In my younger and more vulnerable years, I had a favorite character in The Great Gatsby. It wasn’t Daisy, the beautiful little fool; or Gatsby, with his ability to reinvent himself; or even Nick, with his writerly powers of observation. It was Jordan Baker.
Why? Because of this: “‘Jordan’s going to play in the tournament tomorrow,’ explained Daisy, ‘over at Westchester.’ ”
Yes! The events of The Great Gatsby take place so close to us, and mostly in the suburbs of New York City — just the wrong ones for my personal preference. Fitzgerald could’ve been writing about the mansions along the Hudson instead of the Sound. But Long Island gets to claim The Great Gatsby, and with all of the bridge-crossing the characters do, Jordan Baker — the golf cheat — is the only one that makes it all the way up to the Hudson Valley. I’ll take it.
Photograph by Daniel Smith
This week, the newest film adaptation of The Great Gatsby hits theaters. Directed by Baz Luhrmann (of Moulin Rouge and Romeo + Juliet fame) and presented in 3D, it’s certain to be a spectacle. I think that’s exhilarating, but I’ve talked to fellow Gatsby fans who find the idea of Gatsby-as-3D-spectacle frightening.
No matter which side you find yourself on, the blockbuster aspects of the film have churned up a bunch of links that will certainly entice the English major in you.
First off, let’s visit the film adaptations of The Great Gatsby that have come before. PopMatters gives a rundown of the previous, mostly unsuccessful films. The most interesting one is the 1949 version with Alan Ladd, which is somehow basically a gangster movie. (“Later, when he meets Nick the exchange they have is pleasant, but oddly punctuated by Gatsby excusing himself to cold cock a drunken party guest that has slurred his real name, Jimmy Gatz.”)
Then again, film isn’t the only medium that’s tried to take on (or expand) Fitzgerald’s masterpiece. The A.V. Club lists “alternate-universe” takes on the tale, including a high-school-set YA book, a vampire novel, and a browser-based 8-bit Nintendo game. The writers assure that, even as an NES cut scene, “Gatsby looking out over the water at Daisy’s house remains heartbreaking.”
Photograph courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
If you think that, yeah, sure, Gatsby’s long-distance admiration of Daisy is impressive — but you really wish Fitzgerald had talked more about real estate (after all, isn’t owning a giant châteaux out on Long Island the real American Dream?), then you’re in luck. Slate tries to pinpoint the exact location of the Gatsby mansion. The Condé Nast Traveler also takes a photo tour through the mansions of Long Island’s “Gold Coast.”
And, of course, there’s The Great Gatsby: The Soundtrack. You wouldn’t have heard any of these songs playing at the Ziegfeld Follies, but you can listen to the whole thing — including songs by Jay-Z, Lana Del Rey, Gotye, and Jack White — on NPR’s Web site.
Do you think Baz can pull it off? Let me know in the comments.
P.S.: On a personal note, I’d have to give a shout-out to Mr. Clancy, my 11th-grade English teacher at Ardsley High School. Whenever he thought the class wasn’t giving 100 percent, or if he felt our energy flagging, he’d just start reciting The Great Gatsby to us by memory. (And by “reciting,” I actually mean “shouting.” He’d also flick the lights on and off.) Now, many years later, the first page or so is still burned into my brain.