The Greatest Passage from The Great Gatsby

Years after reading The Great Gatsby, this beautiful passage, especially the penultimate paragraph, continues to haunt me with its multilayered observations. I think A Bona-Fide Piece of Printed Matter would be a great title for a book.

A stout, middle-aged man, with enormous owl-eyed spectacles, was sitting somewhat drunk on the edge of a great table, staring with unsteady concentration at the shelves of books. As we entered he wheeled excitedly around and examined Jordan from head to foot.”What do you think?” he demanded impetuously.

“About what?” He waved his hand toward the book-shelves.

“About that. As a matter of fact you needn’t bother to ascertain. I ascertained. They’re real.”

“The books?”

He nodded.

“Absolutely real–have pages and everything. I thought they’d be a nice durable cardboard. Matter of fact, they’re absolutely real. Pages and–Here! Lemme show you.”

Taking our scepticism for granted, he rushed to the bookcases and returned with Volume One of the “Stoddard Lectures.”

“See!” he cried triumphantly. “It’s a bona-fide piece of printed matter. It fooled me. This fella’s a regular Belasco. It’s a triumph. What thoroughness! What realism! Knew when to stop, too–didn’t cut the pages. But what do you want? What do you expect?”

He snatched the book from me and replaced it hastily on its shelf, muttering that if one brick was removed the whole library was liable to collapse.

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