Tag Archives: Reviews

Review of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”

My decision to re-read books of my past, and review them, continues with “The Great Gatsby”. “The Great Gatbsy” is one of those books that seems to be an assigned reading multiple times throughout one’s “formal” education. The first time I recall being assigned to read this was in 11th grade. And the second time was at a community college.

Perhaps my teachers were onto something, and it was a good thing that these books were assigned throughout multiple years, because I never read the book completely either time. I have only decided to go back and read this book, as well as other books from my past (and more future books) as a means to become a better writer myself.

The narrator of the book is a man named Nick Carraway. A man from the Midwest who fought in the First World War, whose experience in the war left him bored with the Midwest. He moved to New York from the Midwest at the prospect of an exciting “American Dream”.

His neighbor was a man named Gatsby. Gatsby owned a nice mansion. Gatsby threw a lot of parties at his house. A lot of rich people came to Gatsby’s house to drink, and party. Exciting stuff. Get used to it, because it happens a lot throughout the whole fucking book.

Across the bay where Gatsby and Nick lived, lived Nick’s “second cousin once removed”, Daisy, and her husband, Tom Buchanan, whom Nick had known in college. Tom is basically a quiet brute with a sensitive ego: particularly when it comes to Daisy. Yes, this is largely a love story, my friends. Exciting stuff.

Gatsby’s name gets thrown around a lot because of all of the parties he throws for big-wigs. Lots of rumors get spread: many of them about all of the exciting things the great man has done. (Hence “The Great Gatsby”. Clever, huh?) To make a long story short, Gatsby loves Daisy and wants her to leave Tom for him. And she doesn’t do it. Spoiler alert. Sorry.

So what else happens? Why should you read this book? Well, Tom is cheating on Daisy with a woman named Myrtle Wilson, who is married to George Wilson, a mechanic. The Wilsons aren’t rich like Tom Buchanan and Gatsby are. Fascinating. At one point, Tom, Nick, Daisy, Gatsby, and some female tennis player named Jordan (whom is introduced as a possible interest for Nick, but nothing materializes from it) go to town, in two cars. Gatsby and Daisy take one car, with Gatsby driving, and Tom, Nick, and Jordan take another car, with Tom driving. Tom is trying to keep up with Gatsby and Daisy because he is jealous of Gatsby. He knows Gatsby loves Daisy, and Tom is very possessive. Daisy is just some dimwitted rich girl who happens to be related to Nick and who is married to Tom and who Gatsby loves. To be such a pivotal character to the story, I found her ditsyness insufferable.

Myrtle runs out in front of Tom’s car. Tom and Myrtle had been having an affair. Tom ignores her and runs over her in pursuit of Gatsby. Gatsby’s popularity gets the best of him, as rumor spreads that he was the one who ran over Myrtle. George shoots Gatsby in his pool. Fascinating stuff.

That’s pretty much the story. So why is this story so significant? Well, I’ll give you the standard analysis of this book, then I’ll provide you with my own analysis of this book.

What, supposedly, makes this book worth a read is the fact that it takes place during the “roaring ’20s”. During the “Jazz Age”. I think there’s something much more significant to this book. But that, basically, is where the analysis of this book begins and ends. “Roaring ’20s”, “Jazz Age”, “American Dream”, etc. But when I read this book in community college (well, I should qualify, half read), and when I read this book again just recently, I came away with something different.

Yes, there is no doubt about the time period in which this book took place. But to say that this book is “about” the “roaring ’20s”, I believe, is disingenuous. I don’t think this book is “about” the “roaring ’20s”, but is, rather, a critique of the “roaring ’20s”. The analysis that my community college teacher gave of this book, and the direction that the conversation of this book took place, if memory serves me correctly, was just about “the Jazz Age”, as if the book served as some kind of praise of the exciting “American Dream” at the turn of the 20th century, or maybe even, almost, as just documentation of the historical time period itself. (I’ll get to Gatsby and Daisy in a second). But I did not see that at all in Fitzgerald’s work. Sure, that’s when the book takes place. And there’s a lot of history about how the “roaring ’20s” were. But I think people are taking history and trying to analyze Fitzgerald’s work, instead of analyzing the work itself.

