Staff Picks: The Great Gatsby
I was not required to read “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald in school, so I did not. Back in the 70’s, when the movie version came out with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow, I went to see it in the theater (no DVDs then) and even though Francis Ford Coppola wrote the screenplay, it seemed overly sentimental and slow-moving. What did Gatsby see in Daisy? It was incomprehensible! I did not get what it was that made the book a “classic.” Recently however, viewing Baz Luhrmann’s film version with Leonardo DiCaprio and Toby Maguire was a revelation. The manic energy of the 1920’s, the propulsive forward movement of the story line and the incorporation of Fitzgerald’s words from the novel onto the screen created an atmosphere that was magical, fascinating and haunting to watch.
The story superficially starts off as a simple tale of lost love regained and fortunes found. Nick Carraway, our narrator, guides us through this once upon a time long hot summer on Long Island, shuttling back and forth between Manhattan and West Egg and East Egg, among the tall tales and lies and illusions, misbehaviors, and betrayals of husbands, wives and friends. It is at once a mystery, a romance, a tragedy, a character study, a meditation on wealth, a spectacle of increased American materialism, greed, class divides, racism, all woven around Gatsby’s ambition, desire and hope. The elegiac tone lingers long in the mind and imagination afterward.
So I decided to listen to the book on CD to see what differences there were between the written and filmed versions. Audio versions available include narrations by Frank Muller and Jake Gyllenhaal. Nearing the end (it’s only 4 discs on CD), it was still so ambiguous and unsettling that I decided to actually READ THE BOOK. With so many layers and levels to explore, I wanted to spend a little more time with these elusive characters.
Now I understand why it’s considered a “classic.”
∼ Fran, Manager, Collection Services