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Banned In China

Friday, April 10, 2009

Great Gatsby

It's the anniversary of the publication of The Great Gatsby. What a wonderful book. Reading the New York Times article about high school students reading the book is painful. I guess that everybody identifies with Gatsby at that age. But from the Times' article it doesn't seem that the kids are aware that Gatsby's green light is really empty and false. On the other hand they are kids, although I would have thought that the teachers would have attempted to point something like that out to them.

In thinking about it though Fitzgerald was about as close to seeing life as Gatsby did as an author could get to a character. It is kind of surprising that being so much like Gatsby he could step back and look at him through Nick's objective eyes. So maybe I should not be too hard on 16 year old kids who don't see the futility and (dare I say it) existential emptiness of Gatsby's light. Particularly since the author both did and didn't, himself.

The 1974 movie was really pretty bad. Robert Redford was good as Gatsby, but Mia Farrow was no Daisy. She was awful. The script wasn't particularly good either. When a relatively short book like Gatsby or Call of the Wild or A Christmas Carol is made into a movie it really is better, I think, to keep very close to the original (which can be done with these short books) rather than to try to "open it up" or "improve" on it. The movie is rarely better for the changes.

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