Under the Red, White and Blue: Patriotism, Disenchantment and the Stubborn Myth of the Great Gatsby

Greil Marcus. Yale Univ., $26 (176p) ISBN 978-0-300-22890-8
In an idiosyncratic book that occasionally soars, critic Marcus (Real Life Rock) traces The Great Gatsby’s impact on America’s popular imagination. Marcus spends much of his time on various works based on or inspired by the novel: stage plays, Hollywood films, live readings, Saturday Night Live skits, and even a billboard in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s birthplace of St. Paul, Minn. He also discusses responses to Fitzgerald’s work from other writers, such as Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald; Fitzgerald’s mostly ill-starred Hollywood writing career; and parallels between Gatsby and Moby-Dick. In one of the strongest sections, Marcus discusses The 7 Lively Arts by Fitzgerald’s friend Gilbert Seldes, a 1924 analysis of the popular culture of the Roaring Twenties era, which the novel now epitomizes. In another strong entry, Marcus incisively critiques the botched 1949 Gatsby film starring Alan Ladd, “one of the most enervating movies ever made.” However, the amount of space he grants to summaries of performances or movies, though invariably well-written, sometimes overwhelm the book’s critical component. If the many facts and ideas gathered by Marcus sometimes feel like too daunting a pile of glittering cultural detritus, taken in small amounts they do result in an entertaining meander for Fitzgerald fans. (May)
Reviewed on : 02/11/2020
Release date: 05/01/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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