I am generally not impressed when classic literature is turned into a cinematic production. This is mostly because writers and directors take liberties I deem to be unnecessary. Yesterday, however, I found myself sitting quietly beside my mother–watching women in flapper dresses and men in pink suits parade about in a world of no consequence. And I must say–I was impressed. Yes, the acting was phenomenal–Leo was Gatsby– and yes, the artistry of the movie itself was beautiful. But mostly? I was impressed by Fitzgerald. I had taken it upon myself to quickly reread the novel and the words of the writer evoked a strong reaction never previously induced. The script was almost word for word Fitzgerald which almost made him seem alive–sitting in that theater with us. I am fascinated by the 1920’s—the lifestyle lived by so many wealthy people–the reaching for something that was nothing but a temporary fog. The empty, temporary satisfaction brought to so many before they fell in and were swallowed by the wake of their own lifestyles.
There was a time when I couldn’t handle or appreciate writers like Fitzgerald or Hemingway (Not to say they write in an extremely similar manner) –Their voices seemed empty and their sometimes short, awkward, and disbanded sentences bothered me. Now, however, their sentences seem to beat in a rhythm similar to my heartbeat–they roll off the tongue like breath itself–short and crisp and beautiful–as if in writing those very words they were keeping themselves alive—as if those words were their breaths in a time period so devoid of hope. And in leaving the movie theater, I could do nothing but go and pick up my copy of Gatsby and relish in the words–to sit outside in the sunshine and breath in and out. And in. And out.
Sometimes, we just need to enjoy the beauty of the words on the page–not their meaning. Not the criticism or the analyzing. The words. the breaths. The reality of the past.
Most of the big shore places were closed now and there were hardly any lights except the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound. And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes—a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder. 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. Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning—— So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. (Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby)