Can’t wait for Luhrmann’s ‘Gatsby’

NYT preview. And, man, do I want to take this trip, even if it’s awful.

He first got the idea years ago, he added, after finishing “Moulin Rouge.” As was his custom, he wanted to decompress by taking a trip, so he booked himself a passage on a trans-Siberian Express.

“I think what he really had in mind was the Orient Express,” Ms. Martin pointed out, reminding him that he had phoned her almost immediately to say the trip was the worst mistake of his life.

“It was a tin box,” Mr. Luhrmann admitted. “But I took along two bottles of Australian red wine and an iPod with two recorded books. One of them was ‘The Great Gatsby.’ The first night, I opened the red wine, kicked up the air-conditioning and got in bed and started listening. The next day I couldn’t wait for nighttime, so I could hear the rest of it.

“You could actually recommend this as therapy to someone who was really in trouble: Get in a tin box, travel through Siberia, listen to ‘The Great Gatsby’ and drink red wine till you’re drunk.”

Here’s a picture of my desk. The red wine sits five feet to the right of it:


Dan Neil and Gatsby is a day-making combo

When I blogged about Dan Neil the other day, I’d forgotten that I had a clipping of his on my desk. I rediscovered it last night and had to share.

My parents, I love them. They save me newspaper stories they know will strike my fancy. And nothing strikes my fancy much more than Dan Neil writing a lede on The Great Gatsby. Dan Neil, ledes and Gatsby. Trifecta.

Neil’s review in the Wall Street Journal is of the Porsche Panamera GTS.

That car, as you might expect, is not mentioned in the lede.

Jay Gatsby’s car was a Rolls-Royce. We’re clear on that, right? Not a Duesenberg. A cream-yellow Rolls-Royce. It’s right there in the book.

Director Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby” hits the prole-plexes this winter, and it appears Gatsby’s car has been recast as a 1929 Duesenberg J Sport Phaeton.

Oy. With respect, Baz, the Rolls-Royce is one of the book’s central metaphors. It was a British luxury car, and one of the most fantastic displays of American Anglophilia imaginable, owned at the time by people desperately trying to scrub up and give themselves some class. Gatsby is a Veblenian antihero. So there.

And, honestly, Baz, F. Scott Fitzgerald couldn’t have been more explicit. The Rolls-Royce runs down Myrtle Wilson, the book’s sad, grasping everywoman. You want him to draw you a picture?

Fake ‘Gatsby’ endings, I could read them all day

The New York Times reports on the publication of Hemingway’s 46 discarded endings for A Farewell to Arms. Slate, in its Low Culture section, reports out Fitzgerald’s 47 discarded endings for The Great Gatsby. My favorites:

No. 5, “The Cliffhanger Ending”: “The ferryboats traced quiet paths out across the water as the moon rose, casting fragile sheets of light down on the waves. Suddenly, I felt the cool barrel of a Smith & Wesson on the back of my neck. ‘Not so fast,’ a familiar voice said. ‘This garden party is only starting.’ ”

No. 9, “The Nude Beach Ending”: “Most of the big places were closed now and there were hardly any lights except the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound. When it had passed out of range, I removed my pants.”

No. 28, “The Guess Who Ending”: “Even with my eyes covered I knew I could not mistake that voice. ‘Gatsby!’ I cried. He stopped covering my eyes and walked around to the front of my head so I could see him. ‘Hello,’ he said, and did a little dance.”

No. 44, “The Foretaste of the Internet Ending”: “So, what can we learn from all this? Here are five things Gatsby got wrong about American achievement, plus three things he got right.”

The cookies aren’t good, but references to them make my day

Ian Frazier gives me a double shot of my baby’s love by writing Gatsby parody in The New Yorker, the culmination of a season seemingly full of were-they-owned-by-the-real-Gatsby homes in jeopardy or destroyed.

Retyped a paragraph here. Too bad the full piece is behind a paywall.

“A large yellow steam shovel with the name of a Japanese family painted in black letters on its long hinged, arm was picking up concrete fragments and piling them into heaps. The machine made a repetitive and monotonous sound. On what had been the mansion’s seaward side, a white, pillared swimming cabana had been left standing, perhaps in deference to the Piping Plovers and other mentioned on the signs. Next to the cabana, a swimming pool — the one where Gatsby had been found? — held a foot or so of dirty water in which a shoe with an intricately patterned sole bobbed, heel upward. Beside it floated a filmy piece of something that bore, in blue script, the name Famous Amos — probably another of Gatsby’s distinguished former guests whom I could not recall. There had been so many visitors that summer, but none except me had returned to see the old place pulled down.

