Over at The New Republic, our book critic Maureen Corrigan has a truly wonderful defense of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby as “America’s greatest novel about class.” Because of the new Baz Luhrmann film (which David Edelstein reviews on today’s show), Gatsby has been getting another moment in the media spotlight lately and part of that has included some Gatsby backlash (“I find Gatsby aesthetically overrated, psychologically vacant, and morally complacent.”). Maureen thinks these contrarians are missing some of the finer points that make the novel so complex:
Simultaneous with Fitzgerald’s delight in fine commodities, however, there’s always a vigorous resentment of those who don’t have to work hard to acquire them. Throughout his writing, Fitzgerald betrays the scorn of the poor relation, the self-made man, railing against—and envying—those trust fund babies who take their privilege for granted. Nick cautions readers against identifying with this smugness on the very first page of the novel, telling us that his father always reminded him of the obligations of the rich to the less fortunate. Fitzgerald may not have been overtly political in his life or writing the way that contemporaries like Hemingway, Dos Passos, or Edmund Wilson were—he quietly voted for Roosevelt and privately recommended Das Kapital as extracurricular reading to his college-aged daughter, Scottie—but his class-consciousness was intense and enduring.
Image of Fitzgerald and Scottie via Lists of Note