Archive for September 4th, 2013

The gangster, his love, the aristocrat and their friends: Notes, questions and rambling ruminations upon revisiting Fitzgerald’s American masterpiece, ‘The Great Gatsby’

September 4, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 4, 2013

I started reading — or re-reading, rather — The Great Gatsby on the evening of Labor Day. By the time I put the book aside, I’d read to the final page, and it was early on Tuesday, Sept. 3.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel is, of course, an American classic. I believe I read it originally in high school, or perhaps junior high school. It has, of course, been adapted for film five times, including both a 2000 TV movie and this year’s Baz Luhrmann big-screen adaptation. I have, to the best of my recollection, seen none of these features, although the Luhrmann film brought me back to The Great Gatsby: A relative bought a paperback edition of the book tied to the movie release, which paperback was passed on to me. (There’s a chance I may have been shown the 1974 Gatsby film, starring Robert Redford, Mia Farrow and Sam Waterston, in school.)

One of the hallmarks of revisiting works of art is the extra insight one gains upon subsequent perusals. Perhaps I should feel more mature when I spot things that I’d never before seen; instead, however, this phenomenon makes me acutely aware of my past immaturity. “How could I have missed this or that aspect?” I ask myself. This time around, I was surprised by how obvious a gangster Meyer Wolfsheim seems. (In addition, I identified quite strongly with the narrator’s fixation upon Wolfsheim’s grotesque nose hair, which diverts attention from the rest of his personage. I’ve had to fight that kind of distraction myself.) 

I’m also shocked not just by how imperfectly I’ve appreciated a book or movie but by how little of its plot I have remembered. Spoiler alert: I did recall the fatal car accident near the conclusion to The Great Gatsby; I did not remember the identity of the victim, or how the victim was tied to the other characters, or that the car crash led (with an assist from Tom Buchanan) to Gatsby’s murder. Oh, and memory had also elided pretty much everything about the desultory New York City excursion that preceded the crash. These are pretty important things to have forgotten!  Read the rest of this entry »

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