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The Point
24 mins | May 13, 2020

American greatness

Greil Marcus’ book is a fascinating insight into the distinctly crass and fleeting modern American dream. Inspired by Marcus' book "Under the Red White and Blue: Patriotism, Disenchantment and the Stubborn Myth of the Great Gatsby", Jackson Arn reflects for The Point magazine on the seemingly intrinsic connections between F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic, "The Great Gatsby", and American patriotism. "This little book about another little book wouldn’t be worth the trouble if Marcus weren’t right on the main point: the recent history of the American Dream is a history of people reading The Great Gatsby. To tell stories about wealth, passion, crime and power is to stand in Fitzgerald’s shadow, whether you know it or not. But not all Gatsby-infused art is created equal, and the recent examples, taken together, suggest some disturbing truths: that the pursuit of happiness, celebrated for its own sake and unchecked by duty to family, community or God, leads to a country of three hundred million islands; that, if we’re not at that point yet, we’re pretty damn close; that no country can go on this way for long. Marcus knows this, or at least senses it. But his response, by and large, is to do what previous generations have done: mourn the American Dream so intensely he winds up worshipping it."

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