• The Great Gatsby

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    Widely regarded as a paragon of the “Great American Novel,” F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby has spawned not one, two, three—hell, not even five, but six film adaptations since its 1925 publication. A first edition copy in the original dust jacket (seen here) goes for upwards of $200,000. I’m currently brushing up on Fitzgerald’s classic before Baz Luhrmann introduces the seventh adaptation in December of this year, purportedly in 3-D.

    Jan 5, 2012 | Permalink (44) Total Comments

    bucephalus left a comment on 1/15/2012 at 9:03 PM:

    Back to Gatsby !

    @AEV had argued : ” Yes, Gatsby gains our affections and sympathies by the end of the book, but he’s also criticized and dissected, with few details of his nouveau riche life left untouched….from his gaudy parties to his shelves of unread books (props). “

    Earlier, I said Gatsby is depicted as a romantic and mysterious character, not some gauche lout as AEV would have him.  And G. doesn’t gain our sympathies “by the end of the book” ; rather, the reader is immediately intrigued by him from the beginning.  Here is Nick Calloway (the Yalie narrator of the novel), in the first chapter of TGG, page 3 in my edition :

    ” Gatsby…represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn. If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away. This responsiveness had nothing to do with that flabby impressionability which is dignified under the name of the “creative temperament.”— it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again. No — Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men.”

    Not exactly the reaction one would expect a man of culture and refinement (which Calloway is) would have to an arriviste vulgarian.

    Calloway has no illusions about Gatsby.  Upon their first meeting, C. has no doubts that G. must be some kind of class fraud, but C is nevertheless fascinated and strangely drawn to G.  There’s no “criticism” of G as such.  We are never left with any doubt that Gatsby is a fraud, but Fitzgerald wasn’t a one-dimensional prig like AEV.  Rather, he created a character of mystery, allure and charisma who was motivated to imposture and ostentation in order to win the affections of a woman.

    Pete left a comment on 1/15/2012 at 4:38 PM:

    Perhaps I am just a glutton for punishment but I just read through all of these posts and I was struck by the discourse and length of time spent on replys.  Only a great novel and social commentary like TGG could cause this to occur, which by itself to me shows the talent, lyricism, etc. that is inherent in great writing.

    And for what it’s worth I am looking forward to the tuxedoes in the new movie as I have a soft spot in my heart for a great tux

    Dave T left a comment on 1/14/2012 at 9:11 PM:

    @bucephalus   Apparently the gist of SM’s comment was lost on you.  It’s not about themes, characters, etc.  The horse died long ago.  Now, go out and have some fun.

    bucephalus left a comment on 1/14/2012 at 5:07 PM:

    The last several posts of mine talked about clothes, not about the Great Gatsby!  I also never discuss “great themes” in novels, only characters and plots.  “Great themes” is for high schoolers, vulgarians and philistines

    SM left a comment on 1/14/2012 at 1:00 PM:

    Jesus Christ @ bucephalus, you’ve made your point—you’ve read The Great Gatsby! You get an A on your essay on themes in the novel.

    bucephalus left a comment on 1/14/2012 at 8:07 AM:

    Blustery not blistery

    bucephalus left a comment on 1/14/2012 at 8:01 AM:

    Here is a good example of what I’m talking about : http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-_nMZio9LMH0/TxErQY3EF_I/AAAAAAABLW0/xqlPz1sNxKU/s1600/gqpitti53.jpg

    If you’re really traditional about your country jackets, then you don’t put elbow patches on them until you actually wear out the elbow on the sleeves (preferably in the regular pursuit of grouse) and they actually need patching.  Otherwise the elbow patches are purely decorative—as they mostly are today.  But in the photo above, this character doesn’t just have suede elbow patches.  His “patches” extend luxuriously from the elbow to the fringe of his sleeves.  In addition, the waist cincher and the pocket flap lining are done in matching suede.  And there’s more!  The jacket has a suede gun patch over one shoulder / chest—and it’s quilted, as if guns needed warmth in the blistery heath.  Besides, the gun check fabric is too light colored for game bird stalking.

