The Great Gatsby

cugat_1Before seeing the new movie version of The Great Gatsby, I wanted to reread the book.  Images of Robert Redford still emerge when I think of that West Egg mansion; before replacing them with Leo, I wanted Fitzgerald’s words again.

In an interview, the current movie’s Director claimed that more copies of the book had been sold during the weeks of the movie preview than in Fitzgerald’s lifetime.  A publishing disaster that did not meet the expectations raised by his first bestselling novel – “This Side of Paradise” – The Great Gatsby’s biggest sales were to Fitzgerald himself, who bought copies to thin the shelves, and sold the movie rights to the book for a mere $16,000.

Fitzgerald’s language is sometimes florid, always precise, and wickedly elusive with double entendre.  The author claimed that “Gatsby started out as one man I knew and then changed into myself…”   Knowing Fitzgerald’s doomed romantic life and reading his descriptions of shallow “careless” characters with opulent parties and lifestyle, it’s easy to imagine the “Jazz Age” – even without the expensive Hollywood sets.

Of course, the book is always better than the movie and the Hollywood ending usually strays from the author’s – this movie is no exception, yet the famous words that end the novel and are inscribed on the Fitzgerald gravestone are the same:

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

But if you really want to enjoy the show, forget the 3D glasses and read or re-read the book first.  You will thrill at the many echoes of Fitzgerald’s words.

Check out my review of   Z – A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald

Books That Shaped America

A new exhibit – Books That Shaped America – opens today at the Library of Congress.  A good friend alerted me to this celebration of reading through Michael Dirda’s article in The Washington Post – Library of Congress Wonderfully Diverse List of Books That Shaped America.

Books date from 1751 with Benjamin Franklin’s “Experiments and Observations on Electricity” to “The Words of César Chávez” in 2002, and the list includes 88 titles – 27 published before 1900.

Some recognizable classics include:

  • Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter”
  • Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick”
  • Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women”
  • Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”
  • L. Frank Baum’s “The Wizard of Oz”
  • Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle”
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”

Some that might not make a classics list were included too:

  • Irma Rombauer’s “Joy of Cooking”
  • Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People”
  • Benjamin Spock’s “The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care”
  • Dr. Seuss’s “The Cat in the Hat”

Among the modern entries:

  • Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos”
  • Toni Morrison’s “Beloved”

Read the complete list – here.  How many have you read?

What’s In a Smile?

The emoticon has evolved from the “Have a Nice Day” logo of dots and parens to a host of possibilities. That little yellow face can hug, frown, smirk, cry, wink, laugh, and smile – among other graphic emotions.  I found at least 50 conveniently listed on my email server for easy attachment.

Usually placed at the end of a line to indicate the sender’s intent because the message lacks the gestures and facial expressions that would give clues to the meaning, the emoticon has graduated from the friendly email to the business world.

In her article for the New York Times – If You’re Happy and You Know It, Must I Know It Too? – Judith Newman suggests that writers use the ubiquitous smiley face because they may be too lazy to sharpen their words for a clear meaning. Also, irony and humor are hard to convey in print…and if you are

“…sarcastic and in a hurry…a well-planted smiley face can take the edge off and avoid misunderstanding…”

Critics argue that if you must hit someone on the head with the intention behind the inference, you’ve lost the power of the words. What happens when you have to explain a joke to someone?

So far those smiley faces have not ventured into the realm of the printed novel, but with the popularity of the electronic book, maybe it’s only a matter of time. Newman asks…

Can you imagine reading the end of  The Great Gatsby…   So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past 😦