NPR ran a story about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s grave. It’s short and worthwhile. Go listen.
Two voices from the piece especially struck me: Fitzgerald himself from an archival recording and Maureen Corrigan, who you may know as the book critic on Fresh Air. Corrigan says this about Fitzgerald’s funeral:

It was raining, and there were about 25 people, so he got more than Gatsby. But the Protestant minister who performed the service didn’t know who he was. So when you read Gatsby’s burial, you really do get a chill, because it almost seems to anticipate what would happen to the author.

Here’s part of  Gatsby’s burial:

I tried to think about Gatsby then for a moment, but he was already too far away, and I could only remember, without resentment, that Daisy hadn’t sent a message or a flower. Dimly I heard someone murmur, “Blessed are the dead that the rain falls on,” and then the owl-eyed man said “Amen to that,” in a brave voice.
We straggled down quickly through the rain to the cars. Owl-eyes spoke to me by the gate.
“I couldn’t get to the house,” he remarked.
“Neither could anybody else.”
“Go on!” He started. “Why, my God! they used to go there by the hundreds.” He took off his glasses and wiped them again, outside and in.
“The poor son-of-a-bitch,” he said.

One of my favorite passages in the novel comes just one paragraph later. I’m going to quote it now because, well, I’m in charge here. Boom:

When we pulled out into the winter night and the real snow, our snow, began to stretch out beside us and twinkle against the windows, and the dim lights of small Wisconsin stations moved by, a sharp wild brace came suddenly into the air. We drew in deep breaths of it as we walked back from dinner through the cold vestibules, unutterably aware of our identity with this country for one strange hour, before we melted indistinguishably into it again.

Also, though I’ve already tweeted it, this:

Fans of GATZ: Part 2 from ERS Theater on Vimeo.

NPR ran a story about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s grave. It’s short and worthwhile. Go listen.

Two voices from the piece especially struck me: Fitzgerald himself from an archival recording and Maureen Corrigan, who you may know as the book critic on Fresh Air. Corrigan says this about Fitzgerald’s funeral:

It was raining, and there were about 25 people, so he got more than Gatsby. But the Protestant minister who performed the service didn’t know who he was. So when you read Gatsby’s burial, you really do get a chill, because it almost seems to anticipate what would happen to the author.

Here’s part of  Gatsby’s burial:

I tried to think about Gatsby then for a moment, but he was already too far away, and I could only remember, without resentment, that Daisy hadn’t sent a message or a flower. Dimly I heard someone murmur, “Blessed are the dead that the rain falls on,” and then the owl-eyed man said “Amen to that,” in a brave voice.

We straggled down quickly through the rain to the cars. Owl-eyes spoke to me by the gate.

“I couldn’t get to the house,” he remarked.

“Neither could anybody else.”

“Go on!” He started. “Why, my God! they used to go there by the hundreds.” He took off his glasses and wiped them again, outside and in.

“The poor son-of-a-bitch,” he said.

One of my favorite passages in the novel comes just one paragraph later. I’m going to quote it now because, well, I’m in charge here. Boom:

When we pulled out into the winter night and the real snow, our snow, began to stretch out beside us and twinkle against the windows, and the dim lights of small Wisconsin stations moved by, a sharp wild brace came suddenly into the air. We drew in deep breaths of it as we walked back from dinner through the cold vestibules, unutterably aware of our identity with this country for one strange hour, before we melted indistinguishably into it again.

Also, though I’ve already tweeted it, this:

Fans of GATZ: Part 2 from ERS Theater on Vimeo.

The trailer is out for the new Gatsby movie. If you feel weird watching what is, after all, an advertisement, here — free of charge — is some pseudointellectual cover to legitimize your viewing experience:

1) My 7/30/11 (possibly crackpot) explanation of why I’ve come to believe that Gatsby wasn’t rich.

