The Great Gatsby  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Great Gatsby is a novel by the American author F. Scott Fitzgerald. First published on April 10, 1925, the story is set in New York City and Long Island during the summer of 1922.

The novel chronicles an era that Fitzgerald himself dubbed the "Jazz Age." Following the shock and chaos of World War I, American society enjoyed unprecedented levels of prosperity during the 1920s as the economy soared. At the same time, Prohibition, the ban on the sale and manufacture of alcohol mandated by the Eighteenth Amendment, made millionaires out of bootleggers and led to increases in organized crime. Although Fitzgerald, like Nick Carraway in his novel, idolized the riches and glamour of the age, he was uncomfortable with the unrestrained materialism and lack of morality that went with it.

The Great Gatsby was not popular upon initial printing, selling fewer than 25,000 copies during the remaining fifteen years of Fitzgerald's life.

Although it was adapted into both a Broadway play and a Hollywood film within a year of publication, it was largely forgotten during the Great Depression and World War II. After it was republished in 1945 and 1953, it quickly found a wide readership, and is now often regarded as the Great American Novel. It is now a standard text in high school and university courses on American literature in countries around the world.

Cover art

But above the grey land and the spasms of bleak dust which drift endlessly over it, you perceive, after a moment, the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg. The eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg are blue and gigantic--their retinas are one yard high. They look out of no face but, instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a nonexistent nose. Evidently some wild wag of an oculist set them there to fatten his practice in the borough of Queens, and then sank down himself into eternal blindness or forgot them and moved away. But his eyes, dimmed a little by many paintless days under sun and rain, brood on over the solemn dumping ground.

The cover of The Great Gatsby is among the most celebrated pieces of art in American literature. It depicts disembodied eyes and a mouth over a blue skyline, with images of naked women reflected in the irises. A little-known artist named Francis Cugat was commissioned to illustrate the book while Fitzgerald was in the midst of writing it. The cover was completed before the novel; Fitzgerald was so enamored with it that he told his publisher he had "written it into" the novel. Fitzgerald's remarks about incorporating the painting into the novel led to the interpretation that the eyes are reminiscent of those of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg (the novel's erstwhile optometrist, depicted on a faded commercial billboard near George Wilson's auto repair shop) which Fitzgerald described as "blue and gigantic — their retinas are one yard high. They look out of no face, but instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a non-existent nose." Although this passage has some resemblance to the painting, a closer explanation can be found in the description of Daisy Buchanan as the "girl whose disembodied face floated along the dark cornices and blinding signs." Ernest Hemingway wrote in A Moveable Feast that when Fitzgerald lent him a copy of The Great Gatsby to read, he immediately disliked the cover, but "Scott told me not to be put off by it, that it had to do with a billboard along a highway in Long Island that was important in the story. He said he had liked the jacket and now he didn't like it."

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Great Gatsby" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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