I really didn’t think much about Gatsby today, except for this excerpt from The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons, the latest novel from brilliant mystery writer Lawrence Block.
If you’re not familiar with Lawrence Block, please acquaint yourself with him. He’s my favorite mystery writer (well, with the possible exception of John D. MacDonald, author of the 21 Travis McGee novels). Block’s Bernie Rhodenbarr books are delightful. I read all of them at least once per year. They’re that good.
In this excerpt, Bernie (a book store owner who moonlights as a burglar) is having a conversation with a man who obsessively collects buttons, and would like to enlist Bernie’s help stealing something for him – Fitzgerald’s book The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Other Stories (because of the name “Button”). The man and Bernie get to talking about The Great Gatsby:
“I beg your pardon?”
“It’s nothing. I gather you don’t think The Great Gatsby is—”
“The Great American novel ? No, hardly that. The puzzle of Gatsby is how so many otherwise perceptive people can find so much to admire in it. Do you know why Jay Gatsby is such an enigma? It’s because Fitzgerald himself never had a clue who the fellow was. An arriviste, a parvenu, an upstart if you will, a man who made big money in a hurry and got his hands just a little dirty in the process. Hardly a rarity at the time, and there was a fellow in Boston with a similar story who got his son elected to the White House. Fitzgerald didn’t know what to make of Gatsby, and the literary establishment has responded by enshrining his bafflement. So no, I don’t think much of Gatsby, or your Mr. Fitzgerald.”
I chose silence as preferable to stammering.
Block, Lawrence (2013-12-25). The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons (Bernie Rhodenbarr) (p. 55). Lawrence Block. Kindle Edition.
I can’t say I can argue with the man’s opinion.