Appalling sentimentality

More than the tickets to the last night of the Springsteen reunion tour, more than those tickets to Alcatraz and the top of the Statue of Liberty that aligned so well with trips, the tickets that got away (lifetime) have to be those to see the seven-hour Gatz this fall. A full New York theater read of the book, complete with two intermissions and even a dinner break, the show grabbed some of the season’s best critical praise and sold out in moments. I had read all the press but apparently blinked at the wrong time — and been unaware of the production traveling cross-country in years previous, representative of blinders more than a blink.

The Times review, on the reading’s drama:

It’s in that elusive chemistry that takes place between a reader and a gorgeous set of sentences that demand you follow them wherever they choose to go. Think of it as a morning-fresh variation on an ancient theatrical formula: Boy meets book. Boy gets book. Boy becomes lost in book.

I had this idea where I’d call up a cousin I haven’t seen in 15 years for various reasons, a cousin who’s my age and across Facebook happens still to make one of the same faces I do in pictures. He’s in New York’s theater world: dance and, you’d think it came from a different place if you didn’t know him (but if you know me some, you may understand), capturing performances in multimedia. Fifteen years is far too long, a gross understatement. But even in not knowing him beyond a shade anymore, he still seemed more likely than anyone else I knew to take the seven or eight hours, every word of Gatsby, and possibly enjoy it.

The Times preview, on reading aloud becoming drama:

… I used to give way to this urge all the time when reading to my children. I did voices, I did accents, I did sound effects. My rendition of Captain Haddock, from the Tintin books, was particularly fine, even if it did borrow heavily from the Yosemite Sam cartoon character. In part, I suppose, I was bored, the way you can only be bored when you are required to read the same book over and over, night after night; in part I was showing off, for myself as much as for the children, but in part I was responding to something in the very nature of fictional characters, or good ones anyway. They seem to want to animate themselves, in our voices as well as in our minds, but in a sketchy, half-imagined way.

But, like I said, the show sold out. The run finished late November, and the theater company made plans for The Sun Also Rises. I stayed in my extended blink and began to think of new plans to visit New York and family. Reversing the Carraway rail trip, who knew what happened?

Friend Meghan sent the podcast of a recent American Icons broadcast, the reason for this post, on Gatsby. My favorite segment was when the host rode down a private elevator and walked “a maze of locked doors and combination codes” to see where Princeton stored the manuscript. Inside, he found a Fitzgerald scholar examining the handwriting on the pages (“laborious but rewarding”) and trying to find who — among the author, his editors and other publishing people — had written what.

I liked the scene’s implicit image of the man sitting alone in the hidden room with all the words. He didn’t know we were coming. We certainly didn’t expect to encounter him there. But there he sat in the room with all the words, rewarded, and we were bound to run into each other.

They begin beating it with a hose

Was out with a friend and new friends of friend tonight, and it’s always nice to meet people who are friendly from the start. As the default. Lot of the word “friend” in that first sentence, but that’s okay. I’m off-kilter now and am starting to search for kilter. Good I’m not an etymologist because they have little luck with kilter. What an awful lede this is…

The point here is my favorite random link of last week wasn’t a link at all but friend Cory happening to mention the poem “Introduction to Poetry” in her Facebook status. “I ask them to take a poem / and hold it up to the light / like a color slide,” it begins, and the lyrical motion gets to his students wanting still to torture the poem into giving up its secrets (i.e. the hose beating). Which I love. One of my favorite class moments in high school was Mrs. Free in junior English slamming me for trying to assign exact meaning to a Great Gatsby passage. I was likely reactionary-pissed at the time, but that lesson-later-realization made Mrs. Free, among other reasons, one of my favorite high school teachers and put Gatsby on the road (watch out for banana cars) to being my favorite book. Favorite art, I think, is aspirational, obviously or obliquely. I wrote here last winter that my new take on love was, sort of, to hold it to the light instead of beating it with a hose. That approach has remained a work-in-progress — but progress still. I’ve become more convinced than ever this synthesis is the way to go.

Or maybe the point is still to come. That last paragraph feels more exploratory than conclusive. Which, again, just a couple sentences later, I have to keep reminding myself is absolutely the point.

Why are you not watching 30 Rock?

Yes, of course, I’ve read MoDo’s Vanity Fair profile of Tina Fey. And seen the photos and watched the video. I had to do something to make up for not realizing until this week that Maura Tierney left ER.

Next to the part where Kenneth the Page says of Fey “she’s just a looney bird,” my favorite lines from Dowd are: She looks like a really pretty graduate student, and she has a soft voice and reserve that Matthew Broderick says cause people to “lean in to her.” (Like Daisy Buchanan, except her voice is full of funny rather than money.)

Deep Gatsby cut. Across the entire piece, there’s nothing that makes me like Fey less. It’s too bad I like husband Jeff Richmond so much, for seeming to be a good guy and succeeding way, way out of his league.