Essay Second Acts In American Lives

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In a specious alteration of the original, Nick is recovering from “morbid alcoholism” and—as prescribed therapy—writes the story we’re seeing from the confines of the Perkins Sanitarium (a clever enough insertion: Maxwell Perkins was Fitzgerald’s editor, and editors are often, rightly, considered cogs in a correctional institution).

What is being written will ultimately be called “The Great Gatsby by Nick Carraway,” which is inane, but hardly out of character for the film.

The reasons that Fitzgerald’s Gatsby became a bootlegger, allied himself with the likes of Meyer Wolfsheim and bought his castle on the shores of West Egg were all illusions.

No director hires Leonardo Di Caprio to have him occupy the margins of a story, but in subjecting both Gatsby and Di Caprio to the hard focus of conventional Hollywood, he strips both of their dignity.

“There are no second acts in American lives,” is one of Fitzgerald’s more famous and often quoted observations.

Nevertheless, in chapter Two, Beuka shows how the second act had come posthumously with the so-called “Fitzgerald revival” of the forties and the fifties and a renewed critical interest of (1945) were two posthumous volumes that sparked fresh public interest in Fitzgerald.

From his lonely room, Nick flashes back to 1922, the delirious postwar period of Prohibition booze and Wall Street gone go-go.

Even Nick, a writer by avocation, has gotten into the bond business and winds up renting a house in West Egg across the bay from the more fashionable East Egg (think Hamptons).

but also a complete and thorough survey of the impact of the novel into the world of popular culture.

This parallel attempt throws light on the changing modes of interpretation that have affected our understanding of the novel.


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