the voice and legacy of ‘the great gatsby’

Robert-redford-the-great-gatsbyRobert Hahn at Literary Hub:

For doubters, the enduring renown of The Great Gatsby is mystifying. It seems a wonder to them that Gatsby should cling to its lofty place on lists of Great American Novels, despite being so slender and so dated, and not withstanding its ham-handed symbolism (the Valley of the Ashes, the Eyes of Doctor Eckleburg), simplistic structure (a series of set-pieces), clunky plot machinery (fancy cars roaring back and forth to Manhattan, merely to move pieces around the board), and flat characters (Tom Buchanan tilts toward caricature and Meyer Wolfsheim tips all the way over).

There is a solution to the mystery of Gatsby’s lasting fame, as believers know, and to my mind that solution is voice. The elixir that transforms the novel’s inert matter into music—that turns its static iconography into poetry—is its first-person narration: the subtle, compounded, compromised voice of Nick Carraway. A voice of hope infused with despair, of belief corroded by doubt. A voice suave and dapper on its surface but roiled and dark in its depths. It is the inviting but evasive voice of a new best friend who draws you into his confidence and promises alluring secrets, only to turn away from you, agitated, distracted, and weary.

more here.