Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Great Gatsby

The story behind the story

By David Luhrssen
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  If you’re not a fan of world-saving superheroes, chances are the summer movie you’re most looking forward to is The Great Gatsby, with Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role and Baz Luhrman in the director’s chair. For a little context on the source material, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s contender for Great American Novel, check out the documentary “The Great Gatsby: Midnight in Manhattan,” out on DVD.

Produced for BBC-TV at the turn of the millennium, “Midnight in Manhattan” draws from interviews with authors and critics. Hunter S. Thompson marvels over “so much of a story in so few words.” And he was right. Fitzgerald’s slender novel is packed with color, memorable scenes and vaguely unsettling ideas. According to William Styron, Fitzgerald “smelled the excitement of the period”—after all, it was Fitzgerald who first called the Roaring Twenties the Jazz Age. And Styron was right, but if that was all, The Great Gatsby would be a historical footnote, not a novel that continues to sell (and inspire motion pictures). For those who dwell on Gatsby surface, Christopher Hitchens had the last word. “It’s a great cure for romance, The Great Gatsby,” he said.

In the end, the highway of the American Dream leads to a dead-end. Let’s see where Luhrman takes Gatsby when his iteration is released on Friday.

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