    Is this character “copying a naturally acquired lifestyle” of a country gentleman as a means of social climbing, but because of a “nouveau riche lack of self-awareness and ignorance”, fails to “get it right” and does it all wrong ? Such a conclusion would be the least perceptive, least insightful, least astute observation imaginable.  In fact, that would be missing the point.  The guy in the photo likely has zero intention of communicating that he is some stalker of stag or partridge on vast estates.  Rather, he’s strutting around fashionably according to the criteria of current trends.  Fashion isn’t about function.

    bucephalus left a comment on 1/13/2012 at 7:53 PM:

    However, that guy from WASP101 is definitely and altogether an unironic and unhip wannabe.

    bucephalus left a comment on 1/13/2012 at 7:31 PM:

    @AEV, you have a one-track mind, except it’s not about sex.

    ” dressing up in a way that attempts to copy a naturally acquired (life)style is indeed a form of social climbing and it is certainly tinged with a nouveau riche lack of self awareness and ignorance. Part of the problem, of course - you noted it - is that social climbers rarely ‘get it right’...which leads to not so subtle embarrassment for Gatsby and cheap copycat watches, misunderstood affectations, clothes that don’t fit “

    Every word above is wrong wrong wrong wrong headed.  When a navy blazer with brass buttons has got a Thom Browne length of 3 inches too short for the wearer, that’s not copying and apeing anything. That is a deliberate reinterpretation of the traditional navy blazer according to current fashion trends—however odious I find many of those trends.  Castleberry routinely tells us his various costumes constitute “his take on prep”, and I believe him, because I can see it with my own eyes.  When a 6’5” guy is wearing a 3-piece herringbone tweed suit from Gant that’s got almost disappearing lapels and a very high button stance appropriate for someone of your height, that once again, isn’t copying and apeing so much as trendy reinterpretation.  It’s not that they try to get it right but fail fecklessly.  They deliberately have “takes” on things.  The same with cheap watches.  Hipsters and fashionistas frequently wear cheap crap ironically.  Timex used to have a rather low status as a material possession.  Now, it has an ironic high status.  As I’ve said before, it’s all about winks, nods, ironies, takes, statements, and other pseudo-creative posturing which I despise but which, I will readily acknowledge, has nothing to do with social climbing or nouveau riche insecurity.  That’s why I keep saying, look to Tom Wolfe, not to Fitzgerald.  The fact that you keep railing against what you suppose are style faux pas when they are actually fashion shibboleths, shows how profoundly you fail to get it.

    There is a world-wide fashion trend for Americana and “Trad” clothing.  Europeans, Japanese, and Americans dress up vaguely like urban cowboys, or vaguely like lumberjacks, or vaguely like country gentlemen, or vaguely like yachtsmen.  Ralph Lauren comes out with a line of suits (“RRL”) modeled after outfits from the movie Bonnie and Clyde, and they sell out in a day.  It’s not about social climbing.  It’s about fashion, dandyism and costuming—all things which are ever present in the social world of human beings.  Surely you don’t consider every kind of sartorial extravagance and peacocking a sign of nouveau riche insecurity ???

    F.E. Castleberry left a comment on 1/13/2012 at 1:46 PM:

    @AEV—I’m going to speak freely here (since I do own this little corner of the word wide web). Take a deep breath…the sooner you remember that Unabashedly Prep is a style blog the sooner you can quit pshcyhoanalyzing every little thing I am doing with my life. While I am on this topic, please do not expect to criticize my lifestyle and expect it to remain displayed here. That’s asinine.

    In regards to social climbing…you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. That’s the social ladder I am (and always have been) climbing…the process of entering into the company of quality individuals that inspire and love others. That’s it.

    Any other outrageous socioeconomic conclusions you care to draw are your business, however irrelevant they may be.

    Epic debate left a comment on 1/13/2012 at 12:47 PM:

    At least everyone agrees they like the book.

    AEV left a comment on 1/13/2012 at 11:34 AM:

    @bucephalus—The standard of social climbing behavior in 2012 should not be the extreme caricature of Gatsby created by Fitzgerald 90 yrs ago. Surely you understand this.