2) My 1/12/12 "A 3-D Gatsby?" and my catchily titled 1/15/12 “‘a 3-D Gatsby?’ ctd.”, in which I argue, respectively, that Baz Luhrmann might conceivably make a film worthy of The Great Gatsby and that Luhrmann can’t ultimately harm what is “as close as any novel that I can think of to being indestructible.”

kelsfjord
And in Paris, I read so many great ones. Pitch Dark by Renata Adler, which I found in the $3 bin outside Shakespeare & Co. The copy was disintegrating, so I paper-clipped the pages together and read them while sitting on the bench outside the store. The Children’s Hospital**** by Chris Adrian (oh, and I read A Better Angel****** and The Great Night this year, too), which was probably my favorite reading experience. I spent thirty minutes or so every morning reading it, before the city woke up, sitting on the Seine and eating a pain au chocolat. There are probably still crumbs in my copy. I also read The Great Gatsby and A Moveable Feast and reread Wuthering Heights.
If David and I ever grab a beer someday, we’ll probably stick with what’s worked and spend hours talking about The Great Gatsby in 140-character bursts.
My last tweet — the one that shows up at the top here — really demands some elaboration. Here’s what I noticed. Jay Gatsby, practically by definition, is rich. Just ask the back cover of the Scribner paperback edition. The novel is “the story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby …”
But recently, in my compulsive over-reading of the book, I noticed a detail in the first chapter that made me doubt Gatsby’s wealth. Gatsby is Nick’s next-door neigbor, but Nick’s house is “squeezed between two huge places that rented for twelve or fifteen thousand a season.”
Maybe I’m being too literal, but “rented for twelve or fifteen thousand a season” makes me think that Gatsby’s mansion is not so much Gatsby’s mansion as a rented mansion where Gatsby is living. The rented mansion, Gatsby’s gaudy apparent wealth, and his majestic parties prove to be moth-to-flame irresistible to people of indisputable wealth. And what happens in the swirl of the parties?

I was immediately struck by the number of young Englishmen dotted about; all well dressed, all looking a little hungry, and all talking in low, earnest voices to solid and prosperous Americans. I was sure that they were selling something: bonds or insurance or automobiles. They were at least agonizingly aware of the easy money in the vicinity and convinced that it was theirs for a few words in the right key.

The final chapter only feeds my possibly delusional hunch that Gatsby is merely posing as a rich guy. Meyer Wolfsheim — previously described as “a gambler,” “the man who fixed the World’s Series back in 1919,” and such a “smart man” that “they can’t get him, old sport” — talks with Nick about Gatsby:

“Did you start him in business?” I inquired.
“Start him! I made him.”
“Oh.”
“I raised him up out of nothing, right out of the gutter. I saw right away he was a fine-appearing, gentlemanly young man, and when he told me he was at Oggsford I knew I could use him good. I got him to join up in the American Legion …

Again, when this above-the-law gambler found out Gatsby had studied at “Oggsford” (aka Oxford), he calculated that he could take this “fine-appearing, gentlemanly young man” and “use him good.”
I realize my case here 1) is entirely circumstantial; 2) depends on scrutinizing an imaginary world as if it were real. I don’t care. It’s fun to think about.

(Note: I don’t have The Great Gatsby in front of me. The passages quoted here come from the University of Adelaide Library’s electronic edition of the novel. I will amend this post if it turns out that any of the wording, punctuation, etc. is wrong. What I know is this: I went looking for these specific passages just now and the passages were exactly as I remembered them, so my strong hunch is that they’re accurate. Still, caveat lector and all that.)

If David and I ever grab a beer someday, we’ll probably stick with what’s worked and spend hours talking about The Great Gatsby in 140-character bursts.

My last tweet — the one that shows up at the top here — really demands some elaboration. Here’s what I noticed. Jay Gatsby, practically by definition, is rich. Just ask the back cover of the Scribner paperback edition. The novel is “the story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby …”

But recently, in my compulsive over-reading of the book, I noticed a detail in the first chapter that made me doubt Gatsby’s wealth. Gatsby is Nick’s next-door neigbor, but Nick’s house is “squeezed between two huge places that rented for twelve or fifteen thousand a season.”

Maybe I’m being too literal, but “rented for twelve or fifteen thousand a season” makes me think that Gatsby’s mansion is not so much Gatsby’s mansion as a rented mansion where Gatsby is living. The rented mansion, Gatsby’s gaudy apparent wealth, and his majestic parties prove to be moth-to-flame irresistible to people of indisputable wealth. And what happens in the swirl of the parties?

I was immediately struck by the number of young Englishmen dotted about; all well dressed, all looking a little hungry, and all talking in low, earnest voices to solid and prosperous Americans. I was sure that they were selling something: bonds or insurance or automobiles. They were at least agonizingly aware of the easy money in the vicinity and convinced that it was theirs for a few words in the right key.

