Tag Archives: F. Scott Fitzgerald

Books Acquired Recently: Retiring Colleague Edition

One of my colleagues is retiring after this semester, and she gave me some of her books dealing with African American literature because it is one of my research interests. I am happy to preserve some of her library by integrating it into my own. Several of the paperbacks are from the 1970s and have some seriously groovy covers.

I also just got three more desk copies for next semester in the mail, so it was a good day for books!

Chesnutt, Charles W. The Portable Charles W. Chesnutt. Ed. William L. Andrews. New York: Penguin, 2008.

I have another collection of Chesnutt’s short stories published by Mentor, but this volume also includes Chesnutt’s novel The Marrow of Tradition and some essays. And, of course, it is always good to acquire a Penguin paperback.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. 1925. New York: Scribner, 2004.

Sadly, the earlier Scribner paperback edition that I was assigned in high school and have myself assigned previously is now out of print. This one was necessary to acquire because it has different page numbers.

Flowers, Arthur. Another Good Loving Blues. 1993. New York: Ballantine, 1994.

This book is inscribed by the author.

Gilyard, Keith, ed. Spirit & Flame: An Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry. Syracuse: Syracuse UP, 1997.

This one is also inscribed by the author.

Klosterman, Chuck. Downtown Owl. 2008. New York: Scribner, 2009.

I have taught some of Klosterman’s essays before, but next semester will be the first time I teach any of his fiction. I am excited to see what my students think of him. I think they will love this book, but their tastes often surprise me.

Lunsford, Andrea A., John J. Ruszkiewicz, and Keith Walters. Everything’s An Argument, with Readings. 6th ed. Boston: Bedford, 2013.

I’ll be using this book in my writing class for the first time in about a decade. I enjoyed it before, then tried other strategies and texts, and now have decided to go back to it and see how it has aged as a text and how I have aged as an instructor.

McKay, Claude. Banana Bottom. 1933. San Diego: Harvest, 1961.

This book has a price tag from the Strand on the front cover! It was on sale for $1.95–regularly $6.95.

Reed, Ishmael. The Last Days of Louisiana Red. 1974. New York: Bard, 1976.

I’ve enjoyed the bit of Reed’s fiction that I have read in the past, and look forward to reading this novel. The blurb on the front cover from the Village Voice calls it a “saucy underground classic.” Say no more!

Toomer, Jean. Cane. 1923. New York: Norton, 2003.

I have the Liveright edition of this novel, but it’s always nice to have a copy of one of Norton’s critical editions as well.

Washington, Mary Helen, ed. Black-Eyed Susans: Classic Stories by and About Black Women. New York: Anchor, 1975.

Morrison, Walker, Bambara, et al. A great period piece.

Yerby, Frank. The Vixens. New York: Dial, 1947.

This nearly seventy-year-old book is in excellent condition.

Youngblood, Shay. Soul Kiss. 1997. New York: Riverhead, 1998.

The least-exciting looking book of the bunch, but it was good enough to make it into paperback, so we’ll see.

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The Great Gatsby

I saw The Great Gatsby this evening–the first film I’ve seen on its opening night since The Return of the King, which shows how eager I was for it–and I was quite satisfied with it, 7.5/10. It is mostly true to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterful novel (much more so than many film adaptations of books), well-acted aside from Tom Buchanan’s ridiculous mustache, and visually pleasing. Carey Mulligan’s portrayal of Daisy is riveting. It is immediately clear why multiple men would fall in love with her. The same is true of Leonardo DiCaprio’s portrayal of Gatsby, which is helped in part by some luscious suits (I was covetous of nearly all of the clothing in the film; the green cardigan that Nick wears when he has Daisy and Gatsby over for tea is to die for). The soundtrack is spot-on: muted when it needs to be and at the forefront when it is appropriate. I especially appreciate the film’s use of “Rhapsody in Blue,” a quiet homage to Woody Allen’s Manhattan. The novel’s geographical setting is more important than many readers acknowledge, and the film does not make this mistake.

The film has two major flaws, both having to do with infidelities to the novel. The first is that the first half hour of the film uses a jumpy, fast-forward style which ends up muting the few snippets of dialogue that actually occur. It has the feel of someone fast-forwarding through the dialogue in a porn film to get to the sex scenes, which is a problem because when I am watching a film I actually want to watch the film, not just segments of it. As a result of this style, the pace of the first half of the film is very uneven, whereas the novel’s pace is smooth throughout–it builds tension through its language and its characters, not via cheap tricks. This aspect of the film is just Baz Luhrmann being Baz Luhrmann, but it doesn’t work as well here as it does in, say, Moulin Rouge. He could have achieved the same decadent effect with half of the amount of frenzied bits.

The second flaw is that Gatsby tells Tom that he and Daisy know each other. The two men are thus set up as rivals for the second half of the film to build dramatic effect, whereas in the novel Tom does not realize that Gatsby is a rival for Daisy until toward the end. This choice to make the competition overt for both men in the film destroys the book’s beautiful subtle tension and has the effect of making Tom a somewhat sympathetic character, which he isn’t ever in Fitzgerald’s version (nor should he be–he’s a woman-beating racist). Neither man is good for Daisy, but Gatsby is certainly better for her than Tom, and the film muddies this distinction. I understand that cinematic narratives require different moves than verbal ones, and both of these flaws stem from that difference, but if any film could do away with the necessity of narrative sign-posting it would be The Great Gatsby because probably eighty percent of its viewers in the United States will have read the book in school (it was assigned to me in high school, college, and graduate school, and with good reason!), and thus have some familiarity with the story and don’t need as much hand-holding as the film forces upon us.

Nevertheless, the film is worth seeing. I forgot how depressing the book’s ending is, how hopeless despite all of Nick’s admiration for Gatsby’s hopefulness, and the film does a lovely job of capturing this empty feeling. I love the novel because it always moves me, and the film did, too, which is the best recommendation I can give.

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