Friday, May 17, 2013

The Not Quite Great Gatsby

I went with some students and fellow teachers to see the new film version of The Great Gatsby.

There are some things to praise about the film, some to criticize. There are good moments and performances, but not enough to make it a great film or for me to heartily endorse it. In too much of it, flash and style take precedence over substance. And I'm not happy with some of the ways it strays from the novel.

But I began to wonder what Chesterton made of the novel when it came out.

I haven't found any comments by Chesterton about the book or even about F. Scott Fitzgerald yet - though they may be there (wiser and better-read Chestertonians may know of some).

But I have seen references to Fitzgerald - a fallen Catholic - being familiar with Chesterton's writings. There's even a post on this blog that predates my joining the team:

A collection of the letters of F. Scott Fitzgerald shows a number of references to Chesterton as the writer struggled in 1917 with his unsuccessful first draft of This Side of Paradise. He wrote Edmund Wilson that the novel "shows traces of Chesterton," and that he put "Barrie and Chesterton above anyone except Wells." Fitzgerald complained to biographer Shane Leslie of "gloomy, half-twilight realism," asking "Where are the novels of five years ago?" Fitzgerald included Chesterton's Manalive on his approved novel list, and also confided to Leslie that he was planning to quote some Chesterton gibberish on his new novel's title page ("Highty-ighty, tiddly-ighty, tiddley-ighty, ow!" from The Club of Queer Trades). [A Life in Letters, Edited by Mat-thew Bruccoli, Scribner's 1994, pp. 12-20] - Eric Scheske (July 28, 2005)

I'll keep searching,


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