The final chapter only feeds my possibly delusional hunch that Gatsby is merely posing as a rich guy. Meyer Wolfsheim — previously described as “a gambler,” “the man who fixed the World’s Series back in 1919,” and such a “smart man” that “they can’t get him, old sport” — talks with Nick about Gatsby:

“Did you start him in business?” I inquired.

“Start him! I made him.”

“Oh.”

“I raised him up out of nothing, right out of the gutter. I saw right away he was a fine-appearing, gentlemanly young man, and when he told me he was at Oggsford I knew I could use him good. I got him to join up in the American Legion …

Again, when this above-the-law gambler found out Gatsby had studied at “Oggsford” (aka Oxford), he calculated that he could take this “fine-appearing, gentlemanly young man” and “use him good.”

I realize my case here 1) is entirely circumstantial; 2) depends on scrutinizing an imaginary world as if it were real. I don’t care. It’s fun to think about.

(Note: I don’t have The Great Gatsby in front of me. The passages quoted here come from the University of Adelaide Library’s electronic edition of the novel. I will amend this post if it turns out that any of the wording, punctuation, etc. is wrong. What I know is this: I went looking for these specific passages just now and the passages were exactly as I remembered them, so my strong hunch is that they’re accurate. Still, caveat lector and all that.)

But when I next read the book, in my thirties, having lived in New York for a while and seen the strange mix it has to offer — and an uglier mix it was back then, for the city was badly run down, and I’d run into enormous disappointment myself while there and ultimately left — I read that line about power and beauty again, and when I did I sat up with a shock. Fitzgerald, or Carraway, rather, doesn’t look at the skyline and say that it represents all the beauty and power in the world. He says the skyline offers “the promise of all the power and beauty in the world.” The promise. Much different than the real thing.
To have that sense of one’s intrinsic worth which constitutes self-respect is potentially to have everything: the ability to discriminate, to love and to remain indifferent. To lack it is to be locked within oneself, paradoxically incapable of either love or indifference. If we do not respect ourselves, we are on the one hand forced to despise those who have so few resources as to consort with us, so little perception as to remain blind to our fatal weaknesses. On the other, we are peculiarly in thrall to everyone we see, curiously determined to live out—since our self-image is untenable—their false notions of us.

- Joan Didion in 1961, spelunking terrain that may or may not remind us exactly of the way we function online and cope with the bizarreness of being followed, unfollowed, blogged, reblogged, retweeted, flamed, liked.

The passage comes from Didion’s essay called “On Self-Respect.” It’s in Slouching Towards Bethlehem, a book I owned, partly read, purged, and now have out of the library.

I’ve typed out some other passages, meaning to add them to this post. One includes a Gatsby reference. Since a Gatsby reference has become one of the cheapest, best ways to appeal to me, I don’t trust my love of the passage. I will cheat by keeping this relatively short and posting the other quotes elsewhere. Here, specifically.

"a 3-D Gatsby?" ctd.

After seeing still more people pre-hating on the specter of Baz Luhrmann filming a 3-D version of Gatsby, it seems worthwhile to step back and realize what sort of novel can be ruined by a movie version that’s garish, inept, unfaithful, or in any other way bad. It is a novel like my novel.

My novel could be ruined by a crap movie version because even unnervingly attentive readers of this blog probably do not know that my novel exists. My novel could be ruined because it’s not even published. My unpublished novel, unsurprisingly, is not taught in high schools and colleges. Revered writers don’t mention my unpublished novel when they list the one or two books that they’ve returned to again and again — yearly, as a sustaining ritual, in some cases.

Gatsby, in these respects (and possibly a couple of others), is pretty much the opposite of my unpublished novel. Gatsby comes as close as any novel that I can think of to being indestructible. Make a porno version of it; doesn’t matter. Distill it down to a nine-minute rap and compel mildewed finger puppets to spit the rhymes; doesn’t matter.

Nobody — literally nobody — who blames Gatsby itself for a lousy movie version ever stood even the slightest chance of becoming a loving reader of the novel.

So this whole 3-D thing is going to be OK. Right, Mr. Fitzgerald?

… Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men.

So, in conclusion, simple marching orders for Baz Luhrmann: Don’t be what preyed on Gatsby; don’t be foul dust.

My earlier post with thoughts on how to film a good 3-D Gatsby is here. The arguably unhealthy extent of my doting on the novel is hinted at here.

A 3-D Gatsby?

