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Gatsby


The Great Gatsby coverI re-read this book last week because it was on my self-assigned “reading list” and because I wanted to read it before seeing the movie that is now in the theaters. For one thing, I didn’t want Leo DiCaprio’s image in my head as I read it. It’s not that I don’t think he is a good actor—I do, actually—but because I always prefer characters painted by my own imagination, and when I can manage it, based on the words of a book’s author.

Too late. Seeing the trailer was enough. Every time Gatsby called someone “Old Sport” in the book, my mind conjured up DiCaprio. I’m not even sure Tobey Maguire plays the role of Nick Carraway in the film, but I think I remember him from the trailer. Whether he did or not, he was my narrator. I didn’t recognize the actress who portrays Daisy, and I’m not sure that Jordan made an appearance in the trailer. Jordan Baker is a golf pro in the book, but I enjoyed picturing her as the tennis pro Anna Kournikova. Why not?

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is listed at #2 on Bachblog’s
113 Great Novels of the 20th Century. It was first published in 1925.

The Great Gatsby is widely acknowledged as one of the three or four contenders for the title of the “Great American Novel,” and I couldn’t argue with that. It is a concise book, with seemingly not a word wasted, a great strength. Gatsby himself is an unforgettable tragic character, and the staring “eyes of God” in the form of an optometrist’s dilapidated billboard is perhaps the best known thematic device in American fiction (at least to high school students).[1] I liked it the first time I read it, and appreciated it even more this time. I will have to re-read Tender Is the Night, which I have considered my favorite Fitzgerald novel.

Based only on the trailer, and on the director Baz Luhrmann’s reputation, I am guessing I will not be very happy with the film. I’ve avoided reading reviews, but I’ve seen hints that they haven’t been positive.

Notes

  1. In my favorite Woody Allen film, Crimes and Misdemeanors, the director expands upon “the eyes of God” theme in, I’m pretty sure, a conscious homage to Fitzgerald. [^]

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