: RARA-AVIS: GATSBY as the PI novel

From: Joy Matkowski (
Date: 30 Nov 2004

When I read GATSBY for a class long ago--way too long ago for me to remember why I thought it--I understood Gatsby to be Jewish and trying to fit into the old Anglo establishment. I have no desire to reread GATSBY, but now I do want to reread BLACK MONEY.


> Jim Winter wrote:
>> But here's a thought about GATSBY that makes me wonder if it
>> originated with MacDonald. A few years ago, a professor wrote a
>> paper suggesting that Jay Gatsby was trying to pass as a white man.
>> The plot of BLACK MONEY almost suggests that MacDonald had picked up
>> on the idea 30 years earlier. I wished I'd read GATSBY before I'd
>> heard that, because it was in the back of my mind when I finally did,
>> both from that article and BLACK MONEY. Still, it's an intriguing
>> debate, and there's nothing in GATSBY to suggest it wasn't possible.

and then Brian Thornton wrote:
> And there's nothing to suggest it was. Fitzgerald is one of the great
> voices of the early 20th century because of what he leaves unsaid, true,
> but
> this sounds to me like someone on a tenure track reading something into
> the
> text, as opposed to trying to pull it out. Gatsby is clearly a parvenue,
> that much is painfully clear, and the novel lays it out vividly that no
> matter how much new money he illegally makes, he's still "new money" and
> will never be able to truly enter Daisy's world any more than I can sprout
> wings and fly.
> I think the deeper question about Gatsby is whether Fitzgerald identified
> more with the viewpoint of Nick Carraway or with the viewpoint of Jay
> Gatsby
> himself. Fitzgerald was himself a parvenue who went out and "made it big"
> in order to win his own Daisy, his wife Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald. A social
> climber by nature, and an alcoholic by long practice, Fitzgerald opened up
> both the world of the "cruel rich" and of jazz age party excess ("jazz
> age"
> being a term Fitzgerald himself coined) for people who might never have
> had
> an inkling of what they were like otherwise. I think he did a bang-up job
> of showing how he himself (a good Catholic boy from the Midwest) was both
> attracted and repelled by both these aspects of 1920s America.
> Oh, and let me repeat for emphasis, I don't see the "black guy trying to
> pass" any more than I see a potentially drunken gay encounter for Nick
> after
> the party scene in the apartment where he helps the other drunk guy home.

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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 30 Nov 2004 EST