Thursday, November 11, 2021

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925)

It’s been a long pandemic. While there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel, it still feels like we’re limited in what we might otherwise feel comfortable doing wherever there are a lot of other people around. For a reader like me, you’d think that would be great news, right?

Except that, for purposes of entreVIEW, I seem to be running out of books that have any real entrepreneurial content to them. When’s the last time you saw a book proclaiming that this is a great time to start a business? Yeah, I thought so. (But do check out this post from a fellow EntreVIEW editor.)

So this week’s post finds me thinking back on some of the classics I have read, and often reread time and again, over the course of my lifetime. And I’ll let you in on a secret: there’s something about this book that’s always bugged me. Okay, I can go along with the assessment that this is a great work of American literature, and it makes some deep and penetrating observations about America and what we might think of as the “American Dream,” not to mention some interesting takes on the human condition.

But here’s what bugs me, and lest you think I’m going all English major on you here, I’ll spell it out: How the heck did Gatsby make all his money? It’s all very mysterious. He grows up a farm boy—in Minnesota! He goes to St. Olaf! He meets up in Duluth with some rich guy, who apparently takes young Jimmy Gatz under his wing, then it’s off to the Great War after which he pops up on Long Island as millionaire Jay Gatsby.

As far as I can tell, Gatsby has buckets of charm but not the least suggestion of any entrepreneurial skills that would drive his success. Yes, there are hints of some nefarious bootlegging operation, but even this would seem to require some business savvy and entrepreneurial drive.

There. I’ve said it. The lack of a believable back story—a sentence or two would have made such a difference. Maybe this adds to the aura of mystery surrounding the book, but it’s always been a hole in the story for me.

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