It took weeks before I felt okay about re-blogging this sentence. Blow to the gut. Warsan has my full attention.
Without Fitzgerald’s poetry, without the editorial consciousness of Fitzgerald’s narrator Nick Carraway, the story can seem threadbare and melodramatic. Telling the story from Carraway’s point of view was the key to the delicate balancing act Fitzgerald performed in narrating his improbable love story. Nick is an outside observer who becomes emotionally involved in the story he is telling. Drunkenly taking in the proceedings at a party in a New York City apartment, Nick observes: “Yet high over the city our line of yellow windows must have contributed their share of human secrecy to the casual watcher in the darkening streets, and I was with him, too, looking up and wondering. I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.”
Gatsby without Nick’s voice, without his presiding consciousness, is like Bob Dylan’s lyrics without music. Interesting, yes, but poetry? I don’t think so. This is just one reason why I avoided the 1974 version starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow, with a screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola. And why I will almost certainly be skipping Baz Luhrmann’s film, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, much as I would love to see Isla Fisher in the role of Myrtle Wilson, the floozy mistress of Gatsby’s rival Tom Buchanan. Fitzgerald’s Gatsby is a very fragile creation, made of words and dreams. Fitzgerald tells us almost nothing of his appearance, and while this may seem like a fault in the book – one of which the author himself was aware – the actor who chooses to embody this famous cipher takes on a daunting task, further complicated by the fact that Gatsby’s dialogue is the most wooden and formulaic language in the book, presenting a striking contrast to the rich, aphoristic style of Nick Carraway’s narration. The prose surrounding Jay Gatsby is so good it allows us to share Nick’s vision of his largeness of soul and the heroism of his quest, to celebrate “the colossal vitality of his illusion"