When strangers hear what I do for a living — when I tell them that I write and make films — you'd be surprised how often they tell me, excitedly, that I should write a book or make a film about their lives. Their lives are fascinating! Riveting! They have seen and done things! Oh, the things they have seen.
I assume that most people do lead fascinating lives, so I ask for details. I like listening to good stories. Nine times out of ten their must-share stories boil down to one of two things: 1.) They have (or know people who have) money and have bought stuff. All the real obvious, decadent stuff. It's amazing how often rich people think that I should be intrigued by opulence for its own sake. Or, 2.) They have partied. They have partied with celebs and non-celebs. (They've had sex! With more than one person!) And they have gotten so effed up. They have made a mess of their lives...but they've had fun, man.
But here's the thing. Vice, in and of itself, is not a story. Consumption, in and of itself, is not a story. A cool scene, in and of itself, is not a story. Partying, in and of itself, is not a story. Which you know if you've ever had the pleasure of listening to a frat boy tell you the "story" of his awesome weekend.
All this has made me think about one of my favorite stories of all time. The Great Gatsby. On May 10th, Baz Luhrmann and Warner Brothers are releasing another film adaptation of the classic novel. I will go see it...because I have to.
On the surface, Gatsby is a story about drunkenness, debauchery, vice. About sex. About conspicuous consumption. About knowing the right people. About opulence and decadence. In other words, on the surface, it's a non-story.
What elevates Gatsby? What makes this drunken, debauched, consuming and consumed over-spender worthy of a novel? Worthy of a film? What makes The Great Gatsby more than The Hangover 4 or a prolonged Stefon skit? (New York's hottest club is The Gatsby. It's got everything. Roast pigs. Hydroplanes. Dancing twins. Real books. Old guys in glasses. Yellow cars in ditches. Intrigue...)
To celebrate my new blog, I've decided to host my first-ever Read-Along featuring The Great Gatsby. Gatsby is only nine chapters long. A quick read. So every day from May 1st through May 9th I will read a chapter and post my thoughts. The Read-Along will conclude with a final, overall analysis on the 10th. Just in time for the premiere of Baz Luhrmann's new film.
Think of it as an online book club. A chance to reread an old school favorite and talk about it with other book-lovers. Or a chance to read a book you were supposed to read in high school. Only this...will be nothing like school. If anything, it will be like unschool.
You can get the book cheaply on Amazon or at any used book store. I'm using this version from Scribner: