Wednesday, June 21, 2017

THE GREAT GATSBY - F. SCOTT FITZGERALD

Original Dust Jacket Cover

I love New York on summer afternoons when everyone’s away. There’s something very sensuous about it—overripe, as if all sorts of funny fruits were going to fall into your hands(Jordan - The Great Gatsby)

That's a great sentence, and I love New York on summer afternoons, but that was a long while ago because nowadays on summer afternoons, New York is full of tourists. Ironically, the place where you might feel that lethargy would be where the Fitzgerald's were living - at Great Neck on the North Shore of Long Island - when Scott Fitzgerald started writing The Great Gatsby. To economize, the Fitzgerald's rented a house at 6 Gateway Drive for $300 a month (they had been paying $200 a week to live at the Plaza).

Fitzgerald Home 1922-1924

Fitzgerald wrote the first 3 chapters of Gatsby at Great Neck (the house is still there) and finished the manuscript when they moved to the French Riviera - which was a cheaper place to live than Great Neck. At that time.

Unlike Hemingway and Wolfe, Fitzgerald didn't swear. The worst he might call someone was a "colossal egg." So, his attitude about the neighborhood was evident in calling it West Egg. When he and Zelda lived there, 1922-1924, the neighbors were a mixture of old and new money - Groucho Marx and Samuel Goldwyn had houses in that part of Long Island along with Jock Whitney, William K. Vanderbilt (now Eagle's Nest Museum) and Otto Kahn (now Oheka Castle Hotel. Kahn's Manhattan house/castle is now a private school right across the street from the Carnegie Museum).

There's a Great Gatsby boat tour: http://greatgatsbyboattour.org/ so you can see the houses along the Gold Coast. Some of the houses from the book have been torn down - most notably Lands End which could have been the Buchanan's or Gatsby's house.  And although many people guess which houses on the Gold Coast were used in the movie, there weren't any, because the movie was filmed in Australia.
Lands End Estate
For me, the most memorable scenes in The Great Gatsby are not at the houses, but are the ones involving the creepy sign with the eyes.

The eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg are blue and gigantic—their retinas are one yard high. They look out of no face, but instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a nonexistent nose. (The Great Gatsby)


I imagined a pair of eyes and round spectacles swinging from a pole extended from a building. And I thought the sign was in Red Hook, believing that the drive Gatsby and the Buchanans took from Long Island to the City was through Brooklyn because I thought East Egg was East Hampton.


But the book was really so clear about them driving through Queens.


The city seen from Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and beauty in the world…. ‘Anything can happen now that we’ve slid across this bridge,’ I thought. ‘Anything at all. (Nick - The Great Gatsby)

The place where the creepy sign was supposedly located is now the site of Shea Stadium.


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[NOTE: The Great Gatsby is not my favorite Fitzgerald book. My favorite is a book of short stories set on a studio lot in Los Angeles - The Pat Hobby Stories. They are hilarious.]


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