Thursday, January 13, 2011


Like almost everybody, FLG is horrified by the idea of Baz Luhrmann adapting The Great Gatsby. 3D? Seriously? (Although, FLG does like Luhrmann's other work, especially Moulin Rouge.) But that's not even the point of this here post.

Ta-Nehisi Coates writes:
As in so many of the books I love, I found the plot in ‘Gatsby’ to almost be beside the point. Whenever I see it translated to cinema, the film-maker inevitably crafts a story of doomed romance between Daisy and Gatsby. It’s obviously true that Gatsby holds some sort of flame for Daisy, but what makes the book run (for me) is the ambiguity of that flame. Does he really love her? Or is she just another possession signaling the climb up? I always felt that last point—the climb up—was much more important than the romance. What I remember about Gatsby is the unread books. His alleged love for Daisy barely registers for me.

Ross Douthat, commenting on Coates, writes:
I agree

Like all great books, this is obviously open to interpretation, and FLG vehemently disagrees. As FLG wrote in April:
FLG has always found the obsession by English teachers with The Great Gatsby and the American Dream odd. Sure, that's there. But FLG has always found the topic that is most interesting is the extremes to which men will go for the women they love. This appears throughout all of Fitzgerald's books that FLG has read -- This Side of Paradise, The Great Gatsby, and Tender is the Night. (Although, FLG hasn't read This Side of Paradise in a long while.)

FLG's thoughts on why so many people, obviously not just English teachers, are focused on the American Dream, the climb up, as TNC puts it, is that this social commentary aspect is more, I dunno, serious. The Jay/Daisy love story is that age old boy meets girl story. And it has little to say about society, per se.

And FLG thinks, conversely, that's why he finds the Jay/Daisy story so much more interesting. The American Dream thread is relatively interesting, but is very uniquely American. On the other hand, boy meets girl has become a cliche because it is so timeless and universal. Boy meets girl is relevant in all times and places. And the good ones reveal something timeless and universal about that dynamic. Moreover, since FLG thinks that there's this particularly Fitzegeraldian take on Boy meets Girl -- the extremes to which men will go (or sometimes won't) for the women they love -- which runs right through Fitzgerald's oeuvre, that is ultimately the more important theme.

And to be completely honest, if you really pressed FLG and he didn't feel very charitable at that moment, he'd say that the people who focus on the American Dream theme as the more important one are wannabe sophisticates. They dismiss the love story, as FLG explained above, because it's a mere love story, when the author is saying SOMETHING IMPORTANT ABOUT SOCIETY. When Fitzgerald's true literary genius is taking something ordinary, Boy Meets Girl, and turning it into something extraordinary.

1 comment:

George Pal said...

I agree.

(with FLG)

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