F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is a staple of high school English classes and “best books” lists, from 20th Century books to American novels to the greatest novels ever written. Therefore although some Gatsby fans have merely ogled Leonardo DiCaprio or Robert Redford in the titular role (in one of the unspectacular film adaptations of a hard-to-adapt novel) most of us have actually read the book. To us, it may feel like Tom and Daisy Fay Buchanan, Nick Carraway and Jay Gatsby have always been around. But did you know Gatsby languished in obscurity for years? The American classic, which celebrates 90 years of publication today, has a backstory as convoluted and fascinating as the enigmatic, self-made Gastby’s himself.
To celebrate Fitzgerald’s critique of, and ode to, jazz age capitalistic excess, here are five interesting angles on the novel and its history for your consideration.
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Not so much into March Madness? Well, perhaps you should look at it another way. March is the perfect month for reading books about madness — it is a transitional time, after all, possessed of both lion and lamb. Plus, you’ll have ample reading time, both outside and inside. The books herein, it should be noted, are those that deal with a kind of literary madness — obsession and absurdity and hallucination — not directly focusing on mental illness proper, whenever the two can be separated. So you won’t find The Bell Jar or One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or The Yellow Wallpaper here, though those are all excellent… Read More
In light of all the recent Joan Didion fetishization, it’s fascinating to visit the exhibit Didion by Wasser, now at New York’s Danziger Gallery. In a small room dedicated to Julian Wasser’s iconic shoot featuring Didion and her Corvette Stingray, you’ll find tear sheets and shots of Didion smiling, laughing, looking uncomfortable and, well, seeming like a regular person. Seeing Didion laugh made me think about what it means for writers to have personal style — whether it’s their own fashion choices or the clothing they write about. Some of our most iconic writers have turned their attention to fashion; here’s our compilation of 25 essential… Read More
In The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy, open-mouthed, says “I’ve never heard of a beautiful witch before,” Glinda famously quips that only bad witches are ugly. But ’tis not so — or at least, there are plenty of very bad witches who are the opposite of ugly: beautiful, sexy, charming, devastatingly intelligent, or all of the above. So, in honor of J.K. Rowling’s outrage that we all love Draco so much, here’s 50 villains that we wouldn’t kick out of… Read More
Hollywood is famous for its treatment of writers. They are the low man on the totem pole, the person banned from the set, the guy who wrote the Great American novel drinking himself to death in Los Angeles, rewriting dumb scripts. It’s funny, as Hollywood is also obsessed with portraying “writers” on screen. Flavorwire’s definitive, ranked list of the 50 Best Films About Writers of all time features the requisite mix of biopics, book adaptations (what’s up Stephen King and John Irving), foreign films that actually feature female writers, po-mo meta surrealist studies of madness (very frequent), and the works of Woody… Read More
One of the things literature does better than almost any other medium is allow us to experience another person’s quality of mind, and sometimes even inhabit it. It follows, then, that every avid reader has a favorite literary character — whether they’re beloved for dastardly deeds, tough-girl antics, sex appeal, or a high snark quotient — and that there are many impossibly good ones out there. Click through to find 50 of the… Read More
In Sigrid Nunez’s book The Last of Her Kind, the central character, Georgette, meets her troubling, troubled, wonderful friend Ann when they are both students at Barnard College in New York. I can remember, quite clearly, that school for Georgette consists of her writing a long paper, “Why The Great Gatsby Is Not a Great Book.”
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Who doesn’t love a good book cover redesign? No one — particularly when the redesigned books are ones you’ve been… Read More
This year marks both the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War and the 115th birthday of Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway eschewed college to drive an ambulance for the Red Cross on the Italian Front, and his experiences would go on to influence his work, most notably his 1929 novel A Farewell to Arms. Seeing as today is Hemingway’s birthday, and we’re a week away from the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, here’s a look at how he and other authors involved in the fighting saw The Great War and its aftermath.
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Writers can be fickle and strange. One day they’re blurbing a book, the next night they’re off at some party talking trash about the author they endorsed. Some will spend their days teaching new writers, then turn around and talk about how literature is dying. Some publicly denounce writers they consider good friends, then have dinner with them the next night. The literary frenemy is a very real thing, and it’s existed for as long as what we call the “literary world.”
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