To begin with, let’s look at the characters. I noticed something, the time that I read what little bit of this book I did in community college, and when I read the book again recently. Most of the characters weren’t very happy. When Nick goes to Gatsby’s parties, there’s a lot of drunken merriment, but there’s also relationship fights that go on. When Nick goes to these parties himself, he can see this conflict. Otherwise, when you observe the parties from the outside, they’re “a hoot”. Just a bunch of rich people drinking and partying. My, what a ball! I bet they’re having a blast! No, I think the main theme of this book is that the grass always appears to be greener on the other side, but that it almost never is. I’ll provide some more evidence towards this later.

These rich people, drinking, “living it up”, but who actually aren’t happy at all. Putting on airs. Envious of this “Gatsby” fellow, whom they’ve heard a lot about, but have never met. Nick feels this way about Gatsby until he meets him, and gets to know him better.

George Wilson: a mechanic in the “Valley of Ashes” (basically in poverty). Tom was either going to buy or sell a car to George (it doesn’t really matter to me either one, honestly), and George was really excited about it and needed it because he’s poor, but to Tom, it wasn’t that big of a deal, because he was rich. This again, to me, screams out “the grass always appears to be greener on the other side”. George, a poor man, would love to have Tom’s wealth, and the lifestyle that he assumes comes along with it. But Tom never seems to be happy in the book at all. He’s quiet, reserved, easily embarrassed and intimidated by Gatsby, who cheats on Daisy and then kills his mistress. Sometimes, that grass is brown and dead on the other side. Poverty isn’t the only big problem in the world. That was the sense that I got from this book. But that’s not what I got from the book when it was discussed in the classroom. The discussion was about the “roaring ’20s”, and maybe even some class warfare, or something. Something that I don’t think makes sense at all. I’ll provide more “the grass always appears to be greener on the other side, but frequently isn’t” evidence soon.

Gatsby is mysterious and always busy, and Nick tries to read him. Sometimes, Gatsby seems confident: other times, miserable. Yes, Gatsby loves Daisy. He was trying to win her over with his luxurious lifestyle. There’s no doubt about that. But when I read this book in community college, something else stuck out to me. And that was the color green.

The green light that Gatsby looked out at. Where Daisy lived. Sure, he was looking out at Daisy. But the color green rang a bell to me. The color green is associated with envy. And when I looked at all of these miserable characters: rich people who seemed to have it all, but were still in unhappy relationships, the contrast between the rich and the “Valley of Ashes”, and George Wilson’s situation compared to Tom Buchanan’s (but knowing that Tom Buchanan had his own problems as well), the infidelity of both rich and poor, the rumors about Gatsby: all I could think about is that, for instance, it is easy for non-wealthy people to look at wealth and see that it will solve all of their problems. This book definitely states the contrary. Likewise, just envy in general, whether of the demeanor of someone else, the perceived lifestyle that they have (like the exciting one that Gatsby appeared to lead), or envy of a romantic interest who loves another doesn’t always provide that greener light on the other side. I think the last passage provides evidence of my analysis as well:

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning-

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

So does the green light represent Daisy? Sure. But it’s much more than that. Because Fitzgerald says “the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us.” Us. Clearly, he doesn’t want this light to just mean Daisy. There’s more significance to this “green light”. Why green? Well, I read “envy” into it, personally. Maybe the green represents money? Maybe the green light is Daisy because Gatsby looked out at them both, and thought that he could win Daisy’s heart with his money? That certainly makes sense to me. I still lean towards envy, simply because of the unhappiness that pervades seemingly every character in this book, and how this unhappiness that blankets them all exists within this contrast between rich and poor.

Could Fitzgerald have been talking about the “American Dream”? Of course. Was it about, say, a recession? Was Fitzgerald pessimistic about the future of economic progress in America? “…the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us”? Considering as how there was a depression in 1920, I think this certainly could be the case. I think his message is multi-layered. I think the “layers” between the American Dream and Gatsby’s love for Daisy are obvious. But the fact that almost everyone in this story are miserable (even when appearing to try to have a good time) is significant, too. The grass ain’t always greener on the other side. There’s worse fates than poverty. And money can’t solve everything.

