As you may or may not know, depending on your circles, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby just entered the public domain. So now a whole slew of new editions of the book are coming out and another wave of attention has come to one of the most recognizable American authors. Fitting that the man known for memorializing the Roaring Twenties has come back for the next Twenties… whatever they may be.
I remember The Great Gatsby as one of the few books I had to read in high school that I genuinely liked at the time. I don’t know what the difference was, but sitting in Ms. Willoughby’s English class this book enthralled me. Not enough to immediately become obsessed with Fitzgerald, but enough to have a healthy understanding and appreciation for the book.
A number of years ago my mother and I hopped over to Montgomery to attend a showing of Twelfth Night at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. While there, we also took in Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald’s childhood home, which has been refashioned into the Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum. At the time, there wasn’t much there, but it looks like they’ve upgraded it a lot in the intervening years, including turning some of it into Airbnb suites.
They didn’t even have a museum store, or not much of one anyway, and my mother and I are people who do enjoy a good museum gift shop. I had hoped to purchase a Fitzgerald novel to commemorate the visit, but they didn’t have them. So my obliging mother – who was excited by my burgeoning interest in one of her favorite authors – took me to a bookstore and we got a copy of Tender is the Night. It’s Fitzgerald’s longest novel, and like much of his writing based loosely on his own experiences with Zelda. And I loved it. Within a short period of time, I had read all of his full-length novels, including the unfinished one, and had read many of his short stories.
I think partially why I enjoy Fitzgerald is the time period he came from. There’s something sadly romantic about his depiction of the Jazz Age, and the style of writing he had is very much of the time in addition to being still relevant today. I’m no English major, so I couldn’t really dissect into detail why his books and stories resonate, I just know that with me they do. I grokked the disillusionment and the tragic love story in Gatsby, and as I get older different aspects of the story speak to me in new ways. Sometimes when I read the book or watch a movie adaptation I get really into Jordan’s storyline, or I feel more for Daisy, or my heart breaks a little more for Gatsby. That’s the sign of a good story, when you can experience it in so many new ways as time passes.
I was very excited when the Baz Luhrmann Gatsby was released. Having grown up in the 90s, I have a soft spot for Leonardo DiCaprio even if I currently find him a tad overblown. I enjoy the fabulousness of Baz Lurhmann, and I LOVED the modern take of the soundtrack (my mother did not, but that’s her prerogative). I cried in the movie theater. It hit me at just the right point in my life. I was still reeling from a devastating breakup, and Gatsby and I were on a similar wavelength. I don’t know that I’ll get that kind of clarity with it again, and even watching it now the movie doesn’t quite feel the same as it did for me when it first came out. But man… I felt it hard.
I’ve read books about F. Scott, I’ve read books about his books, and even read Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast because he mentions the frenemy relationship he had with F. Scott. I find Fitzgerald a fascinating person, both as a literary figure and a celebrity. I’m looking forward to more people discovering or rediscovering his work now that more has entered the public domain, and we’ve come to an anniversary of sorts with the time period he’s known for defining.
Do you have an author you just… love? Who you feel understands the human condition in a way that makes you feel seen?