Baz Lurhmann’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby as a 3D melodramatic blockbuster may be like the book’s titular figure, a tragedy of facade. Indeed, The Great Gatsby is the story of the self-made man and how this heartbroken young soldier uses his wits and tricks to transform into the cultured Jazz Age gentleman. As Lurhmann’s new film arises in heated ‘water cooler’ debate, here’s some talking points on how to use your wits and tricks to ‘do a Gatsby’ yourself and transform into a Jazz Age gentleman…

The Book is Better

If you hear “The Great Gatsby was such a good film,” you may interject with the traditional observation, “I agree, but Gatsby’s prose (if you abbreviate the title, it will give an impression of familiarity) is so lush, the symbolism so rich, you just can’t match it on screen.”

Now, it’s not necessary to have seen the film or read the book to offer this judgment. It is a ubiquitous truism that films are inferior to their literary source material. Own it. Besides, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is considered the “Great American Novel”, no one is challenging that assertion (extra points for using the phrase “Great American Novel” as well). By all means, watch the film instead of reading the book, just don’t let on (refer to Wikipedia to avoid plot differences).

The Lost Generation

At any point upon hearing the author’s name, you may segue into the topic of the Lost Generation like so, “F. Scott Fitzgerald was a fine short story writer for the post-war ‘Lost Generation’, but if it weren’t for writers like Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein, he may never have written Gatsby at all.”

While this isn’t exactly true, Fitzgerald did spend time in 1920s Paris writing alongside Hemingway and Stein and this gives you the opportunity to pronounce locations like Boulevard Montparnasse, where the restaurant Auberge de Venise was once the famed literary ‘Dingo Bar’ (Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris may provide further research with this topic). If you’re not sure of the pronunciation, be confident. Chances are no one will question it.

Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway:


The Jazz Age

If anyone mentions the 1920s, invoke the title ‘Jazz Age’ to compliment it, “the Jazz Age was not just about the music. Sure, it was the epoch of Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong and Fats Waller, but the time was defined by how radio proliferated African American culture through a newly liberated upper class.”

Now, it doesn’t really matter what you say here, as long as you name-drop a bunch of 1920s jazz cats. Also remember to practice pronouncing ‘proliferated’. Extra points if you have any of the vintage jazz on your phone to play as you talk. Suggested tracks are…

Duke Ellington’s Creole Love Call

Louis Armstrong’s When You’re Smiling

Fats Waller’s Ain’t Misbehaving

03 June 2013
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