The world's most misunderstood romance (2023)


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The world's most misunderstood romance (1)

Door Hephzibah AndersonFebruary 10, 2021

The Great Gatsby is synonymous with partying, glitz and glamour, but that's just one of the many misunderstandings about the book that have arisen since its first publication.


Few characters in literature or life personify an era as emphatically as Jay Gatsby did in the jazz era. Nearly a century after its creation, F. Scott Fitzgerald's doomed novel has become shorthand for decadent flappers, champagne fountains, and never-ending parties. Cut from pop culture by the lyrics it was born in, her name graces everything from apartment buildings to hair wax and a limited-edition perfume (with notes of vetiver, pink pepper and Sicilian lemon). Now you can relax on a Gatsby couch, check into the Gatsby Hotel, and even enjoy a Gatsby Sandwich – essentially a big, crispy soup.

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Although this last element seems unprofitable, the name isSomethingas the man formerly known as James Gage seems more than a little distraught. After all, the flamboyant host is only part of your complex identity. He's also a booze smuggler, up to his neck in criminal enterprises, not to mention a delusional stalker whose program seems downright cheesy. As he embodies the possibilities of the American dream, he also shows its limitations: here is a man, let's not forget, whose end is destined to be as futile as it is violent.

Of all the reviews, even the most enthusiastic, no one had any idea what the book was about - F Scott Fitzgerald

Misunderstandings have been part of The Great Gatsby story from the very beginning. Shortly after its publication in 1925, Fitzgerald mumbled to his friend Edmund Wilson, claiming that "of all the reviews, even the most enthusiastic, not one had any idea what the book was about". Fellow writers like Edith Wharton greatly admired it, but as critic Maureen Corrigan reports in her book So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures, popular critics read it as crime fiction and were decidedly disappointed in. . . in that. Fitzgerald's Latest A Dud made headlines in the New York world. The novel achieved only a certain number of sales, and by the time of the author's death in 1940, only a few very small copies of the second edition remained.

The world's most misunderstood romance (2)

Romance has become a force in pop culture, with help from Hollywood. the term 'Gatsbyesque' appeared a few years after the 1974 film starring Robert Redford (Credit: Getty Images)

Gatsby's luck began to change when he was selected as a gift by the US military. As World War II drew to a close, nearly 155,000 copies were distributed in an Armed Forces special edition, creating new audiences overnight. In the early 1950s, the flowering of the American dream accelerated the novel's relevance, and by the 1960s it became a text. Since then, it has become such a powerful force in pop culture that even those who have never read it feel like Hollywood helped them, of course. It was 1977, just a few years after Robert Redford starred in an adaptation of a Francis Ford Coppola script.the word Gatsbyesque was first recorded.

Along with Baz Luhrmann's divisive 2013 cinematic extravaganza, the book has spawned comic books, a musical, and an immersive theatrical experience in the past decade alone. From now on, we're likely to see even more tweaks and tributes since earlier this yearthe copyright on the novel has expired, allowing anyone to modify it without permission from their estate. call in advancean adaptation of the Muppetsit may not have worked out (never say never), but a big-budget TV miniseries is already in the works, and writer Min Jin Lee and cultural critic Wesley Morris are writing new introductions for new songs.

The world's most misunderstood romance (3)

The Great Gatsby has spawned a film adaptation, a musical, a ballet and a thrilling theater experience over the past decade (Credit: Alamy)

If all this is causing Fitzgerald purists to strangle their pearls like worry beads, it's quite possible that while some of these works may further perpetuate the myth that throwing a Gatsby-themed party can be anything but massively ignorant, others may add new provide insights into a text. whose excessive familiarity often leads us to deviate from its complexity. Take Michael Farris Smith's new novel, Nick, for example. The title of course refers to Nick Carraway, narrator of Gatsby, who fully takes shape here. It's the story of a Midwesterner who goes to Europe to fight in World War I and returns changed, both by a whirlwind romance in Paris and trench warfare. There's room for an impulsive sojourn in New Orleans' underworld before heading to West Egg on Long Island.

An impossible dream?

Like many, Smith was first introduced to romance in high school. “I just didn't get it right,” he told BBC Culture from his home in Oxford, Mississippi. "It seemed like a lot of people were complaining about things they shouldn't be complaining about." It wasn't until he picked it up again, living abroad at the age of twenty, that he began to understand the power of the novel. “It was a very surreal reading experience for me. It felt like something was speaking to me on almost every page in a way I wasn't expecting," he recalled.

Arriving at the place where Carraway suddenly remembers it is his thirtieth birthday, Smith was filled with questions about what kind of person Gatsby's narrator really was. “It seemed to me that there was a real trauma that drove him so far away, even from himself. It occurred to me that it would be really interesting if someone wrote Nick's story,” he says. In 2014, then a published author in his 40s, he set out to do just that, without telling his agent or his editor. It wasn't until he submitted the manuscript ten months later that he learned that copyright law meant he had to wait until 2021 to publish it.

