Reaching for Fitzgerald: Futility Defined

reachingWhen I first read that a movie remake of The Great Gatsby was scheduled for release, I did the Snoopy happy dance. Throughout the next few weeks, trailers flitted past my screen during DVR fast-forwards, building my excitement. I made secret plans to sneak away during the day and watch the movie by myself. I wanted to experience the glory of Fitzgerald alone; I wanted space to revel in the flesh and blood version of his masterpiece.

And then the reviews came out.

As you’ve heard by now, The Great Gatsby movie was released to mixed reviews. Hip hop music? Really? 3-D? Are you kidding me? Most of them compare the movie to a cinematic orgy–visually stimulating, but wholly unsatisfying. Was I pissed? Oh, yeah. Not because people didn’t like the movie, but because someone had reached for Fitzgerald and royally missed the mark. Then it hit me: no one who’s ever reached for Fitzgerald has hit the mark, and no one ever will. So I decided that if I truly wanted to revel in the masterpiece, I’d reread the darned book and leave it at that.

Some of you may not be Gatsby fans (gasp!). But I’m sure you’ve got your own favorite authors, be they classic or contemporary. And no fan fic/movie remake/stage play/You Tube skit of that person’s work could ever, ever match the original, am I right? The way an author strings words can never be equaled, and anyone attempting, by flattery or by trick, to replicate them is doomed to fail. But it goes deeper. To build an homage to greatness, one must also contend with an individual reader’s connection to the masterwork. Yeah. Good luck with that.

Since no article about Fitzgerald would be complete without his words, I give you this passage from the final page of the book:

“And as I sat there, brooding on the old unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.”

So, too, is The Great Gatsby. It’s behind us, in the vast obscurity of literature, never to return again. But if you listen, you can still hear the book’s echo, vibrating across a century.

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2 thoughts on “Reaching for Fitzgerald: Futility Defined

  1. I agree 100% – impossible to reach, Fitzgerald’s greatness is best reflected upon rather than imitated, any awkward attempt to reproduce doomed to fail. (And really, RAP? In The Great Gatsby? Pathetic!)

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