Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Well, I Liked It

The Great Gatsby was required reading in high school.  It was most likely part of the American Lit curriculum, but I can’t remember if that was taken in my sophomore or junior year.  Regardless, I was maybe 14 or 15 years old when I first read the book.  At the time, I remember thinking, “At least it’s short.”  Reading the classics in school was never something I enjoyed.  It was maddening to be told that what I was reading meant “xyz” by the teacher.  Sometimes I didn’t see it, and other times I didn’t agree.  The Great Gatsby was no exception.

A few months ago the trailer for The Great Gatsby movie came out.  It’s a Baz Luhrmann film so the preview was flashy and sparkly and loud with good music.  Immediately, I was drawn to it, like a baby to something shiny.  When the film came out a couple of weeks ago, the reviews were mixed.  The critics haven’t been terribly kind, but regular people seemed to enjoy it.  I saw it this past weekend without too much expectation.  It has been years and years since I read the book, but as I watched, the story came back to me.  I rather liked the film, and I think it was pretty spot on as far as the story goes.  It has a modern spin to it, and there was a lot going on visually, which I think turned a lot of people off.  They took a few liberties with Nick Carraway’s method of telling the story, but to me, that was minor.  The dialogue was almost verbatim. 

After seeing it, I felt like there was so much more I could relate to in it than there was when I read it over 20 years ago.  I went home, searched my bookshelves for my old copy, and started reading it again.  The book resonated with me more as an adult than it ever did as a teenager.  Doesn’t that say something about having teenagers read these books with themes so far beyond their experiences.  Most kids that age don’t have any way to connect with these stories of power, the human condition, politics, love; at least I didn’t. 

It surprised me, that even after all these years, the quotes that I had highlighted back then were actually my favorite parts of the movie as well. 

Daisy: Well she was less than an hour old and Tom was God knows where.  I woke out of the ether with an utterly abandoned feeling, and asked the nurse right away  if it was a boy or a girl.  She told me it was a girl, so I turned my head away and wept, ‘All right,’ I said, ‘I’m glad it’s a girl.  And I hope she’ll be a fool – that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.’

Nick: He had passed visibly through two states and was entering upon a third.  After his embarrassment and his unreasoning joy he was consumed with wonder at her presence.  He had been full of the idea so long, dreamed it right through to the end, waited with his teeth set, so to speak, at an inconceivable pitch of intensity.  Now, in the reaction, he was running down like an overwound clock.

Nick: As I went over to say good-by I saw that the expression of bewilderment had come back into Gatsby’s face, as though a faint doubt had occurred to him as to the quality of his present happiness.  Almost 5 years!  There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams – not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion.  It had gone beyond her, beyond everything.  He had thrown himself into it with a creative passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out with every bright feather that drifted his way.  No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.

I think Fitzgerald wrote Jay Gatsby so well.

As a whole, even though it’s a sad story, the movie was entertaining and fun to watch.


  1. Like you it's been a while since I read it, or seen the Redford version. It seems to bring out the purists right enough.
    I think what kids don't get are the euphemisms, not the sexual ones, but the social ones. And this book is packed with them.
    I hope the new film gives that blanket a good shake and explains the divides, old money new money, east west, male female. Also, what people forget is this was published with four years to run of the 20's boom. But was written between 23-24. Where by the end of the decade virtually all the old wealth was destroyed and the center of the social world had shifted to your city and no longer were the lives of the rich on Long Is as fascinating.
    Anywoodles, I might shift my A and go and see it. But then, it seems the films are getting to the TV within a year these days.

    1. I never saw the Redford version. It's been slammed a bit in the reviews of this one, being used as a comparison.
      This book has so many levels that were much clearer this time around, which makes me think about how many other books I read back then and dismissed because I didn't have the wherewithal to really understand them. There are a handful that I can think of off the top of my head that I would roll my eyes at the teacher and think, "whatever you say lady," when the meaning was discussed. I'm sure if I went back with those too I'd see them differently.

    2. Could be that 2nd level teachers are caught in a way. What do you expose to that age, really if they parrot back to you with a degree of accuracy you think they've got it.
      They also have to get past the censors. The ones that believe keeping kids innocent is the greatest goal.
      For what it's worth, I read Jane Austin Pride and Prejudice at about 14. I got it from the lending lib. It's only in the last few years that I realized part of the code. It must have been the equivalent to porn in it's day for those that understood all the current references. But lets face it, you reeeeeeeeely don't want Lydia Bennet giving notions to a bunch of 15 year olds.

    3. Ha, you're right, but wouldn't we have liked it so much more. :). Content is always an issue for teachers. I'm sure in high school more than any, they walk a thin line between teaching content and not offending anyone (or anyone's parents).
      It's said that youth is wasted on the young, so is good literature. There are a handful of things that I really enjoyed in school - a few (but not all) of Hemingway's and Wilde's, To Kill A Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye, and the poetry of Yeats and Auden. I mean really enjoyed, and that could very well have been due to the teachers who taught them, but other than those few, as much as I love to read, I disliked reading for school so much. I couldn't wait until school breaks so I could read what I wanted. My book club even has a classics! Because many were scarred by them. :)
      When you think about it, the books were probably not written for a young reader audience. No wonder most found them so difficult.

  2. I know that I liked Jane Eyre better as an adult as well as Austin, much more so that a freshman in college.

  3. I literally need to spend the day at the movies to catch up on all the fun stuff that is out right now!

    1. You'd like this one, and Leo. :) You got to see 42 though and I didn't. I'll have to see it at home when it comes out, I'm sorry I missed that one.

  4. I hated that book as a teen-- but now I think it's important-- there's so much excess in society! AKA Kardashians

    I got the art job! :)

    1. Oh congratulations! I can't wait to hear more about it.

  5. It's unclear if this data was being targeted, logged, and sent as part of its Explorer program. If everything goes right, you can download all of your Instagram photos, and it's easy for me to start hinting that
    I may run for President. We'll let you see or take with you, not how you do what you do. If fleshlight you address Mike, and there's literally nothing in the OS
    X app from the Android Market via this link.