I have a confession to make. Are you ready for it? I have a deep, unwavering love for the work of F. Scott Fitzgerald. I suppose that isn't quite accurate. It isn't just his work...it's the man behind the writing as well. He has been oversimplified time and time again as the wreck of a man who drank too much and worked too little and while there is truth in some of the things that are said about him (namely his drinking problem which was quite real as it so often is with writers) many things are overlooked, things that paint the portrait of the man who was capable of delivering amazing novels like Gatsby, The Beautiful and Damned, and This Side of Paradise. His complicated yet intense relationship with his wife Zelda, who was herself a talented woman that never really reached her full potential thanks to a troubled life that included mental illness and multiple trips to asylums, was a source of inspiration for Scott in everything he wrote. To put it simply, the Fitzgeralds had one hell of a life but they both paid the price for it in the end and what came out of all of that were works of fiction often based on Scott's life that showed the cold hard truths of life, his secret weapon so far as I am concerned, the thing I admire most about his writing. Cold hard truth is often hard to find in the world of fiction and the first time I picked up one of his novels, The Great Gatsby, I had no idea that I was about to get a hefty dose of it but by the end of that book I had another literary hero to add to the ever-growing list and I knew I wanted more.
I was nineteen years old when I first read the book. I had bronchitis for the one hundredth time and I was sitting in my doctor's office looking at his book shelf he kept in the waiting room. He had this library system where patients could sign out books and sign them in when they returned them but most of the novels he kept were not my style to say the least. (It was a fabulous idea on the doctor's part and I appreciate anyone who wants to share books with the world but they were literally the worst collection of books I have ever seen gathered together in one place...bless his heart...) But suddenly one book title caught my attention. I had heard of the book most of my life and I had always wanted to read it but thanks to the fact that I home-schooled throughout high school I had yet to do so. The waiting room was absolutely packed and I wasn't going back anytime soon. If I liked it I could check it out and if not, it would be no big deal. So I reached over and I took The Great Gatsby off of the shelf and it took just a few minuets before the room full of sick people and my own misery was wiped from my mind as I entered this world of secrets, wealth, and parties. An hour later when they called me into the back I was already so in love with the damned thing that I didn't check it out. I simply slipped it in my purse along with This Side of Paradise thinking only of getting back to the story the entire time I was sitting in front of the poor doctor I had just swiped two books from. I still feel bad about that. I really do. There are three things that hurt my bookworm's soul more than anything else: Plagiarism, the tearing up of a book, and the theft of a book. But there was something about it that I fell absolutely in love with and I had to have the damned thing. Love can make you do crazy things, including my solitary moment of petty theft. So...
From the moment I got in the car I had the book in my hands and I wouldn't or couldn't put it down. I read it cover to cover in a few hours' time and the feeling I had at the end of that book...This was cold hard truth. This was one of the secrets of life. One of those things that people like me know but few people say it, few people feel comfortable thinking it, and only a select few would ever write it....this was the truth that if you build your life around loving someone, if you do everything and anything in your power to give someone the world because they are everything to you, you will end up dead, alone, floating in your own damned pool with a bullet hole straight through the heart (or was it his back...I can't remember...) My heart absolutely broke for Gatsby, this man who devoted his life to one woman, a woman who really just used him when she was confronted with him again because she had married a bastard and once Gatsby was dead she went effortlessly back to her life without a second thought for the three lives she and that bastard she married (Some of you might know him as Tom Buchanan but whatever...) had destroyed, ended, along the way. I imagined I felt as Nick had felt by that last page, as if we had witnessed something we could never ignore again. Like I said, I was in love from that point on. Fitzgerald had done what I had felt I wanted to do in my own writing since I was about fifteen only he had done it with such flair, such...brilliance...and I could gauge the level of this brilliance by how cold I felt inside at the end of that novel and for a little while after I had finished it.
Since that introduction to Scott's writing I have read everything he ever wrote and I own copies of it all except for The Beautiful and Damned (something I will remedy one day as that is my second-favorite novel of his) including the unfinished book he was writing when he died. When I first began re-writing fairytales at the age of fifteen with Rapunzel my intention was to do what F. Scott Fitzgerald did though I didn't know he had done it. I thought back on all the lies the world had fed not just me but all little girls like the one I had been concerning things like love and life and I wanted to show the cold hard truth. I have become softer in the years since I first read the Great Gatsby and I will occasionally write about true, long-lasting love. Sometimes there is a catch and sometimes (by sometimes I mean once) I have a completely happy ending for my characters. It isn't just that I have become softer, it is also that the world has become a darker place than it was when I was younger and I want to spread some light once in a while. But I will always have those novels, those moments, where the cold hard truth is all that I deliver. Scott's work showed that same balance I yearn to prefect in my work, the lessons of love and life in general, that even if two people truly love one another, even if everything should be great, things fuck up and there will always be suffering because that's life. For me, he is like a comrade in the storm.
So imagine how high my expectations were when I heard last fall that a new movie would come out this spring based on my favorite novel by one of my favorite authors. As any bookworm can tell you, it does not fill our hearts with delight to hear that one of our favorite novels has been turned into a film because usually Hollywood fucks up absolutely everything. Yet Leonardo DiCaprio was said to be playing Gatsby and I could picture him in the role. That was a good sign in my opinion. Although I am not fond of Toby Maguire in general, I could picture him as Nick as well. That was two for two as far as the cast was concerned. However, those were large shoes to fill and how many times does Hollywood ever accomplish greatness with the book-to-movie thing...
They did it with this one. That movie was The Great Gatsby taken off the page and delivered to the world in a two hour package complete with all of the sorrow, the hope (that I couldn't feel because I already knew how it would end), the glamorous wonder, and the total fucking betrayal of this amazing man named Gatsby who wanted just to love a woman who was the wrong woman. What stuck out for me, besides the accuracy of the film compared with the book (it was essentially dead on) was the way they nailed the party at Buchanan's mistress's New York apartment, the way they brought the madness of Gatsby's house to life, the focus on the green light across the bay, and the incredible casting. But what sealed it for me was the fact that at the end of the movie I felt the exact same way I have felt every time I have read the book since that first time, that coldness, that realization that this is ugly truth you can never deny again. I have never had a movie based on a book make me feel the emotions the book created for me. And The Great Gatsby completely nailed it. I even like the soundtrack though I am not sure why in the case of some songs. If you have not seen the movie, especially if you are a Fitzgerald fan, go out as soon as you can and see it because it is absolutely flawless. And if you've seen the movie and you like it but you have never read the book, read it. Really. I hope that this movie, because it is so true to the book and it is so great, will draw more people toward the amazing writer who brought Gatsby to life. I hope that it breathes new life into F. Scott Fitzgerald and into one of the greatest, most tragically beautiful characters I have ever met on a page.
Here's to Fitzgerald and Gatsby and the people in Hollywood who managed to do the impossible by staying true to a book through film while also giving it a life of its own. That is like finding Big Foot as far as bookworms are concerned. So bravo! Now, if they would all get together again and tackle the Beautiful and Damned with Leo in the role of Anthony Patch, I would be thrilled to see the end result. Just a suggestion...if no one involved in Gatsby has anything else planned, ya know...lol