    For someone who’s so carefully dissected the Great Gatsby, I find it hard to believe that you miss similar elements in the neo-prep blog world.  Much of this sub-world is about admiration, envy, obsession, and re-creation of an idealized ‘preppy’ world - a world based largely on old money affluence and the trappings and stylish nonchalance that accompany it. Yes, I do believe that dressing up in a way that attempts to copy a naturally acquired (life)style is indeed a form of social climbing and it is certainly tinged with a nouveau riche lack of self awareness and ignorance. Part of the problem, of course - you noted it - is that social climbers rarely ‘get it right’...which leads to not so subtle embarrassment for Gatsby and cheap copycat watches, misunderstood affectations, clothes that don’t fit, a tendency to state and re-state as ‘news’ the already well known, etc. in the neo-prep blog world. It’s social climbing all right….its frequent failure, hyperbole, and lack of accuracy nearly prove it.

    bucephalus left a comment on 1/13/2012 at 7:50 AM:

    Let’s not forget. In AEV’s reckoning, wearing a tie (perhaps a bow tie) with jeans, and over undone collar buttons, becomes not a comical fashionista shibboleth, but an example of flashy Gatsbyian display of nouveau riche arrivisme !!!  Usually AEV’s one-tone song is in tune, but not this time.

    bucephalus left a comment on 1/12/2012 at 10:47 PM:

    I quote an actual specimen of Fitzgerald’s description of Gatsby’s parties.  From chapter 3 :

    ” On week-ends his Rolls-Royce became an omnibus, bearing parties to and from the city between nine in the morning and long past midnight, while his station wagon scampered like a brisk yellow bug to meet all trains…

    ” At least once a fortnight a corps of caterers came down with several hundred feet of canvas and enough colored lights to make a Christmas tree of Gatsby’s enormous garden. On buffet tables, garnished with glistening hors-d’oeuvre, spiced baked hams crowded against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold. In the main hall a bar with a real brass rail was set up, and stocked with gins and liquors and with cordials so long forgotten that most of his female guests were too young to know one from another. By seven o’clock the orchestra has arrived, no thin five-piece affair, but a whole pitful of oboes and trombones and saxophones and viols and cornets and piccolos, and low and high drums. The last swimmers have come in from the beach now and are dressing up-stairs; the cars from New York are parked five deep in the drive, and already the halls and salons and verandas are gaudy with primary colors, and hair shorn in strange new ways, and shawls beyond the dreams of Castile. The bar is in full swing, and floating rounds of cocktails permeate the garden outside, until the air is alive with chatter and laughter, and casual innuendo and introductions forgotten on the spot, and enthusiastic meetings between women who never knew each other’s names.”

    With this kind of luxuriation and extravagance AEV would compare……the sockless wearing of loafers and brogues, or the deliberate dishevelment of neck ties, or the sporting of cheap battery-operated watches, or wearing a ribbon belt with a flannel suit, or not lacing one’s boots, or wearing contrast cuffs, or any number of other deliberate fashion flaws against which he tirelessly conducts his jihad.

    AEV’s comparison is not just disproportionate, it’s psychologically retarded.  These examples of fashion silliness aren’t about social climbing and faked heritage, as much as telegraphing one’s membership in a trendy and hip style cult.  With a few exceptions here and there, this blog doesn’t even showcase luxury.

    AEV left a comment on 1/12/2012 at 5:38 PM:

    @bucephalus - Perhaps you are indeed saying that you feel G is social climbing in an attempt to win over D. Fine - that point seemed lost in your hyper-contrarian attempts to suggest I missed obvious “elements” (is that term - yours, and synonymous with ‘theme’ in this respect - less “high school”?) in the story. Again, you’re the one who’s dragged us into a needlessly deep analysis of the book….to prove, I fear, that you’re the smartest guy on the internet.

