With the grand assurance born of generations of exceptional breeding, Jay Gatsby assures star-struck neighbor that one can, indeed, relive the past. That he, Jay Gatsby, can seduce Daisy Buchanan and spoil her with his ill-gotten gains and marry her, reliving the past and reshaping it to align with his own view of his future.
I went to see Leonardo DiCaprio throw his body and soul into the role of the golden man last Friday, the first day of release for Baz Luhrman’s chaotic carnival of a movie. I loved it. I loved Leonardo’s smile, Carey Mulligan’s languid, limpid expressions, Isla Fisher’s drunken hoyden and Joel Edgerton’s physical and mental meanness. The music — eh. I wasn’t impressed with the “1920’s rap” but the feel of the parties certainly honored Fitzgerald’s writing.
In light of the movie, and perhaps some of the thoughts it gives rise to, I’m updating my earlier review of the book.
I’ve always considered Gatsby to be the great American novel.
If it is the great American novel, what makes it so?
Is it the snapshot of America’s own coming of age, the Roaring Twenties?
It is the purely American, up-by-his-own bootstraps tragic hero whose flaw is his own belief in himself; that American ideal?
Is it the concentration on America’s one true post-Native American, native art form?
My book club’s discussion touched on and argued for each of those distinctions. And there were a couple of people who believed there was no such thing as the great American novel, or if there were, Gatsby is not it.
I find myself in the other category. In less than 200 pages, Fitzgerald creates a classic love story, two adulterous relationships, an ill-fated summer fling, a self-made man, a seedy, criminal endeavor and tragedies of failure, loss, death and murder.
Most of all, Fitzgerald created a tragic, optimistically flawed hero, who cannot believe that after all he has done, he will not win.
From Gatsby’s brave pink suit to his glittering palace built to win his one true love, I find the novel more compelling with each read and like Gatsby, end reaching my arms to the green light across the bay for greater understanding, comfort; for the happy ending that won’t come.
My menu suggestions are all champagne based. Champagne with kiwi rounds (in honor of the green light), champagne-poached chicken breasts (Sorry Myrtle, but I had to go there) on a salad of tender, baby greens with champagne vinaigrette, crackers with carraway seeds (are you seeing a punny pattern?). And champagne cupcakes …. here’s a recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/champagne-cupcakes-with-italian-buttercream-recipe/index.html.
I found this interesting Salon article: http://www.salon.com/2012/11/08/is_the_great_american_novel_still_relevant/
Perhaps, for me the most compelling image, and one recurring image from the movie that worked perfectly, is that of Jay Gatsby, hand reaching nervously toward the water, toward the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. His reach, his vision so far beyond his grasp that he doesn’t know how wrong he is.