Maybe it's not the champagne and the dancing, maybe it's those feelings of wondering where we are, feeling that everything could fall apart at any moment, that keep Gatsby meaningful - Michael Farris Smith

Smith points to a quote from one of Fitzgerald's contemporaries as key to understanding Carraway. "Ernest Hemingway says in [his memoir] A Moveable Feast that we didn't trust anyone who wasn't in the war, and to me that was a natural beginning for Nick." Smith envisions Carraway dealing with PTSD and shock, returning to a land he no longer recognizes. It's a far cry from the boisterous chatter of this entire group, but Carraway, Smith suggests, is the reason Fitzgerald's novel is still read today. "Maybe it's not the champagne and the dancing, maybe it's those feelings of wonder we have, the sense that everything could come crashing down at any moment, that keep Gatsby meaningful from generation to generation."

William Kane, a specialist in American literature and Mary Jewett Gaiser Professor of English at Wellesley College, agrees that Nick is crucial to understanding the richness of the novel. “Fitzgerald considered structuring it in the third person, but ultimately chose Nick Carraway, a first-person narrator who would tell Gatsby's story and be an intermediary between us and Gatsby. In doing so, we remain aware that we are approaching him from Nick's very special point of view and through Nick's very ambivalent relationship with Gatsby, which is at once full of praise and harsh criticism, sometimes even contempt," he says.

The world's most misunderstood romance (4)

Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan starred in Baz Luhrmann's controversial 2013 film (Credit: Alamy)

Like Smith, Cain was first introduced to romance as a college student. It was a different time – the 1960s – but little attention was still paid to Nick. Cain remembers more than he talks about symbolism – the legendary green light, for example, and Gatsby's legendary car. It reminds us that in some ways the education system is as much to blame as pop culture for the limited readings of this seminal text. It may be a great American novel, but at less than 200 pages, the extremely economic story makes it very easy to get to the credits. Ironically, because it is a novel of illusion and delirium, in which surfaces are decisive, we often ignore the texture of the prose. As Cain says, "I think when we look at The Great Gatsby we shouldn't just see it as a novel that's an opportunity or a starting point to talk about big American themes and issues, but you really have to dive into it." . It. the richness of Fitzgerald's factual writing from page to page. We must come to Gatsby, yes, with a sense of its social and cultural significance, but we must also return to it as a literary experience."

Cain rereads the novel every two or three years, but often reflects on it together — last summer, for example, when US President Biden, accepting the Democratic nomination for the DNC, spoke about the right to pursue dreams for a better future . The American Dream is, of course, one of Gatsby's great themes, and one that is still misunderstood. Fitzgerald shows that this dream is very powerful, but that it is actually very difficult for most Americans to achieve. He feeds them with great hopes and great desires, and it's amazing how much effort so many of them put into making those dreams, dreams come true. those desires, but that dream is beyond many, and many give up too much to try and achieve that great success," explains Kane. Fitzgerald seems to suggest that one of the hurdles is hard class lines that Gatsby cannot afford to break with any amount of money. It's a vision echoed by the mood Kane says he picked up among his students: a certain "melancholy" about the American Dream, a sentiment fueled by racial and economic differences, and that the pandemic can only has enlarged.

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Ever since the book was first published in 1925, readers have misunderstood (Credit: Alamy)

In other respects, the novel didn't fare as well. While Fitzgerald showed where his faith lay and emphasized the raw ugliness of Tom Buchanan's white supremacist beliefs, he repeatedly describes African Americans as "white." The novel also makes for frustrating reading from a feminist perspective: the female characters lack dimension and utility, and are instead viewed through the lens of male desire. The way is now open for endless creative responses to these older, unsavory aspects, and a new TV mini-series from ITV and A+E Studios announced last month appears to be one of the first. Written by Michael Hirst and with Fitzgerald's great-granddaughter Blake Hazard serving as a consulting producer, it has been described as a "reimagining" of the classic novel. “I have long dreamed of a more diverse and inclusive version of Gatsby, one that better reflects the America we live in, one that would allow us toatrecognize ourselves in Scott's deeply romantic lyrics," said Azarhe told the Hollywood Reporter.

Surprisingly, the renewed attention the change in law has brought shows not only how relevant and compelling the text of Fitzgerald's novel still is, but also how alive it has always been. Buy it at the age of 27 and you will find a different novel than the one you read as a teenager. Revisit it at age 45 and it feels like a different book. Copyrights have never had anything to do with the impact of the words that apply to them.

Finally able to publish Nick, Smith returned to The Great Gatsby once more before making his final edit. "I think it's going to be a novel that's always evolving in my mind and always changing based on who I am," she says. "That's what great novels do."

Nick by Michael Farris Smith will be published in the UK on February 25, 2021 and is now available in the US.

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