    You seem to be confusing your own arguments - again, because you seem hell-bent on debating me for the sake of it. No, I don’t think - on balance - most Brooyln dudes in purple skinny jeans are attempting to social climb by dressing that way. You, not me, equated THIS environment - the neo-prep universe, not the uber-hipster, purple jean mustache crowd - with the term Hipster. Do I think large elements of the neo-prep world are about social climbing and artificially manufacturing a look of heritage and established wealth? Yes, I do.

    bucephalus left a comment on 1/12/2012 at 2:57 PM:


    I don’t understand your post at 12:40.  Gatsby is not interested in social climbing per se ; it’s his romantic interest in Daisy that drives him to social-climb.  Isn’t that what I said ?  The implication is that if it wasn’t for the need to impress D., G. might not be social-climbing.  That’s just speculation, of course, but in the novel, everything G. does is for the purpose of winning the girl.  Remember, when G had first met D five years before the events of the novel, he hadn’t been rich and felt D. couldn’t possibly be interested in him.

    By the way, your post at 12:33 sounds like a high school essay with all your “theme” talk, rather than the observations of someone who has read and enjoyed the book.

    ” If you feel TGG is unironically and unintrospectively right at home as a prop in the neo-prep blogosphere, fine. I, for one, find it alarmingly and ironically misplaced. “

    There most assuredly is something affected about going sockless in penny loafers in winter, or deliberately not buttoning a button-down collar.  But surely it’s inappropriate to call such affectations vulgar, gaudy, ostentatious or nouveau-riche.  There are other kinds of affectations.  After all, there is now a world-wide style trend for Americana (which I find completely baffling).

    ” So, Hipsters can’t also be flashy social climbers? I see. “

    I’m sure they can.  But social climbing doesn’t seem like the most salient characteristic of hipsterism.

    A 20-something resident of Williambsurg wearing purple skinny jeans with 3” turn-ups, workman boots, a grey herringbone tweed sportcoat, plaid flannel shirt with woollen tie, a knit cap and sporting a beard—is this a phenomenon in any way comparable with Gatsby ?  I don’t think so.  It’s something else entirely.  More in the Tom Wolfe world.

    AEV left a comment on 1/12/2012 at 2:40 PM:

    @bucephalus - So, Hipsters can’t also be flashy social climbers? I see.

    I disagree with your suggestion that Gatsby’s dogged pursuit of Daisy was, somehow, totally separated from his social climbing. In fact, it is his quest to win over Daisy’s affection and attention that drive him to social climb and ostentatiously flaunt his wealth. They are overtly and purposely linked as themes in the book….

    AEV left a comment on 1/12/2012 at 2:33 PM:

    @bucephalus - It sure is - in fact, the thwarted love story is one of the most obvious and superficial themes in the book.

    It’s also well-established that the story includes a critical look at wealth, and the contrasts between new and old money. Fitzgerald overtly portrays the newly rich as being vulgar, gaudy, ostentatious, and lacking in social graces and taste. Neither the book or I ever suggested that Gatsby alone was the only manifestation of new money or the only target of criticism - a range of themes, motifs, characters, and symbols come to represent the clash between new and old money in the book. To be sure, other, only indirectly related themes are also present: the decline of the American dream, the decay of moral/social values, the impact of money on sincerity and loyalty, etc.

    If you feel TGG is unironically and unintrospectively right at home as a prop in the neo-prep blogosphere, fine. I, for one, find it alarmingly and ironically misplaced.

    bucephalus left a comment on 1/12/2012 at 2:18 PM:

    I also disagree with your implication that the neo-prep trend is about social climbing or nouveau-riche display.  Neo-Prep is more a hipster phenomenon.

    bucephalus left a comment on 1/12/2012 at 2:16 PM:

    @AEV—It’s a basic element of the story that Gatsby’s all-consuming interest is the conquest of Daisy Buchanan, not social climbing itself.