Ta-Nehisi Coates is shaking his head about word that Baz Lurhmann may film a 3-D version of Gatsby. His readers have posted a bunch of smart, passionate comments. Anybody who fears that people don’t care about books anymore should go look. Here — with the addition of juicy bits of mostly self-referential hypertext — is the comment I just posted:

It never would have occurred to me to wish for a 3-D Gatsby, but the idea has real potential — especially if it’s a use of 3-D we haven’t seen before. Based on five minutes of “workshopping” this within the confines of my mind, my ideal 3-D Gatsby would be one where we never see Nick, where the whole film is an immersive experience of seeing East Egg and West Egg and the "enchanted metropolitan twilight" of  New York City through Nick’s eyes. Think of a graceful cinematic rendering of this Gatsby paragraph:

"The only completely stationary object in the room was an enormous couch on which two young women were buoyed up as though upon an anchored balloon. They were both in white, and their dresses were rippling and fluttering as if they had just been blown back in after a short flight around the house. I must have stood for a few moments listening to the whip and snap of the curtains and the groan of a picture on the wall. Then there was a boom as Tom Buchanan shut the rear windows and the caught wind died out about the room, and the curtains and the rugs and the two young women ballooned slowly to the floor."

I think all this and type all this while admittedly under the influence of a 1961 Updike quote that I blogged last night: “… the refusal to rest content, the willingness to risk excess on behalf of one’s obsessions, is what distinguishes artists from entertainers, and what makes some artists adventurers on behalf of us all.”

The quote comes from a mostly critical review of Salinger’s “Franny and Zooey,” and maybe some similar quote will be needed if ultimately we end up with some mess of a 3-D Gatsby. But the quote is also a road map. We should hope Baz Luhrmann is obsessed with Gatsby. We should hope he risks excess of behalf of that obsession.

Updike’s “Franny and Zooey” review, incidentally, offers up a critique of Salinger that might help Luhrmann calibrate his excess and that those of us who love Gatsby might do well to mull if we’re dead set against adaptation:

"In ‘Hoist High the Roof Beam, Carpenters’ (the first and best of the Glass pieces: a magic and hilarious prose-poem with an enchanting end effect of mysterious clarity), Seymour defines sentimentality as giving ‘to a thing more tenderness than God gives to it.’ This seems to me the nub of the trouble: Salinger loves the Glasses more than God loves them. He loves them too exclusively. Their invention has become a hermitage for him. He loves them to the detriment of artistic moderation. ‘Zooey’ is just too long; there are too many cigarettes, too many goddams, too much verbal ado about not quite enough. The author never rests from circling his creations, patting them fondly, slyly applauding. He robs the reader of the initiative upon which love must be given."

Any thoughts on all this?

Bizarre experience today. I spent an hour or more on the University of Washington campus, walking our dogs through a drizzle, noticing lots of things to photograph, and listening to an audiobook of The Great Gatsby.
On this listen, I caught a bit of dialogue that I’d missed before. The father of the murdered Gatsby says, “If he’d of lived, he’d of been a great man. A man like James J. Hill. He’d of helped build up the country.”
Who, I wondered, was this James J. Hill? Then, no more than 10 minutes later, I spotted a statue, sized it up for its photographic potential, found it wanting. Ready to walk away, I noticed the statue’s nameplate read “JAMES J. HILL” (see snapshot above).
Crazy.
So who was he anyway? Here’s a start ..,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Jerome_Hill
My other Gatsby posts are here.

Bizarre experience today. I spent an hour or more on the University of Washington campus, walking our dogs through a drizzle, noticing lots of things to photograph, and listening to an audiobook of The Great Gatsby.

On this listen, I caught a bit of dialogue that I’d missed before. The father of the murdered Gatsby says, “If he’d of lived, he’d of been a great man. A man like James J. Hill. He’d of helped build up the country.”

Who, I wondered, was this James J. Hill? Then, no more than 10 minutes later, I spotted a statue, sized it up for its photographic potential, found it wanting. Ready to walk away, I noticed the statue’s nameplate read “JAMES J. HILL” (see snapshot above).

Crazy.