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” We strive to better ourselves, even as life makes it harder to do so. I think one can definitely draw connections between that line and the “American Dream”. Between that line, and the contrast between the rich in the poor in this story, which may cause some to ask “Is the ‘American Dream’ really just a dream?” I’m not going to analyze that question here, but here’s some things that may be of interest to you if you are interested in that question.

The first time I read this, I was thinking so much about this “envy” message that I was getting that I misread Dr. T. J. Eckleberg’s eyes as being green. I’m saddened to reread that they are actually blue. So, sure. The eyes represent “God watching all”, knowing about all of our secrets and infidelities, judging us. Also, more contrast between the rich and the poor, with a giant advertising billboard. I personally find this shit boring. I like my analysis of this story better.

So what did I think of the book? Well, it takes a long time to get into it. I like the way Fitzgerald writes more than the way that Stephen King writes. I wish I could think of this story without thinking of my past experience in community college with it. The book isn’t that bad. As I’ve just said, I like the way Fitzgerald writes. He was good at giving Gatsby this air of mystique (that’s one thing I liked about the book when I first started to read it). He has interesting ways of describing things. The tale itself was quite bland to me. The most exciting thing about the story was a woman getting ran over and her breast basically getting ripped off of her body. I’m sorry, but a tale has got to do more than that for me. I guess there’s a lot of mystery to this story, but I’m not a fan of mysteries. There’s also romance, but I’m not a fan of romances. So the tale didn’t do much for me, honestly. I think it’s overrated. And I don’t think Fitzgerald was trying to “capture” the “Jazz Age” as much as he was trying to critique it. The copyright of this book is 1925: right in the middle of the “roaring ’20s”. Based on how aloof the rich characters are in this book, I can’t agree that Fitzgerald was trying to “capture” the “Jazz Age” with admiration. I think “criticism” is a more appropriate word than “admiration”. Perhaps he was a grumpy old introvert who was agitated by the extroversion of his age. Hmm…why does that message ring a bell with me?

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Saturation vs. Stimulation (In Movies, Particularly)

When I ignore what I’m told, and “nerd out”, I’m much happier, and my work is better. I hope I can retain this confidence to “choose my words carefully”, and be “overly descriptive”, because it actually makes me happy. With that being said, here’s the topic that I wish to discuss using said hope.

I can’t stand action movies because of their improbability, especially considering the sheer number of action movies out there.

I get that art is a “heightened” sense of reality, but come on now…

The “explosions” are so saturated in film that I am uninterested in them. “Oh, would you look at that. Yet another explosion. How original.” I suppose I’m an idiot, because I’m superficially talking about explosions in movies instead of stories in movies. But I’m not much of a “movie” person (I guess because of all of the EXPLOSIONS).

It’s the same thing with shootings in movies. Most of the bullets miss. I already know this “going in”. I can’t suspend my disbelief enough to care about the “inherent danger” of those in the bullets’ path.

I feel the same way (most of the time) with “good guys” and “bad guys”. I expect the good guys to win. I can’t believe that the bad guy is any real danger because I’m certain he’s going to lose. I prefer the “bad guy” to win at the end because it is an unexpected suckerpunch. It’s kind of like watching a sporting event where the “underdog” loses. Most people want to see the underdog “win”. But in movies, the “underdog” is the villain. I can’t believe that a hero in a movie is an “underdog” (even if the script tries to describe him as such) because I’m sure that he’s going to win. The villain is the underdog in movies, in my mind. I usually want the villain to win. I want the unexpected, and I want to be excited and a little depressed at the end. I don’t want the telegraphed “happy ending”. There’s exceptions to this rule (usually when the movie is about a historical war), but this is generally the case for me. Movies (particularly “action” movies) are mundane to me. I need some twists that I can’t see coming. I want very little predictability (unless it makes me laugh). I think I should do some in-depth movie reviews to try to illustrate what I like and dislike about specific films I have seen to make this easier.

