I am both thrilled, and very, very skeptical about Spider-Man’s and Leo D’s soon-to-be-released take on “The Great Gatsby“, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Thrilled, because The Great Gatsby is, indeed, in my eyes, a very, very fine piece of literature. And skeptical, well, because Hollywood has this proven tendency to ruin my favorite books. And I am not sure if I want to see Baz Luhrman go Moulin Rouge on this one.
In any case, though, the film’s impending release over here in Germany gives me a splendid opportunity to present you some of my favorite scenes from the novel, and, maybe, later, some of my favorite texts by Fitzgerald.
So, here we go…
Her voice is full of money.
We were silent. The voice in the hall rose high with annoyance. “Very well, then, I won’t sell you the car at all. . . . I’m under no obligations to you at all. . . . And as for your bothering me about it at lunch time I won’t stand that at all!”
“Holding down the receiver,” said Daisy cynically.
“No, he’s not,” I assured her. “It’s a bona fide deal. I happen to know about it.”
Tom flung open the door, blocked out its space for a moment with his thick body, and hurried into the room.
“Mr. Gatsby!” He put out his broad, flat hand with well-concealed dislike. “I’m glad to see you, sir. . . . Nick. . . .”
“Make us a cold drink,” cried Daisy.
As he left the room again she got up and went over to Gatsby and pulled his face down kissing him on the mouth.
“You know I love you,” she murmured.
“You forget there’s a lady present,” said Jordan.
Daisy looked around doubtfully.
“You kiss Nick too.”
“What a low, vulgar girl!”
“I don’t care!” cried Daisy and began to clog on the brick fireplace. Then she remembered the heat and sat down guiltily on the couch just as a freshly laundered nurse leading a little girl came into the room.
“Bles-sed pre-cious,” she crooned, holding out her arms. “Come to your own mother that loves you.”
The child, relinquished by the nurse, rushed across the room and rooted shyly into her mother’s dress.
“The Bles-sed pre-cious! Did mother get powder on your old yellowy hair? Stand up now, and say How-de-do.”
Gatsby and I in turn leaned down and took the small reluctant hand.
Afterward he kept looking at the child with surprise. I don’t think he had ever really believed in its existence before.
“I got dressed before luncheon,” said the child, turning eagerly to Daisy.
“That’s because your mother wanted to show you off.”
Her face bent into the single wrinkle of the small white neck.
“You dream, you. You absolute little dream.”
“Yes,” admitted the child calmly. “Aunt Jordan’s got on a white dress too.”
“How do you like mother’s friends?” Daisy turned her around so that she faced Gatsby. “Do you think they’re pretty?”
“She doesn’t look like her father,” explained Daisy. “She looks like me. She’s got my hair and shape of the face.”
Daisy sat back upon the couch. The nurse took a step forward and held out her hand.
With a reluctant backward glance the well-disciplined child held to her nurse’s hand and was pulled out the door, just as Tom came back, preceding four gin rickeys that clicked full of ice.
Gatsby took up his drink.
“They certainly look cool,” he said, with visible tension.
We drank in long greedy swallows.
“I read somewhere that the sun’s getting hotter every year,” said Tom genially. “It seems that pretty soon the earth’s going to fall into the sun–or wait a minute–it’s just the opposite–the sun’s getting colder every year.
“Come outside,” he suggested to Gatsby, “I’d like you to have a look at the place.”
I went with them out to the veranda. On the green Sound, stagnant in the heat, one small sail crawled slowly toward the fresher sea. Gatsby’s eyes followed it momentarily; he raised his hand and pointed across the bay. “I’m right across from you.”
“So you are.”
Our eyes lifted over the rosebeds and the hot lawn and the weedy refuse of the dog days along shore. Slowly the white wings of the boat moved against the blue cool limit of the sky. Ahead lay the scalloped ocean and the abounding blessed isles.
“There’s sport for you,” said Tom, nodding. “I’d like to be out there with him for about an hour.”
We had luncheon in the dining-room, darkened, too, against the heat, and drank down nervous gayety with the cold ale.
“What’ll we do with ourselves this afternoon,” cried Daisy, “and the day after that, and the next thirty years?”
“Don’t be morbid,” Jordan said. “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”
“But it’s so hot,” insisted Daisy, on the verge of tears, “And everything’s so confused. Let’s all go to town!”
Her voice struggled on through the heat, beating against it, moulding its senselessness into forms.
“I’ve heard of making a garage out of a stable,” Tom was saying to Gatsby, “but I’m the first man who ever made a stable out of a garage.”
“Who wants to go to town?” demanded Daisy insistently. Gatsby’s eyes floated toward her. “Ah,” she cried, “you look so cool.”
Their eyes met, and they stared together at each other, alone in space. With an effort she glanced down at the table.
“You always look so cool,” she repeated.
She had told him that she loved him, and Tom Buchanan saw. He was astounded. His mouth opened a little and he looked at Gatsby and then back at Daisy as if he had just recognized her as some one he knew a long time ago.
“You resemble the advertisement of the man,” she went on innocently. “You know the advertisement of the man—-”
“All right,” broke in Tom quickly, “I’m perfectly willing to go to town. Come on–we’re all going to town.”
He got up, his eyes still flashing between Gatsby and his wife. No one moved.
“Come on!” His temper cracked a little. “What’s the matter, anyhow? If we’re going to town let’s start.”
His hand, trembling with his effort at self control, bore to his lips the last of his glass of ale. Daisy’s voice got us to our feet and out on to the blazing gravel drive.
“Are we just going to go?” she objected. “Like this? Aren’t we going to let any one smoke a cigarette first?”
“Everybody smoked all through lunch.”
“Oh, let’s have fun,” she begged him. “It’s too hot to fuss.”
He didn’t answer.
“Have it your own way,” she said. “Come on, Jordan.”
They went upstairs to get ready while we three men stood there shuffling the hot pebbles with our feet. A silver curve of the moon hovered already in the western sky. Gatsby started to speak, changed his mind, but not before Tom wheeled and faced him expectantly.
“Have you got your stables here?” asked Gatsby with an effort.
“About a quarter of a mile down the road.”
“I don’t see the idea of going to town,” broke out Tom savagely. “Women get these notions in their heads—-”
“Shall we take anything to drink?” called Daisy from an upper window.
“I’ll get some whiskey,” answered Tom. He went inside.
Gatsby turned to me rigidly:
“I can’t say anything in his house, old sport.”
“She’s got an indiscreet voice,” I remarked. “It’s full of—-”
“Her voice is full of money,” he said suddenly.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby. Chapter 7.
Retrieved from Project Gutenberg Australia.