I suppose it’s good to be exposed to the great works of literature at an early age. It helps one develop a sense of cultural literacy, and if all goes well, it whets the appetite for more. I wonder sometimes, though, if we’re just too young for some of the books we’re forced to read in school. I mean, when I was really young, I was a voracious reader. Everywhere I went, I had a bag of books with me. (Don’t believe me? Ask my family.) And I have a pretty good memory for stuff I read when I was that little, too. For example, I still remember vividly the details of certain Encyclopedia Brown cases.
SIDEBAR #2: It’s a shame what happened to Encyclopedia Brown in later years, too: Read about the ultimate tragedy.
But I digress.
What I’m getting at, in my typically rambling fashion, is that I read The Great Gatsby in high school, and I’m shocked today that I remember very few things about it. Here is an arguable candidate for the title of Great American Novel, and what I remember about it can be reduced to patter in a blogpost.
For example, I remember that the book had quite possibly the greatest cover I’d ever seen, one of the most iconic in publishing history:
SIDEBAR #4, because I’m into it: The painting on the cover is called Celestial Eyes, and it’s the work of Francis Cugat. Read this fascinating article about it by publishing scion Charles Scribner III. (Warning: the article has weird random characters throughout, like ò in place of intended punctuation marks. Seriously, 2011 and we can’t stop that from happening or fix it when it does? The article’s good, though.)
SIDEBAR #5, because I love this: Francis Cugat emigrated from Spain to Cuba in the early 1900s, and then eventually to the U.S. He was the brother of bandleader Xavier Cugat, who himself was once married to Charo. It’s all true, look it up.
SIDEBAR #6, because this freaked me out: When Cugat married Charo, he was 66. She was 15. TRUE.
Okay, so I remember the gorgeous cover. I remember West Egg and East Egg, where much of the action of the book takes place, because I had no idea where the hell they were. (They’re imaginary, but Long Island.) I remember the green light on the dock, but I don’t know why it’s important or what it’s meant to symbolize. I remember people’s names: Nick Carraway, Daisy Buchanan, Jay Gatsby, Jordan Baker. I remember – SPOILER – that Myrtle gets hit by a car. (I did not remember until just now, when I looked it up, that the car was driven by – SPOILER –
Jay Gatsby Daisy, driving Gatsby’s car. I looked it up, typed it in wrong, and my friend Ricky helpfully corrected me. I’m telling y’all. I can’t even retain what I read on Wikipedia anymore!) And that’s pretty much it.
Oh, and I remember that Nick Carraway worked for the New York Probity and Trust Company, because I missed that costly question on a test in Mr. Templet’s class in 10th grade, and I AM STILL NOT OVER IT.
SIDEBAR #7, because it’s cool: Did you know that aspiring actress Susan Weaver chose her stage name from The Great Gatsby? It’s true! Looka:
Anyway, the point is, I should remember much more about this book. I had to dig up my copy to take the picture above, and now that it’s out and I’m bitching about it, I’m going to reread it. I mean, what am I gonna do instead? Watch the movie?
SIDEBAR #8: If only a possibly-insane Australian filmmaker with a middling track record would remake this movie — someone like Baz Luhrmann, yeah! — and maybe if he made it with Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire, and maybe if he’d shoot test footage to see if it would work in 3-D, well, then maybe that one would be worth watching. Or not.
Hell, you know what? If you watch the one below, it’ll make sense AND you’ll remember what happens. Because it’s Sparknotes. But I still would have missed that sonofabitchin’ question on Templet’s test. HERE BE SPERLERS (and droning, monotone narration):
But why bother with all that when you can play the VIDEO GAME!
(LAST SIDEBAR: This game is what inspired me to write this whole post. Thank you for making it this far and taking this free-associative journey with me. Enjoy!)
Here’s an actual magazine ad from the late-’80s, early-’90s.
Below are some screenshots I took.