I’ve always been one to care more about why and how movies were made than “enjoying” movies in the typical way most people do. There, of course, have been many exceptions to this. But generally, I have always been more interested in why there was so much money involved in movies, and why and how the movies were made, as I have already said.

Almost every time I watch a movie, I try to predict what will happen. Sitting there, “waiting” for it to unfold when I already know what is going to happen is so excruciatingly boring. Why would I watch it if I know what is going to happen? It’s like a scientific experiment that has been done forever: sure, when you first have a theory, you need to test it experimentally. But expecting me to “shut up” and “just watch it” is expecting way too fucking much from me. The formula is played out, even if the details vary. I need to experience something else. I recall being younger, watching a movie in school (I forget which one), and I said “Such and such is going to happen.” I was bored to tears, and I kept doing this. Someone finally said “I know, but shut up.” This person was intently watching. Why watch if you know exactly what is going to happen? I never understood it: especially something “serious”. Romance is disgusting (of course). Action movies are boring. Comedies are good, historical movies are good. Drama is a mixed bag. Most of the time, it falls flat on its face to me. A movie like “Jack” starring Robin Williams is an example of a drama done really fucking well. I cried when I first saw it as a teenager. It wasn’t cliché (it seemed very original to me, but I’m no expert). It was incredibly moving. So many dramas seem to be of the romantic variety, so perhaps that’s why I have such a problem with them. It is also just so fucking easy to become melodramatic. It is hard to create a compelling drama. And it is hard to get me to suspend my disbelief (especially with drama).

But I do enjoy the “horror” genre of movies. The more extreme, the better. Why do I get tired of explosions, but not blood? I don’t know the exact statistics, but is murder less “probabilistic” than explosions “in the real world”? Why do I care more for blood than explosions?

I should specify that I’m still not an avid “movie watcher”. I don’t gorge myself with horror films. I’m not really a “movie guy”. But when I do watch a movie, I want it to either be a comedy or a horror film. (Or a Batman film. I’ll have to leave him for another piece).

So why do I love blood in movies so much more than explosions?

I guess it’s because I enjoy purposeful, evil darkness more so than accidental explosions (even if the explosions are purposeful. I want to see some fake blood where the tone is more “dark” than “exciting”. To me, “dark” is “exciting”. “Exciting” is “boring”. It has become cliché).

Couldn’t it be said that murder is also cliché and boring? How many stabs and slashes can you watch? Once again, I repeat, I’m not a big “movie guy”, but murder films are more refreshing to me (believe it or not) than “The good guys always win and the horror doesn’t even look that bad” films. A guy robbed a bank. Who cares? Why should I be invested? Does he have a hostage? How bad does he treat the hostage? A “bad guy” is selling drugs. Who cares? I want his reason for being bad to be almost incomprehensible. Why does he kill? He just does. Or something traumatizing happened to him. I don’t want it to make any sense. Money makes too much sense to me. If a villain is going to be a villain because of money, he needs to be a really fucking brutal villain for me to care. (Color is also a big deal to me. I want everything to look dark and dirty: not bright and flashy).

If people are racing in a movie, and there’s an explosion (or a chase scene leading to the same thing), the “accident” doesn’t feel real to me because I know it was scripted. There’s just a certain tone that movies have to have for me to like them. A guy walking away from an explosion in slow-motion while rock music plays makes me want to blow my brains out. It is possible that I found the character compelling before that moment, in which case, his previous circumstances may make his “badassery” interesting. But I hate explosions for their own sake. I just, more often than not, can’t find explosions compelling. It depends on the characters and the tone of the film, but most of the time, it feels like explosions are the reasons why movies are created. “People are gonna pay to watch shit blow up. Nothing else matters, but let’s have some really fucking fast cars in there as well. We need to have something to happen in between the explosions, and people expect to see a movie that’s at least an hour and a half, so let’s make it happen!” I don’t watch a lot of movies, but I get the sense that so many movies revolve around explosions, and I find that quite lazy. Once again, I’m probably wrong, because I don’t watch a lot of movies, but that’s just my impression of them. There probably needs to be some parody involved if I’m going to care about explosions. Or, ironically enough, some drama surrounding them. Not action. I’m fucking tired of “action”.

