One book that I love is ‘The Great Gatsby’. I fell in love with it when I was 17 and I have remained true, dipping into it over the years, watching the various film adaptations, and once, even teaching it. The copy here is the original that I bought back in 1987 and it was bought in a bookshop when I was on holiday in America for $3.95. I was careful when posing not to open the pages too wide as I know I am lucky that it is still holding up and that here we are, 32 years later, still together.
I dipped into the writing of F Scott Fitzgerald as part of my 6th Year Studies in English. He appealed to me as a writer for a number of reasons: the poetic beauty of his writing, his turbulent relationship with his wife Zelda, and the hedonistic world that he created. It was escapism with a touch of reality and I loved it. As I was drawn deeper into his work I developed an appreciation for his clever use of symbolism as well as the inward reflection of his characters.
The autobiographical elements in much of his writing allowed me to indulge in not just the world of the characters he created for me, but also to feel that I was experiencing something of his life at that time. It was escapism at its finest and his world really could not have been further from my own. He gave me the glitz and glamour of the Roaring Twenties, the decadence of a time where anything was possible, and romance like I wanted it to be.
I read his novels, I read his short stories and I even read his letters. I wrote my dissertation later that year on selected fiction by F Scott Fitzgerald and, although I loved many of his books, ‘The Great Gatsby’ was my favourite and still is. At university I studied English literature and read avidly and widely, not quite believing that reading at the expense of other things was now something that I was genuinely allowed to do.
When I started teaching most of what I had studied at university was too challenging for the level I was presenting, but I thought that it would be an ideal opportunity to share my love of ‘The Great Gatsby’ and inspire others in the way that I had been. This did not work out as I planned. They had no patience for Gatsby and saw him more as pathetic than tragic and I learnt from then on, never to teach something that I really loved.
This did not affect my love of the novel itself or my liking for the style of the Jazz Age. I have often opted for accessories with an Art Deco style and have indulged in fashion with its influence, particularly when going out and dressing up. The release of the Baz Luhrmann film was exciting as it combined one of my favourite film producers with my favourite novel, but I have to say that I was nervous when I dragged HL along to watch it in the cinema with me.
Although I am a fan of Luhrmann’s work, I worried that the novel wouldn’t be done justice, but for the most part, I was pleased. It also brought the novel, and the associated themed events to the fore and suddenly The Roaring Twenties was everywhere. This fitted well with the timing of our wedding and I was able to indulge my passion, very tastefully of course, without it seeming odd or out of place.
Really I would never want to limit myself to one book although I haven’t read anything proper for ages. I find that reading online is what takes up my time now, but when I eventually give up work and have more time, I will be back reading avidly again I am sure. Until then, I will leave you with one of my favourite quotations from the novel:
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – tomorrow we run faster, stretch our arms out farther…..And one fine morning –