Saturday, April 14, 2018

Better Than a Masterpiece

From Signature:
When you read a book like Gatsby, you’re battling the obligatory feeling of reading a book that was assigned in high school—I remember throwing my copy on the ground outside of class to demonstrate that I hated this story about rich people’s problems. You’re battling Tobey Maguire and Leonardo Dicaprio and Carey Mulligan, Sam Waterston and Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. You’re even battling the back cover of the book: “A true classic of twentieth-century literature,” “The American masterwork.”

But if a book is really worthy of such adoration, there will be moments that cut through the portentousness of its reputation. You’ll find unexpected details that aren’t easily interpreted, sharp surprises that seem smuggled in. In these kinds of little passages, where Nick is so bothered by some dried lather that he waits until the guy passes out and then wipes it off of his sleeping face, books like Gatsby surpass their own themes and step down from being icons of a culture to being pieces of art again—peculiar, funny slippery. Much better than a masterpiece. (Read more.)

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