When I first saw the movie “Atomic Twister” as a young teen, I was hooked. The idea of a tornado hitting a nuclear power plant was fucking terrifying to me. That was, really, all I needed: the fact that it could be real, and be really devastating. And it was original: sure, there’s the movie “Twister”. But this was “Atomic Twister” (lol). Yes, I was younger, and I know this affected my perception of the movie. But it wasn’t “Cars drive real fast – anti-hero – drugs are involved – bang-bang shoot ’em up” movie. Most of those make me want to fucking vomit.

However, when you have a very sadistic killer, I feel like the writer of the script is trying to understand these killers on the deepest level possible (besides going out and killing someone in real life), and that attempt to connect humanely with something so inhumane is appealing to me. “Why does he kill?” “No one knows.” That is a compelling story to me.

When you can move past the fear (at least the nearly-religious fear of being so afraid of it that you ignore it and try to get away from it as much as possible, including not attempting to empathize with it in any way to humanize it), it becomes a deep, heartfelt, gut-wrenching journey between trying to relate to those so despicable. It is, in my opinion, one of the most humane things one can do. If you can try to understand a serial killer, even if you are trying to empathize with someone who has no empathy (which may or may not be possible: topic for another time), to me, that’s as empathetic as you can get. It may or may not be possible, and I certainly wouldn’t say that you should go out and kill people to know what it feels like, but all the same, I think that, at least for me, and through art, connecting to that type of human is exciting. Conflict is extremely important when it comes to art and storytelling, and there is no greater conflict (in my opinion) than extreme life and death; peace and suffering; humanity and complete evil in human form (which, it could be argued, isn’t even human AT ALL. A very interesting discussion).

All I can think of, when real tragedies happen, is sadness. And I try to move on from them quickly, and I don’t try to waste my time trying to understand it, because I don’t think that I could.

But through art, I believe that one can empathize, ponder, and try to relate to these (as they are called) “monsters” in that way that is less angry at their actions (which is understandable), and turn that into tragedy, in trying to understand why they did it, and, perhaps, forgive them for it. It’s a great philosophical topic to think about: empathizing with the unempathetic. It’s too complicated for me to analyze it here, but there’s a deep part of me that wishes to understand human-created horror (I don’t think I’m any different from anyone else in that regard), and I think that the type of art that I create is my way of doing that. I don’t know for a fact if this is correct, but it certainly feels that way…

Also, I think another reason (a potentially BIG reason) that I am “obsessed” with “offensive“, “violent” art has to do with the fear of being one myself, which, no doubt, was greatly influenced by religious preachings of wariness, lest we sin every possible sin, and become a murdering, incestuous, raping, homosexual thief…

I, also, feel the same way about choreographed fighting as I do explosions. I get that to people that enjoy these types of movies, they are some of the more “exciting” parts of these movies. But choreographed fighting (usually) bores me. No one takes a good, solid hit for the first five minutes of fighting (both sides block every blow, or the strikes just completely whiff), and then either the good guy or bad guy gets hurt. They stop, look at their wound. If it’s the bad guy, he gets more angry than he was before, and the good guy can barely defend himself from it. If it is the good guy, the movie makes you think he’s going to lose. But, by some miracle (either from a compromised structure due to earlier in the film, or another character, or whatever), the good guy wins. I know it sounds like I’m always against good guys winning. (Most of the time, I am). But I want the good guy to be compelling to me. Most of the time, this just isn’t the case. I’m rarely invested in the story, because I’m not a “movie” guy. “Dur, then why are you writing about movies, huh?”

