Content Tagged ‘F. Scott Fitzgerald’

Perils of persona

December 12, 2013 | 11 Comments

The iconic first cover

Newest film rocks ‘Gatsby’

November 20, 2013 | 8 Comments

“On Sunday morning while church bells rang in the villages alongshore, the world and its mistress returned to Gatsby’s house and twinkled hilariously on his lawn.”—the opening to Chapter Four of The Great Gatsby

As famous as are The Great Gatsby’s gorgeous opening and ending passages, the above line shows as well as anything the1925 novel’s elusive poetic magic. Gardens are blue, cocktail music is yellow, and trays of silver drinks float in the dusk. In prose at once specific and grandly metaphoric, The Great Gatsby unspools a plot utterly American in its larceny and its romance: the story of a rags-to-riches-shady-but-essentially-good-social-climbing outlaw whose self-invention and male yearning end in murder.

Since I’ve loved Gatsby for much of my life, I resisted seeing until recently the latest movie based upon it. I doubted whether Leonardo DiCaprio could get off Gatsby’s “old sport” tic without sounding ridiculous. “Old sport” was the nail in the coffin of Robert Redford’s inert performance in the 1974 film flop.

Now comes Baz Luhrmann with Leo as leading man. The Aussie’s effort, Hip-Hop infused and with splashy 3-D option, is “pretty much a disaster,” rules David Denby of the New Yorker. “Gatsby’s big parties are a seething mass of flesh, feathers, dropped waists, cloche hats, swinging pearls, flying tuxedos, fireworks, and breaking glass,” Denby writes. “Luhrmann’s vulgarity is designed to win over the young audience, and it suggests that he’s less a filmmaker than a music-video director with endless resources and a stunning absence of taste.”

[Read More]

Reading ‘Gatsby’ as memoir

April 18, 2012 | 11 Comments

The power of the reflective narrator in novels & memoirs. The Great Gatsby is a touchstone book for me, as it is for many writers, so as I tried to rework my memoir’s prologue recently it was my instinct to reread the novel. I saw why—Gatsby is set up as a memoir, with narrator Nick Carraway’s musings in the first two pages functioning as a prologue. Fitzgerald’s famous opening lines set the novel’s elegiac tone in Nick’s voice: In my …

[Read More]

Gail Caldwell 3: more to admire

August 22, 2011 | 8 Comments

I. The way, as I said, that Gail Caldwell employs metaphor in Let’s Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship is remarkable. Almost every page includes one. “No, you’re not,” said Caroline, her face as deadpan as a coach’s in a losing season. “No, you’re not. Keep your hands together. Stay still—don’t look at the water, look at your hands. Now look at me.” The voice consoled and instructed long enough for me to straighten into position, and …

[Read More]

Q&A: Tom Grimes on ‘Mentor’ memoir, 3-act structure & language as bedrock

August 11, 2010 | 5 Comments

From now on, anyone who dreams of becoming a novelist will need to read Tom Grimes’s brutally honest and wonderful “Mentor.”—Michael Dirda, Washington Post Book World I might say the same for memoirists in regard to Mentor: A Memoir. This celebrated new book is the story of Tom Grimes’s life and work as a novelist and his relationship with the legendary Frank Conroy (1936–2005), whose books include the classic memoir Stop-Time and the novel Body & Soul, about a young …

[Read More]