Scott and Zelda and The Great Gatsby: Bee’s Knees or Bum’s Rush?
Confession time: I haven’t worked up the nerve yet to see the new version of The Great Gatsby. I’ve heard mixed reviews and think it might make me crazy, ruin my ears, or scorch my eyeballs. I’d be eager to know what those of you who’ve seen it thought of it.
As a person who writes about the 1920s, I was interested to learn something about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writing career. Having read and enjoyed The Great Gatsby in a college course, all I knew about the author was that he wrote tons of stories, articles, screenplays, and novels while also maintaining a frenetic, alcohol-drenched lifestyle with his wife, Zelda. I can’t imagine how he could do this and still be a productive writer, seeing as how I have trouble putting two sentences together if I’ve had so much as a poor night’s sleep, too much sugar, or too many distractions (and when I have writing to do, everything qualifies as a distraction).
I ran across a description of Fitzgerald’s writing life in Nathan Miller’s book New World Coming: The 1920s and the Making of Modern America. Mr. Miller had this to say about Fitzgerald and The Great Gatsby:
“Yet in the midst of this shambles [a troubled marriage to a mentally unbalanced wife, a serious drinking problem], Fitzgerald’s imagination, creativity, and nerve did not fail him. The new book, called The Great Gatsby when it was published in April 1925, fulfilled all his earlier promise. In telling the story of the rise and fall of Jimmy Gatz, otherwise known as Jay Gatsby, Fitzgerald created, in only fifty thousand words, a lasting portrait of the time. His theme was a universal one: the corruption of the American Dream by the American Nightmare. . . . Scenes, passages, and lines from the book remain with the reader long after it has bee put aside. Who can forget the image of Gatsby staring fixedly at the green light that shines–and promises–at the end of Daisy Buchanan’s dock? or that her voice “is full of money”? And, like Nick Carraway, the book’s narrator, we hear the faraway music of Gatsby’s lavish parties where “‘men and girls came and went like moths upon the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.'”
I thought the book also offers a clear and compelling illustration of the sheer futility of seeking-soul satisfaction in the world’s pleasures instead of the things that truly satisfy–the things of God. Not likely a theme that Fitzgerald intended, but that’s what I get out of it nonetheless–an illustration of having everything yet having nothing.
If you’ve seen the movie, what did you think? Do you think it does justice to the book (if you’ve read the book)? Should I take a chance and plunk down some money at the box office this weekend?