Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing
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Writers on Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in a letter to his editor Maxwell Perkins in 1922 as he began to write the novel which became The Great Gatsby, “I want to write something new, something extraordinary and beautiful and simple and intricately patterned.”

Ernest Hemingway said in his memoir A Moveable Feast, after reading The Great Gatsby, “When I had finished the book, I knew that no matter what Scott did, nor how preposterously he behaved, I must know it was like a sickness and be of any help I could to him and try to be a good friend. … If he could write a book as fine as The Great Gatsby I was sure that he could write an even better one. I did not know Zelda yet, and so I did not know the terrible odds that were against him.”

His editor at Scribner, Maxwell Perkins, considered the book “extraordinary.” “You have plainly mastered the craft,” he wrote, “but you needed far more than craftsmanship for this.” T.S. Eliot reported that he had read The Great Gatsby three times and thought it was “the first step forward American fiction had taken since Henry James.”

A strong praise from Eliot:

Dear Mr. Scott Fitzgerald,
The Great Gatsby with your charming and overpowering inscription arrived the very morning I was leaving in some haste for a sea voyage advised by my doctor. I therefore left it behind and only read it on my return a few days ago. I have, however, now read it three times. I am not in the least influenced by your remark about myself when I say that it has interested and excited me more than any new novel I have seen, either English or American, for a number of years.
When I have more time I should like to write to you more fully and tell you exactly why it seems to me such a remarkable book. In fact it seems to me to be the first step that American fiction has taken since Henry James.

International-bestselling Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami translated The Great Gatsby into Japanese in 2006. He wrote an afterword expalined why Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby was the most important novel in his life. Murakami said he read the F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterwork many times over the years and admired it greatly.

From the essay Haruki Murakami published as the Afterword to the Japanese edition of The Great Gatsby in 2006:

When someone asks, ‘Which three books have meant the most to you?’ I can answer without having to think: The Great Gatsby, Dostoevesky’s The Brothers Karamazov, and Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye. All three have been indispensable to me (both as a reader and as a writer); yet if I were forced to select only one, I would unhesitatingly choose Gatsby. Had it not been for Fitzgerald’s novel, I would not be writing the kind of literature I am today (indeed, it is possible that I would not be writing at all, although that is neither here nor there).
Whatever the case, you can sense the level of my infatuation with The Great Gatsby. It taught me so much and encouraged me so greatly in my own life. Through slender in size for a full-length work, it served as a standard and a fixed point, an axis around which I was able to organize the many coordinates that make up the world of the novel. I read Gatsby over and over, poking into every nook and cranny, until I had virtually memorized entire sections.
Remarks such as these are bound to perplex more than a few readers. ‘Look, Murakami,’ they’ll say, ‘I read the novel, and I don’t get it. Just why do you think it’s so great?’ My first impulse is to challenge them right back. ‘Hey, if The Great Gatsby isn’t great,’ I am tempted to say, inching closer, ‘then what the heck is?’…Gatsby is such a finely wrought novel – its scenes so fully realized, its evocations of sentiment so delicate, its language so layered – that, in the end, one has to study it line by line in English to appreciate its true value.
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