Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Great Gatsby: I just thought I didn't get it

The movie The Great Gatsby opens this weekend. I first read The Great Gatsby in high school. I didn't remember liking it much, but I'm constantly amazed at the insights that flew over my head in high school, so I was happy to give it a second read a year ago for a book club. I still didn't like it that much. I found it difficult to enjoy because all of the characters are vain and careless. It's impossible to have sympathy for any of them because they treat people like trash. Despite that, I tend to agree with the themes that the love of money corrupts and that people are generally prone to act like jerks. Being unlettered as I am in literature, I trusted that it must be a work of genius, since everyone says it is, just not enjoyable one, since it's all so cynical. I thought maybe I just didn't get it. When I went to my book club discussion everyone else seemed enthralled, so I just assumed that I was blinded by my ignorance.

Then I read this article and I learned that their are other people in the world who didn't really like the Great Gatsby that much, some that may even despise it! Like the article's author, I had also wondered how Fitzgerald could condemn the excesses of wealth like he did, when he seemed to aspire to a similar life style of opulence. But that's all beside the point, what made me want to write this post was this little jewel of irony:

"... the new movie opens Friday. (Read David Edelstein's review here.) If you need a place to take your date afterward and have $14,999 to spare, you can head to the Trump hotel, which is offering a glamorous “Great Gatsby Package”: three nights in a suite on Central Park West, a magnum of Champagne, cuff links and a tailored suit for men, and, “for the ladies, an Art Deco shagreen and onyx cuff, accompanied by a personal note from Ivanka Trump.” Car insurance is not included."

On the sidebar of this article was a Tiffany's advertisement for a Great Gatsby "Jazz Age Glamour" collection of diamond jewelry. Pictured was a diamond head pendant (you can have it for $200,000) that matches Daisy's in the movie. Daisy is the main female character in the book, Gatsby's love interest. 

This is a joke, right? I mean listen, to anyone in the market for $200,000 diamond headband, or the Trump Hotel's "Great Gatsby Package", you might consider reading the book first. Find out how all that 20's-era glitz turned out for the characters.  (Hint: Not very well.) 

 The fact that people have created an entire marketing campaign around the excesses that the book criticizes takes me full circle back to wondering if  it was a work of genius after all. It seems to reflect an accurate picture: people dazzled by wealth without looking at the human story underneath. That story in the Great Gatsby is one in which the characters -soulless automatons whose god is their vanity- destroy each other amidst lavish parties and with many friendly exclamations of "old sport".  The End.

Nonetheless, I'm going to see the movie on Sunday with my book club and I'm going to get popcorn. So, that's pretty much all I know for sure about The Great Gatsby.

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