I'm re-reading this as part of a book club read.
The Great Gatsby is far less glamorous than I remember. In fact, this book is downright melancholy and miserable!
I have the read the majority of Fitzgerald's works, and after doing so, it greatly decreases the magic of Gatsby. All Fitzgerald writes about is sad, pathetic, shallow characters in almost every single story. Most of them are desperate and escapists, and someone always has an alcohol problem. And you can't help but dislike them. (Beautiful and the Damned is a great example of this.) He doesn't have the ability to write about anything else; he can't make multi-dimensional characters. The characters in this book aren't a masterpiece, they're the limitation of Fitzgerald.
I think the literary hype is certainly over-rated. This is not the best American classic of all time. However, it's accessible, easy to read, and short. Also, understanding any symbolism and metaphors are simple. It's right out there in the open. It doesn't take a lot of work to understand! In school you are spoon-fed all of this literary amazement, more as a crash-course exercise to understanding literature, and you lap it up, because honestly Gatsby is more fun than the Scarlet Letter.
This is a book that doesn't require a lot of effort. If it wasn't required reading in school, I am not sure how popular this novel would be as of current day. Probably, it is not as ground-breaking as more recent literature that wouldn't get past the school censors.
I don't think anyone can argue that this book is truly complex. Yes, Fitzgerald does have some truly pretty description and quick, rapid dialogue, but he is no William Faulkner. This is an author who made his living off of writing short stories to make quick money.
You don't need any historical or literary background to get this story. In fact, Fitzgerald barely writes about the Jazz Age anyway. Gatsby is having some grand ol' parties at his place, but we aren't exposed to much of anything else.
Nick Carraway is a shell of a character. Daisy is a one-dimensional fool, but she is like all other fools that Fitzgerald has written about before. Tom and Jordan have the most personality, but they're not the central characters.
This is a social commentary. Money can get you very far, you don't need to be honest to acquire money, but in the end, it can't make you happy or give you what you really want. I think everyone can appreciate that message. Fitzgerald delivered it concisely, right to the point, and didn't spend unnecessary time dragging it out, and I appreciate that.
Do you really want a literary masterpiece? Read some Dostoevsky or Proust and get back to me.