Some things changed when I turned 30. I started using “who” and “whom” properly, purchased sensible shoes, and I became ready to appreciate The Great Gatsby.
I really don’t think it’s a novel for teenagers, or at least it wasn’t for me as a teenager. It’s probably true that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s best-known work is on most every approved high school reading list. And certainly my own grade 12 English teacher thought it an appropriate book to assign our class. The language itself is easy enough; even the story is relatively straightforward.
But I couldn’t find myself enjoying any aspect of it. Just another over-rated novel they make us read for no reason, I thought. It didn’t occur to me at the time that the failure might have been mine, rather than Fitzgerald’s. I just hadn’t had enough life yet.
But I’ve wanted to re-read it before seeing the movie, so I cast about for a copy.
(Sidenote: Winnipeg Public Library, how is it that you don’t have more copies when every high school must have several dozen? A 17-person waiting list? That’s a year not counting renewals! (Side-sidenote: I also decided to read April Raintree, this one for the first time. My verdict: it’s deservedly a Winnipeg classic, but holy cow this has been a depressing reading month for me. (Side-side-sidenote: The Winnipeg publisher of the first edition, In Search of April Raintree, was, until recently, just down the hall from my office. Local history! Let’s get some Nutty Club pink popcorn!)))
One thing that surprised me was how distinctive Fitzgerald’s voice turned out to be, and yet how utterly familiar. I already knew that he was one of Haruki Murakami’s major influences, but wow! For a long-time Murakami fan, Gatsby is like coming home.
Is Jay Rubin, the Japanese author’s most frequent translator, responsible for the Fitzgeraldian flavour of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Kafka by the Shore? Or is the resonance deeper than language?
Can DiCaprio capture that same essence? I daresay he can. But I’ll be finding out soon enough.