On Gatsby and Patriotism (X 2)

Two new reviews of Under the Red White and Blue

“This glossy rotten nation, which has never come close to keeping its promises, never come close to living up to its creed and its potential, needs to be remade. Not reformed. Revolutionized. The value of Under the Red White and Blue at this moment, or at least the value that I, with my buckets of pessimism, emerged with, is that it demonstrates how one cultural text might become so commonplace that no one will notice that you’ve seized it and rewritten it until it’s too late. If it can be done with The Great Gatsby, why not with that other misunderstood classic, patriotism itself? There’s a lot of work to do, though. The absurdity of asking Black Americans, or any other dispossessed Americans, to honor a debt to the nation is that the obligation has never been reciprocated to them to the full extent of its promise. But the language of the contract is right there for everyone to read and we must ask if it still matters.”

– Robert Loss, “Heartbroken Patriots” (Los Angeles Review of Books, Aug. 29)

Under the Red White and Blue could be described as a 154-page essay on The Great Gatsby, but it’s also an essay on American patriotism—or rather, it’s an attempt to make one inseparable from the other, to show how a masterpiece of popular fiction like Fitzgerald’s can reaffirm our cultural bonds, not because of what it says about America but rather because of the questions it raises, the American values alluded to but never precisely defined. For some, a book like this won’t have come a moment too soon. When the far left increasingly defines all patriotism as xenophobia with a human face and the far right increasingly celebrates it for the same reason, a hunger grows for a form of patriotism grounded in something other than partisanship or violence. The challenge is finding (or inventing) a version of America sturdy enough to rally around but fluid enough to welcome everyone and evolve with its followers. Enter Marcus: ‘What if Fitzgerald’s goal was to create just such a thing, a doubled, shifting image of beauty and crime?'”

– Jackson Arn, “American Greatness” (The Point, Aug. 28)

Visit this post for earlier reviews of Under the Red White and Blue.

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