Passports

“It’s the romantic in me”

On Sunday evening, we watched the 1974 film adaptation – starring Robert Redford – of Scott Fitzgerald’s 1926 novel, The Great Gatsby

…and seeing it led me yesterday to recall those โ€œfun facts” about the man now considered one of America’s foremost novelists: he wasn’t truly appreciated until after his death. They are particularly necessary to bear in mind as a writer if you are a man with mostly women readers. (As I am.) It helps to do so *especially* after it hasnโ€™t been a good day. (Which yesterday was not. I tap this out hoping today, after I post this, will be a better day.)

The book’s huge eventual commercial success and critical reassessment – at its release most critics were lukewarm at best about the novel too; some even panned it – after Fitzgerald’s death would seem to call into question his opinion on why Gatsby didn’t sell well in its initial print run. Yet he was (in my humble opinion) correct: he wrote a novel in which NONE of the women portrayed are in the slightest bit admirable or even likable. “Daisy” is clearly based to a degree (but certainly not exclusively) on his own wife Zelda – a southern, Roman Catholic girl – and (I believe) she’s, frankly, a horror. Why “Gatsby” (Fitzgerald is obviously partly “Nick” and partly “Gatsby”) is besotted by her is anyone’s guess. But, of course, such is love… or what we think is love.

The novel’s now iconic status is even sadder given how Fitzgerald died, and how young, and what he died thinking: that both he, and the book, were basically failures. If you – as a writer, or as anything else – ever feel that way, some music from Casablanca may help. (Casablanca – my favorite film, you may have noticed – *always* helps.) In case you didn’t know, Warner Brothers has the original Casablanca soundtrack downloadable on iTunes. It’s ยฃ3.99 (here in the UK).

[Screen capture. Casablanca (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) by Various Artists.]

I’d thought of the film again after having seen a biography of Claude Rains – who played “Captain Renault” – on Sky Arts television on Friday evening. Something made me seek out the soundtrack. I found it and bought it. It’s wonderful listening.

In the film – and included on the soundtrack – early on French police chief “Captain Renault” asks “Rick” (Humphrey Bogart)…

…and the “combination of all three” is “Rick’s” now famous reply, of course.

Mine?

No, I haven’t absconded with the church funds. Nor have I run off with a senator’s wife. Nor have I killed a man. Nor any combination.

So, that eliminates those three. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I write a lot about Americans living outside of the United States. Partly that is due to what my own life has become. For decades, I’ve encountered lots of new material:

[Excerpt from Passports. Paperback. Click to expand.]

And much more recently – just last week – an Italian former colleague (we worked together at a London university), who I’m friends with on my personal Facebook (but we haven’t seen each other in person in a decade), out of the blue followed my writer’s pseudonymous Instagram page. Err, uh, oh.๐Ÿ˜† I haven’t yet asked her how she found it.

Where writers get ideas: in 2013, I nearly used her first name for the Italian-German aunt “Giuliana” in Passports. In the end, I decided against doing so. Her name is rather unusual; I felt if she ever saw the novel, she would pretty easily figure out from where I had gotten that name.

Looking back, though, maybe that choice was a mistake? Naturally, it can’t be undone. However, perhaps, uh, an Italian woman’s name will be needed in… my newest manuscript… ๐Ÿ˜‰

Have a good day, wherever you are. ๐Ÿ™‚

4 replies »

  1. I think Gatsby was in love with the โ€œideaโ€ of Daisy. By todayโ€™s standards, she would certainly be considered high maintenance, but for the purposes of the book, she represented everything Jay wanted but couldnโ€™t buy. Interesting turnabout for Redford as the reverse was true in The Way We Were. Hubbell was the lifestyle Katie thought she desired.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, definitely. Daisy made high maintenance seem like an understatement. Yes, she was symbolic. They all were in their ways. Only Nick approached conventional. I suppose given that reality, filming the book is extra tough. Itโ€™s one thing to do what Fitzgerald did on paper; itโ€™s something else trying to portray it on screen, when the likes of a Daisy come across as nearly ludicrous. I always find it funny too when Redford is โ€œthe other guy.โ€๐Ÿ˜†

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