Andy Kaufman once did a stand-up special in which he attempted to read The Great Gatsby, much to the dismay of his audience. I saw this special when I was young and it had always left me with the impression that The Great Gatsby was an incredibly long novel. As the crowd boos Andy while he's trying to read, he responds, "Ladies and gentlemen, please! We still have a long way to go..." It's a very funny bit, pure genius, pure Andy. So Andy left me thinking that The Great Gatsby was a monster of a book, probably 600+ pages, and I never sought it out. It's not that I don't read long novels, but I had plenty to read on my own without jumping into a book that zero people had recommended in my lifetime.
Very recently a fellow co-worker blogged about the great American novel, suggesting The Great Gatsby. I was reminded again. Pulling it off the shelf at the library I noticed that the book is 180 pages all together, not long at all. Andy Kaufman tricked me! (Typical). But I now think that one of the great things about the novel is that such a story was written within 180 pages and it is perfect at that length, it does not need to be any longer.
I now understand the appeal, and why Gatsby has been so often studied and praised. It is so well written that probably every writer in the world should read it to take a cue from Fitzgerald. However, I feel that the best novels in the world should be thought provoking in a way that the reader examines some moral and philosophical issues - and The Great Gatsby did not provide this for me (hence the four, not five stars). Still, it is a story to get lost in, incredibly well written, and the perfect length. There's characters you will never forget, and the atmosphere Fitzgerald creates seems to take you right back in time. Have I also failed to mention it is often very funny, too? It is.
Come along old sport.