I also want to bring up one more aspect of acting in general: dialogue. Maybe I’m being overly-critical here, but the way dialogue is delivered today drives me mad. Cop shows on television are fucking terrible for it. Detective walks in, almost power-walking, throws a folder down on the counter of the “main guy in charge” talking in this low “serious” voice. A question is asked. The dialogue is delivered in the same monotone voice. Guy asks another question. Detective asks a question back in a higher tone. Lead guy answers with a “Well blah blah blah blah.” I can’t fucking take it. I can’t fucking sit through that shit. (The only exception to this was “House”. It was a “detective” show, but it wasn’t a “cop” show. House was a very interesting character. The formula worked for that show. It was like they combined a detective show with a hospital show. It was quite original, and very well done). I have problems with dialogue in action movies, too. They just don’t sell me. I’m not buying into them. Once again, admittedly, I’m not a “movie” guy. But it’s not like a movie or a show can’t capture me. Most of them just don’t, though. The formula is played out. The tones of dialogue are so predictable (as is almost everything else about the movies) that I can’t bring myself to watch them. But, they sell well.

I enjoy movies that are a little weird. A movie like “Teeth”, for instance. A vagina with teeth. Fucking beautiful. Hilarious. Now that is original. It’s got comedy and horror: two of my favorite things.

“Rubber”. A fucking tire that blows shit up. It’s so dumb, and that’s why I love it so much. It’s so “absurd”: “out there”. I find that refreshing. I don’t need to find it believable, or emotional. Give me dumb, but give me original. I think that’s what I enjoy the most about movies.

“Human Centipede”. Need I say more? A fucking hilarious horror movie. My only problem with the movie was the main villain, believe it or not. I enjoyed what he did, but I didn’t enjoy his personality. He came across as a little cheesy to me. I guess I wanted him to come across a little more like Jason, or Jigsaw.

One of my favorite movies of all time (and I’m not joking): “The Descent”. I know that is going to sound weird to pretty much everyone. “I can tell you really haven’t seen a lot of movies, Cody.” The whole setting in that movie was wonderful to me. There’s a real terror involved: what if you do get fucking lost in this cave? What if you can’t get out? I found it very compelling. The bullshit at the end was funny and cheesy, but I was emotionally invested before that.

I want my movies to be a little bit weird. A little bit “off-kilter”. Once again, I’d like to write some movie and show reviews. Some reviews of movies I watched a long time ago. Same with television shows. I’d like to even do the same thing with some books, eventually.

I’m not going to claim that any of my reviews are “objective” in any way, and, of course, you have the right to disagree with everything I say about any review. I’m not claiming that “I’m right and you’re wrong”: I’m just writing my opinions.

If the process of growing up has taught me anything, it is that individuals must live their own lives, with their own feelings, and experience the world in their own ways, make their own mistakes, and pursue their own passions.

Movie Freespace.

Insightful.

Writing.

Articles.

Reviews (etc.) of movies and T.V. shows.

Fake.

Fiction.

Critics vs. Audience: Two Sides of a Pointless and Dangerous War

Movie Freespace

As the saying goes: “First the Artist. Then, the Critic.”

History_of_the_World_SidCaesar_artist Oh God…what have you done???!!!

Okay, that may not be exactly how the saying goes (and I probably butchered that line from Mel Brooks’ History of the World: Part 1) but I’m pretty sure you understand the sentiment. As long as there has been art, there has always been some debbie-downer to come and criticize it.

After being prompted by the absurdity that is the debate between audiences and critics over something as trivial as Suicide Squad, I figured I would make post about this issue. I have noticed a recent trend going on within the entertain industries, particularly the movies industry.

And that is: Audiences really, REALLY hate critics. They hate them so much that there are some people that going to the lengths of wanting shut down review websites just because film critics didn’t like a…

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A Bad Review on One of My Stories Helped Me Analyze It for Myself

I just thought of a good analysis of my story “Dark” based on this review.

A good interpretation of why I use those words so often is because of how often they are used in society fearfully and judgmentally.

So thanks for your negative review, reviewer.

You helped me analyze my own piece of work 😀

Repetition is very important for me in my work.

Repetition is very important for me in my work.

Repetition is very important for me in my work.

Repetition is-

Your critique has made quite a few poet very famous indeed 😀 ❤

March 13, 2014.

Things that I have for sale on Kindle.

Where you can financially support me if you so desire.