    AEV left a comment on 1/12/2012 at 2:08 PM:

    @bucepalus - Yes, of course my descriptions/interpretations of one of the greatest, most complex American novels ever written are coming across as simplistic - I’m writing about it summarily in blog comments! I assumed that was a given. Thousands of graduate theses have been written on the book - I doubt either of us have it 100% ‘right’, but the broadest commentary in the book still seems ironically positioned when displayed on a blog called Unabashedly Prep.

    bucephalus left a comment on 1/12/2012 at 1:56 PM:

    @AEV—No question the extravagances and fakeries of the roaring 1920s are portrayed negatively in TGG, but your description of Gatsby is rather simplistic.  Gatsby has constructed his hoax life and inhabits a gaudy mansion and hosts extravagant parties not because he has arriviste ambitions and insecurities in themselves.  He doesn’t even enjoy his own parties !  Rather his social climbing is subordinated to the single-minded pursuit of his romantic interest—Daisy Buchanan.

    AEV left a comment on 1/12/2012 at 1:42 PM:

    @bucephalus—Both ‘segments’ of wealth and aspiration are critiqued in the book. My more general point is that the book, in part, paints an unflattering and detailed portrait of the new-rich living in West Egg, and contrasts their money, habits, styles, and insecurities with their more established East Egg counterparts. Yes, Gatsby gains our affections and sympathies by the end of the book, but he’s also criticized and dissected, with few details of his nouveau riche life left untouched….from his gaudy parties to his shelves of unread books (props).

    bucephalus left a comment on 1/12/2012 at 1:30 PM:

    @AEV—Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems to me, you want to say this : in The Great Gatsby, new money = bad, old money = good.  That’s just not the case.  Tom and Daisy Buchanan are not depicted flatteringly or sympathetically.  By contrast, Jay Gatsby is a tragic figure about whom one becomes affectionate.

    AEV left a comment on 1/12/2012 at 12:01 PM:

    @bucephalus—Admittedly, it’s been some time since I last re-read The Great Gatsby, but I believe the narrator, Nick, was developed/introduced as a very purposeful contrast to the “new rich” inhabitants of West Egg. Nick was a Yale graduate and had social connections in East Egg (the “establishment” enclave). Nick lives next door, in West Egg, to Jay Gatsby and much - certainly not all - of the novel focuses on the gaudy parties thrown by Gatsby and other West Eggers and Nick’s reactions to/intersections with them. Sure, the book is full of all sorts of other commentary and insights, but there’s little doubt that part of Fitzgerald’s focus and critique was on the contrasts and clashes between showy, new money extravagances and establishment wealth.

    bucephalus left a comment on 1/11/2012 at 11:00 PM:

    If there’s “scathing” commentary in The Great Gatsby, it is not of the new money characters.  The novel is narrated by a new rich character (Nick Calloway) who observes with detachment the superficial and empty lives of the residents of Long Island, both old and new money, and who in fact is so alienated from it by the end that he moves back to the Midwest. Jay Gatsby is depicted as a romantic, mysterious, tragic and (in my opinion) ultimately sympathetic figure who is motivated to great extravagance by his desperate love of an old money girl.  Is there an old money character in the novel who is in the least bit likeable ???

    A person better suited to supply a scathing commentary on the neo-prep phenomenon is more likely Tom Wolfe (if he was still anywhere near his prime).

    Tom Walker left a comment on 1/9/2012 at 12:19 PM:

    Doing the same thing - re-reading The Great Gatsby in prep for the film.  I love the story, the actors and Baz Luhrman, so have high hopes.

    Sam left a comment on 1/7/2012 at 5:58 PM:

    I really hope they make a not-3D version available. I’m so tired of all this 3D, everything, all the time. I loved the book, and I look forward to seeing the new movie. I tried watching the one with Mia Farrow in it, but I honestly had to stop because I couldn’t stand her depiction of Daisy as a complete air head. Hopefully the new one will be better.

    C. Michael left a comment on 1/6/2012 at 10:46 PM:

    Interestingly enough, the cover was finished before Fitzgerald’s novel was completed.  So, he made room for “the eyes” and wrote them in.  Andddd also, Daisy was a real person.  My quality of life improved when I found that out.

    Side note: I wish men had the audacity to speak (or to write) with Fitzgerald-like descriptions.  My heart would overflow.  Syntax & semantics =sexy.

