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Image provided by Deborah Willis

Deborah Willis

Affiliation with UVic English: Alumni, B.A. Hons. 2006

Special Book: The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

When did you first read this book: I don’t remember the first time I read The Great Gatsby, but that’s probably because I’ve read it so many times. It continues to fascinate me because, in its concision, it is full of mysteries: Nick’s ambiguous sexuality, the privacy of love (or is it obsession?) shared by Gatsby and Daisy, and the reasons that prompt Nick to tell the story at all. The book is slippery and I can never quite grasp it. Each time I read it, I notice something new and, despite knowing, I wonder what will happen next. Lately, I’ve found myself aware of the book’s minute flaws (sometimes overly lyrical sentences, sometimes overly obvious symbolism) but love the book all the more because of them. Perfection would be deadening and would not be art, but to me, Gatsby is as close to perfect as a novel can get. I read it again and again hoping that one day I might write something one sixteenth as good.

Which sentence from this book has special significance for you?

Because I recently turned 30, I have to include this one:

“‘…I just remembered that to-day’s my birthday.” I was thirty. Before me stretched the portentous, menacing road of a new decade.”

And because each time I open the book I get a surge of pleasure and expectation, here is the first line, so strange and unexpected, revealing while also withholding:

 “In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.

‘Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,’ he told me, ‘just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages you’ve had.'”