Living Too Long With a Single Dream

the-great-gaatsby edit

A lot can be packed into forty-four years. F. Scott Fitzgerald proved it. In more than one or two ways his life paralleled those of one of his characters, James Gatz or Jay Gatsby. Both suffered from the ill effects of wealth and a decadent lifestyle, their own ego and overt self-confidence, and alcoholism.

Take away the drinking and I too, have a little in common with Fitzgerald, but to a greater degree with his Gatsby character. Money things corrupted me as it did him. Growing up poor I too wrongly thought material wealth was the key to happiness. I have loved women who were not good for me just as Gatsby’s “Daisy” was for him. Just as she did to him, more than once my heart was given wholly and completely to one who professed love for me, only to be ultimately left behind.

Having never read “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald nor having seen the movie version made in my time I did not know what to expect when I headed out to take in the movie yesterday. It was a film I was determined to see on the big screen but almost missed out. My last chance was at a nearby “cheapie movie” theater. It is the writer’s use of language and ability to pant vivid images in my mind I will long remember. Here are a few quotes particularly memorable to me.

If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promise of life… 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.

His dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him.

It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four of five times in life. It faced – or seemed to face – the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on YOU with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just so far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.

He looked at her the way all women want to be looked at by a man.

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was born in 1896 and died of a heart attack in 1940. He is generally thought of as one of the greatest American writers of the 20th Century and specifically remembered for his vivid descriptions of the “Jazz Age”, a name he coined. “Gatsby” has been frequently referred to as a cautionary tale regarding the American Dream. In spite of how Fitzgerald is viewed today, he died believing himself to be a failure and his work forgotten.

Seeing “The Great Gatsby” yesterday opened my awareness up to F. Scott Fitzgerald and his work. Now I have several novels to read and three old movies to see; one from 1949, another from 1974 and a TV movie from 2000. There was a silent version from 1926 made in Fitzgerald’s time I would dearly enjoy seeing but sadly it is a famous example of a lost film. A trailer is all that is known to exist.

For a man who loves skillfully written books, good stories and well done movies, I am delighted to have something new come on to my path. I am grateful to have discovered Fitzgerald and Gatsby.

…he must have felt that he had lost the old warm world,
paid a high price for living too long with a single dream.
He must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky…
A new world, material without being real,
where poor ghosts, breathing dreams like air,
drifted fortuitously about…
F. Scott Fitzgerald