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Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Great Gatsby

Review of The Great Gatsby
At the time of it’s original publishing in 1925, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, “The Great Gatsby” received critical reviews and had disappointing sales.

Fitzgerald once said in 1920, almost prophetically, “An Author ought to write for the youth of his generation, the critics of the next, and the schoolmasters of ever-afterward.”

Well, he definitely did that.  “The Great Gatsby” didn't become great in it’s own right until about ten to twenty years after Fitzgerald had died.  When college students were reading it, later it became required reading in schools before ultimately being considered one of the top 100 pieces of literature from the nineteen hundreds.

My daughter read Gatsby in college and began telling me about how I have to read it.  After I wrote and published my first book I was giving her hell about not reading my book.

“Have you read ‘The Great Gatsby’ yet?”  She snapped.

“No, I don’t have a copy of it.”  I replied.

We left lunch and our argument and ended up at a used book store.  She found used copy of “The Great Gatsby” and I bought it.  It upset me that a used copy of a book that was published in 1925 cost me $7.50 and my new and first novel was selling for 2.99 at the time, and frankly I was giving copies away to get people to try mine.

I read the book soon after that.  I don’t believe my daughter has read my book as of yet.  Neither has several of my very good friends or my wife.  I wrote a blog post after reading the book because one distinct point in the book caught me, spoke to me, and convinced me of Fitzgerald’s genius as a writer.  He described something I had experienced but never formed into words before.  He nailed it completely.  The description was so perfect and took me to that existential place that time stood still for a moment.

“He smiled understandingly – much more than understandingly.  It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life.  It faced – or seemed to face – the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor.  It understood you just so far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.”

This was the instant in the book that Nick Carraway meets Gatsby face to face and Carraway’s description of Gatsby’s smile.

On my birthday, May 10, last Friday night, my daughter took me to the new movie on the opening night in Kansas City, of the “The Great Gatsby.”  Because of our history with discussing this fantastic book and the many layers of meanings and symbolism, this movie had a special significance to each of us.

Very seldom does a book capture the spirit, the visual interpretations and the heart and soul of the original book.  This movie surpassed my expectations and was as true to the book as I could have ever imagined.  The casting was inspired and only surpassed by the talent of the actors involved with movie.  I almost felt as if it took Leonardo DiCaprio to reach this age and maturity as a great actor to be the perfect person to totally capture the essence of Gatsby.

Tobey Maguire has also matured so much since Spider Man and portrayed Nick Carraway better than what I ever envisioned in my imagination when reading the book.
When Gatsby (DiCaprio) turns and smiles at Nick (Maguire) it was every bit as magical as Fitzgerald’s description.  The Director (Baz Luhrmann) must have sensed the greatness of Fitzgerald’s description because they had Maguire narrate the words from the book as if we could hear his thoughts.  The result was dead on target bulls-eye!
I don’t know what was CGI and what was real but it looked as if you were seeing New York in the 1920’s.  The octologists sign which was featured on numerous versions of book covers.  The Green light at the end of the dock.  The elements of the mansions, the decadence and extravagance of the times before the crash.
Unfortunately many of the people who will go and see the movie will have never read the book.  They will have no idea the great and monumental lengths those who worked on that film went to in order to capture the essence, detail, and relive a piece of the past.  They won’t understand the part of the last sentence and it’s significance to the story, plot, and Gatsby’s fatal flaw.

I give the movie a ten out of ten, perfect score.
As a writer, who is working through my life's work, that which will be my future legacy, I pray I write at least one piece as great as this in my life.  That I write for the youth of my generation, the critics that follow and the schoolmasters of ever-afterward.  That one piece that is hopeful, fun, tragic, true to life and enduring.  To see Carraway write the story in long hand by pen and type it with that antique typewriter spoke to my soul as a writer.


Dan O. said...

If you like the book, then I might recommend seeing it just to see how it holds up as a film. Good review Thomas.

Tarissa Helms said...

Thanks for the review, Thomas! I was hoping DiCaprio would be a good choice to capture the essence of Jay Gatsby. Can't wait to see the movie!

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