'Gatsby' Anniversary: 5 Reasons to Read (or Reread) Fitzgerald's Classic
'Tis the season for Gatsby if there ever was one: April marked the 88th anniversary of the book's publication and the much-anticipated film version by "Moulin Rouge!" director Baz Luhrmann is hitting theaters. Meanwhile, brands such as Brooks Brothers, Prada and Tiffany's have unveiled Gatsby-inspired spring lines, and the soundtrack for the film--which features tracks by Beyonce, Jay-Z, Gotye and Florence and the Machine--is poised to become one biggest album releases of the summer. To celebrate the book taking center stage this spring, we've got the top five reasons you should read Fitzgerald's classic novel, or revisit it if you haven't gotten lost in it lately.
1. Greed, hedonism and other timeless themes
"The Great Gatsby" is a novel about the ways in which hedonism and greed can corrupt. Gatsby's pursuit of individual freedom and his longing for Daisy Buchanan become hopelessly complicated in the profit-driven, appearance-obsessed high society of flapper-era New York. Every time period has its share of inhumanity, but Fitzgerald's statement about the human toll of success, as well as the injustice of class disparity in America, strikes as deep a nerve with contemporary readers—inundated as we are with reports of corruption and unfettered greed among today's elite—as it did with those living in the Jazz Age.
2. See if the film lives up to your vision
We at Bookish always recommend reading a book before seeing its screen adaptation, but we're especially ardent about "Gatsby." While we're eagerly anticipating the May 10 premiere of Baz Lurhmann's film version—which will star Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby, Carey Mulligan as Daisy and Tobey Maguire as the book's narrator, Nick Carraway—the film and book offer very different experiences. With its saturated color palette, fantastical set and costume design and a soundtrack that could double as a Lollapalooza lineup, the movie will surely entertain and pack an intense emotional punch. But only the novel in its original form—with its nuanced tension and dreamy prose—can deliver the tragic blow that has made it an American classic.
3. It's the perfect book to ring in summer
"The Great Gatsby" takes place in the hot and humid summer of 1922, and its hazy imagery—revealing dresses, lawn parties lasting into the wee hours, women fanning themselves, ice melting in tumblers and people swimming (or should we say floating?) in pools—makes it an ideal warm-weather read, whether you're watching boats float by in a marina or buddying up to your air conditioner.
4. You'll finally get all those references to it
Not having read "The Great Gatsby" is like not being privy to literature's biggest inside joke. Since its publication in 1925, countless books, films and TV shows have paid homage to the novel and its famous lines and images, from allusions in the HBO show "Entourage" (Vincent Chase plays Nick Carraway in a film version directed by Martin Scorsese) to spin-off novels (Chris Bohjalian's "The Double Bind" imagines Daisy and Tom in later years). A recent example of the novel's lasting influence is, perhaps surprisingly, Harmony Korine's "Spring Breakers." According Manhola Dargis of The New York Times, James Franco's look-at-all-my-stuff monologue borrows directly from the famous scene in which Gatsby brandishes his expensive shirts, and a neon-pink light at the end of a drug dealer's dock is a smiling nod to the green one at the end of Daisy and Tom Buchanan's.
5. It's one of the saddest, ugliest-cry-inducing books you'll ever read
Finally, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention that reading "The Great Gatsby" will result in a hiccup-y, snot-clogged, Kleenex-soaked, friends-and-family-alarming (but deeply satisfying) sob-a-thon. Even if you're not the crying type, the novel's tragic final act will cut you to the core, leaving you devastated and enlightened all at once.