No. No. No no no, really, no. These words could easily have been a postmodern poem on the traumas suffered by a soldier in the First World War. They’re not, however; they’re my feelings about Michael Farris Smith’s novel Nick, which is a kind-of prequel to The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – and which features a shell-shocked soldier. Want to know why I feel that way? Read on!
Nick is about Nick Carraway, who later became famous as the unreliable narrator in Fitzgerald’s classic. Mr Farris Smith decided that Nick needed a background story. This is it: he fought in France during the First World War, was traumatised, fell in love with a Parisian woman, couldn’t have her, and travelled to New Orleans because, well, I don’t know and neither does Nick, really.
I couldn’t help but feel Nick could easily have been a great novel, if only it had been worked out well. Unfortunately, it isn’t, and as a result the novel reads like something a child could have written before they had been told that a chain of “and then”s isn’t any fun to read. The novel completely fails to make any sense, because Nick simply goes places without being invested in them, responding to them, or even being aware of what’s going on around him; it just reads as a chain of unlinked events.
While The Great Gatsby is seen as a classic that perfectly reflects the Roaring Twenties in which it was written (and arguably helped define them – for it was Fitzgerald who came up with the term Jazz Age) Nick feels like its author had read a Wikipedia article about the War and early-twentieth-century Paris, and might have read the source novel that inspired his own. Nothing feels authentic or realistic, but above all else it feels inconsequential. I simply don’t care about Nick Caraway at all, because none of the events in Nick are even remotely in line with those in The Great Gatsby.
I tried reading Nick as a separate novel. Even that failed to amuse me, however. There is no character development whatsoever, the dialogues are cringe-worthy, and oh my word the writing style made me grind my teeth so much I was lucky I finished this book in three days because it would otherwise have left me toothless. Here’s an example: “Am I really here, she wondered. Like Judah. He is here. But he’s not here.” What on Earth does this mean? But it is that subject-less sentence, which any other writer would simply add to the one preceding it using a conjunction, that Michael Farris Smith overuses (at least three times a page is overusing, right?) to such a degree that I almost threw away my book in frustration. Does he consider it an effective stylistic device? Does he think it makes it look literary? Did he do it to stress a particular event? However, when every single action is stressed, nothing is important. And that’s how Nick reads: you’re trying to find out what matters, but are continuously left clueless because the novel fails to be about anything at all.
So no. No. No no no, really, no. I didn’t care about the main character at all, the plot was chaotic and didn’t make any sense, and the writing style was so annoying I felt like rewriting every single sentence. Nick is one of the worst books I have ever read, even if it wasn’t a Gatsby-prequel – and I bet F. Scott Fitzgerald would turn in his grave if he heard that someone used his text for this drivel.
I vaguely remember that one of the many, many events in Nick is about a fire. I think. I should have followed its example and burned this absolute waste of money, paper and time. Even it had burned down my own house (for that’s a real risk, as you can read here), I would still have enjoyed that more.
What did you think of Nick? Have you read the source novel The Great Gatsby? Do you think authors should rewrite classics as soon as their copyrights have expired? Do let me know in the comments! Also, don’t forget to follow me for more book-related posts!