So who was he anyway? Here’s a start ..,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Jerome_Hill

My other Gatsby posts are here.

sometimesagreatnotion
sometimesagreatnotion:

I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes, and felt it in others—young clerks in the dusk, wasting the most poignant moments of night and life. - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

=====================
OK, so it took me a minute to realize this was a still from a 1990s movie and not some documentary photo shot last night in NYC. But let’s ignore the inconvenient particulars. Let’s just focus on Fitzgerald having written those words in 1920Whatever and the guys in the photo looking approximately like people from 2010.
Here’s why I want to do that: The sentence that sometimesagreatnotion quoted above comes from two paragraphs that could be clipped straight out of Gatsby and inserted into any novel set in 2010 without triggering any sort of anachronistic iPhone-at-the-telegraph-office cringe from readers. I noticed this a couple of weeks ago on my latest pass through the book. Here are the paragraphs that strike me as pretty much evergreen:

I began to like New York, the racy, adventurous feel of it at night, and the satisfaction that the constant flicker of men and women and machines gives to the restless eye. I liked to walk up Fifth Avenue and pick out romantic women from the crowd and imagine that in a few minutes I was going to enter into their lives, and no one would ever know or disapprove. Sometimes, in my mind, I followed them to their apartments on the corners of hidden streets, and they turned and smiled back at me before they faded through a door into warm darkness. At the enchanted metropolitan twilight I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes, and felt it in others — poor young clerks who loitered in front of windows waiting until it was time for a solitary restaurant dinner — young clerks in the dusk, wasting the most poignant moments of night and life.
Again at eight o’clock, when the dark lanes of the Forties were five deep with throbbing taxi-cabs, bound for the theatre district, I felt a sinking in my heart. Forms leaned together in the taxis as they waited, and voices sang, and there was laughter from unheard jokes, and lighted cigarettes outlined unintelligible gestures inside. Imagining that I, too, was hurrying toward gayety and sharing their intimate excitement, I wished them well. 

sometimesagreatnotion:

I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes, and felt it in others—young clerks in the dusk, wasting the most poignant moments of night and life.

- F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

=====================

OK, so it took me a minute to realize this was a still from a 1990s movie and not some documentary photo shot last night in NYC. But let’s ignore the inconvenient particulars. Let’s just focus on Fitzgerald having written those words in 1920Whatever and the guys in the photo looking approximately like people from 2010.

Here’s why I want to do that: The sentence that sometimesagreatnotion quoted above comes from two paragraphs that could be clipped straight out of Gatsby and inserted into any novel set in 2010 without triggering any sort of anachronistic iPhone-at-the-telegraph-office cringe from readers. I noticed this a couple of weeks ago on my latest pass through the book. Here are the paragraphs that strike me as pretty much evergreen:

I began to like New York, the racy, adventurous feel of it at night, and the satisfaction that the constant flicker of men and women and machines gives to the restless eye. I liked to walk up Fifth Avenue and pick out romantic women from the crowd and imagine that in a few minutes I was going to enter into their lives, and no one would ever know or disapprove. Sometimes, in my mind, I followed them to their apartments on the corners of hidden streets, and they turned and smiled back at me before they faded through a door into warm darkness. At the enchanted metropolitan twilight I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes, and felt it in others — poor young clerks who loitered in front of windows waiting until it was time for a solitary restaurant dinner — young clerks in the dusk, wasting the most poignant moments of night and life.

Again at eight o’clock, when the dark lanes of the Forties were five deep with throbbing taxi-cabs, bound for the theatre district, I felt a sinking in my heart. Forms leaned together in the taxis as they waited, and voices sang, and there was laughter from unheard jokes, and lighted cigarettes outlined unintelligible gestures inside. Imagining that I, too, was hurrying toward gayety and sharing their intimate excitement, I wished them well. 

I love great radio. I love great books. The latest Studio 360 brings both together — a full episode devoted to The Great Gatsby. Scott Shepherd, the actor who recited passages of the novel for the broadcast, put tears in my eyes. I’m not even sure why. But it was amazing to be standing at my kitchen sink, finishing up the dishes, listening to Shepherd, and feeling so very moved. It was this passage:

When we pulled out into the winter night and the real snow, our snow, began to stretch out beside us and twinkle against the windows, and the dim lights of small Wisconsin stations moved by, a sharp wild brace came suddenly into the air. We drew in deep breaths of it as we walked back from dinner through the cold vestibules, unutterably aware of our identity with this country for one strange hour, before we melted indistinguishably into it again.

That’s my Middle West — not the wheat or the prairies or the lost Swede towns, but the thrilling returning trains of my youth, and the street lamps and sleigh bells in the frosty dark and the shadows of holly wreaths thrown by lighted windows on the snow. I am part of that, a little solemn with the feel of those long winters, a little complacent from growing up in the Carraway house in a city where dwellings are still called through decades by a family’s name.