    PB left a comment on 1/6/2012 at 5:55 PM:

    Agreed J - the French Riviera beach scenes from the first third of “Tender is the Night” are a particularly beautiful read.

    And Fitzgerald is particularly scathing in his depiction of the young, shallow NYC “it crowd” in “The Beautiful and Damned”.  Its more shallow today than ever - but I’d imagine Fitzgerald would have a devil of a time importing his beautiful prose to describe a scene of people standing around messing around with their smartphones - more up Tom Wolfe’s alley if you ask me.

    Glenn left a comment on 1/6/2012 at 1:47 PM:

    Funny, just watched the DVD version The Great Gatsby with Redford the other day I believe Ralph Lauren had a hand in the costume designs!

    BAH left a comment on 1/6/2012 at 1:14 PM:

    I was very excited to see a remake done by Baz Luhrmann, until he cast Leo as Jay Gatsby. Don’t know if I see him in the role.

    Jim left a comment on 1/6/2012 at 12:00 PM:

    This piece was originally printed in the Providence Journal and describes some Newporters’ experiences as extras in the 1974 Robert Redford/Mia Farrow version:


    Paul left a comment on 1/6/2012 at 9:26 AM:

    Love that book. But, 3D? Really? That’s kind of pointless.

    A. Utas left a comment on 1/6/2012 at 7:04 AM:

    Check out the cover of the 1953 Scribner Library edition… much cleaner. There is something about mid-century paperbacks that leaves everything to the imagination…

    Kionon left a comment on 1/5/2012 at 11:35 PM:

    One of my favorite books, and one of my favorite authors. I would easily call this the hands down winner of the “great American novel.” At least in 20th century terms, but possibly even longer.

    F.E. Castleberry left a comment on 1/5/2012 at 8:33 PM:

    @AEV—The “scene” I’m specifically referring to is the “charity ball” scene that actually require some wealth (new money and old). As for the scenes you described, those folks are just trying to have a good time.

    AEV left a comment on 1/5/2012 at 8:17 PM:

    @FEC….the “scene” is a diverse one….and includes many of the same types of folks who attend things like “Rugby Tweed Rides”, Brooks Brothers/RL shop parties, and college polo matches on Long Island….

    In reality, many “socialites” in NYC aren’t “the new rich”, people who lack social connections, or folks who are prone to garish displays of wealth. Old guard/old money NYC socialites are who folks at retail shop parties and horse race infields are many times trying to emulate…..

    F.E. Castleberry left a comment on 1/5/2012 at 8:09 PM:

    @AEV—Not exactly. The socialite scene in NYC isn’t something I’ve even begun to touch…not sure if I will.

    AEV left a comment on 1/5/2012 at 8:04 PM:

    @FEC - Perhaps. That said, aren’t a lot of those “socialites…going out of their way way to have their pic taken at parties” the same folks who read and get featured on your blog?

    Aja Lake [the gold hat.] left a comment on 1/5/2012 at 7:54 PM:

    then wear the gold hat, if that will move her;
    if you can bounce high, bounce for her too,
    till she cry “lover, gold-hatted, high bouncing lover,
    i must have you!”
    -thomas parke d’invilliers

    o so patiently waiting.


    F.E. Castleberry left a comment on 1/5/2012 at 7:49 PM:

    @AEV—My guess is that the neo-prep blogosphere would be nothing but a mere blip on Fitzgerald’s radar. We’re talking about blogs here. My guess is that his attention would be on the young, new-money socialites going out of their way to have their party pic taken at parties.

    AEV left a comment on 1/5/2012 at 7:38 PM:

    Great book - like many, read it in high school. I do, however, find it a bit ironic that this blog would profile a book about a wealthy but unfashionable area populated by the new rich, a group who made their fortunes too recently to have established social connections and who were prone to garish displays of wealth. I can only imagine how scathing Mr. Fitzgerald’s commentary on the neo-prep blogosphere would be….

    J left a comment on 1/5/2012 at 7:05 PM:

    It’s worth checking out Fitzgerald’s other finished novels.  The prose is florid but still flows beautifully.