Friday, August 5, 2011

The Great Gatsby: Intentional Writing (a Quote)

I am (re)reading The Great Gatsby because I haven't made it to the library lately. It never fails that the older I get the more I appreciate great books and am able to pinpoint what makes them great. For F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel, it is his intentional writing. Let me give you an example:
I was walking along from one place to another half on the sidewalks and half on the lawns. I was happier on the lawns because I had on shoes from England with rubber nobs on the soles that bit into the soft ground. I had on a new plaid skirt also that blew a little in the wind and whenever this happened the red, white and blue banners in front of all the houses stretched out stiff and said tut-tut-tut-tut in a disapproving way.
I absolutely love the way he turns the completely normal fluttering of banners into something more, painting a picture so much more vividly than if he had simply described the scene using the typical "it was windy" or "all the houses had banners." He was intentional about going beyond, about surprising the reader, about doing more.

My edition's preface says this about Fitzgerald:
Fitzgerald was not the playboy of American literature, although certain fans like to think that he was an irresponsible writer. He was an alcoholic—as were other major American writers—but he was a serious writer and a hard worker. He did not scribble The Great Gatsby drunk. The novel had a three-year process of evolution, and Fitzgerald tested his material in the short stories that preceded The Great Gatsby...The novel developed through layers of drafts and achieved its ultimate brilliance when Fitzgerald revised and rewrote it in the galley proofs. At the stage when most authors are finished with their work he was still perfecting The Great Gatsby.
And this is very obvious in its intentional depiction of events, people, and places. Gotta love good writing. :)

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