The great gatsby

Heartbreak in the workplace: Green Dot, by Madeleine Gray, reviewed

Hera, the heroine of Madeleine Gray’s first novel, is 24, which, as she says, ‘seems young to most people but not to people in their mid-twenties’. She lives in Sydney with her father and their dog and works as an online community moderator, but the contents of her work bag reveal her to be Bridget Jones’s edgier little sister: ‘My wallet, three pairs of underpants, headphones, nine tampons, a travel vibrator, two novels, a notebook, two beer caps, a bottle of sake and a fountain pen.’ She will also inevitably be compared to Hannah from Lena Dunham’s Girls and to Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag. Gray’s writing style is droll but if

Jay for Japan

Haruki Murakami’s Killing Commendatore was published in Japan in February last year. Early press releases for this English version hailed the book as ‘a tour de force of love and loneliness, war and art — as well as a loving homage to The Great Gatsby’. Anyone familiar with Murakami’s 17 preceding novels can vouch for love and loneliness as his great themes; and war, art and F. Scott Fitzgerald are not new to him, but in Commendatore all enrapture. The narrator, a man with no name struggling with his own art — and, concurrently and inseparably, the women he sleeps with — recalls Murakami’s earlier nameless narrators, all the way

Borne back ceaselessly into the past

‘I do not like the idea of the biographical book,’ F. Scott Fitzgerald told his editor Max Perkins in 1936. Fitzgerald may not have liked it, but he certainly let himself in for it. As he wrote, with a grin, in 1937: ‘Most of what has happened to me is in my novels and short stories, that is, all the parts that could go into print.’ Of all the male American modernist writers with tragic lives, including Ernest Hemingway, Hart Crane and Eugene O’Neill, F. Scott Fitzgerald still serves to many people as the defining figure. A glittering success as a writer when he was just 23, Fitzgerald died 20

Books Podcast: The lost stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald

Following the publication of a new collection of the lost short stories of F Scott Fitzgerald (I’d Die For You and Other Lost Stories, Scribner UK, £16.99), I’m joined by two eminent Fitzgerald scholars to talk about the life, legacy and lasting greatness of the laureate of the Jazz Age. In this week’s podcast Anne Margaret Daniel (who edited the new volume) and Sarah Churchwell (author of Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and the Invention of the Great Gatsby) talk about how Fitzgerald was trapped by his own reputation, about how different his canon looked to contemporaries than it does to posterity, about the drink and despair that attended the second

High life | 28 May 2015

An operation on my hand after a karate injury has had me reading more than usual. I even attempted Don DeLillo’s Underworld, but soon gave up. Truman Capote famously said that On the Road was typing, not writing, but old Jack Kerouac was Jane Austen compared with some contemporary novelists. Making it sound easy is the hardest thing in writing, and today’s modernists sure make it look easier than easy. But they’re also sloppy, self-indulgent and at times incomprehensible. What I don’t get is how one can enjoy a novel when the plot is not clear. When the reader doesn’t know what’s real and what’s imagined, it’s time to regress

A graceful writer and a graceful man

I wonder what happened to my first edition of A Dandy in Aspic. I must have been careless about lending it when it could no longer be bought. Derek’s succeeding novels, from The Memoirs of a Venus Lackey (1968) to The Rich Boy from Chicago (1979), are in their place on my bookshelves; seven titles, lacking the first and ninth. The last novel, Nancy Astor (1982), based on his own screenplay, had passed me by. But it was A Dandy in Aspic, written in four weeks in a flat he shared with me and Piers Paul Read just off the Vauxhall Bridge Road in 1965, that changed Derek’s life. Derek,

Made in Chelski

It’s surprising there haven’t been more novels drawing on London’s fascination with Russian oligarchs. But how to write about them without it all seeming a bit Jackie Collins? Vesna Goldsworthy has hit on the perfect solution with her witty novel Gorsky. If you’re going to write about being nouveau riche, why not model your book on the classiest thing ever written on the subject, The Great Gatsby? Gorsky doesn’t advertise on the cover that this is a thinly veiled rewriting but it’s obvious from the first page (and explained at length in the acknowledgments). F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writer/narrator Nick Carraway becomes Nikola Kimovic, who grew up in poverty in Serbia

Salman Rushdie sets the record straight on the classics

Salman Rushdie became embroiled in a literary row over the weekend after he rated a number of books on the website Goodreads thinking these would be private when in fact the information was viewable to the public. The Satanic Verses author’s list soon began to circulate online with many viewers aghast to read his mediocre three star rating of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird alongside the singular star given to Kingsley Amis’ Lucky Jim. Other critically acclaimed books that ranked low include Elizabeth Bowen’s The Death of the Heart and Max Beerbohm’s Zuleika Dobson. F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby did at least manage to make the grade with a full five star rating. Rushdie has since come forward to defend his choices, explaining

Warning: these books could seriously damage your health

Welcome to 2015, the year that speaking and writing freely had to stop. Anything that might cause trauma to anyone of any race except the white one will be expunged, and the perpetrators of politically incorrect speech or written word will be airbrushed for ever. The word trauma derives from the Greek and means wound. The literary canon will be the first to bite the dust as it’s one big trauma, especially for feminists. The Great Gatsby, for example, is bonfire material because of a variety of scenes ‘that reference gory, abusive and misogynistic violence’. And let’s not forget The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, as racist a book as ever

‘Great’ books best left unread: Anna Karenina, Moby Dick, Catch-22…

Martin Amis compared Cervantes’ Don Quixote to ‘an indefinite visit from your most impossible senior relative, with all his pranks, dirty habits, unstoppable reminiscences, and terrible cronies’, while Kathryn Schulz, book critic for New York magazine, poured scorn on The Great Gatsby, describing it as ‘aesthetically overrated, psychologically vacant, and morally complacent’. Cult contemporary bestsellers have also drawn contempt. In last year’s Spectator Books of the Year Thomas W. Hodgkinson recommended giving a wide berth to Paulo Coelho’s chart topper: ‘The Alchemist is surely the worst book I’ve read recently. The tale of a simple shepherd boy (ah, aren’t they all?) in search of enlightenment, it’s essentially a self-help book

Z, by Therese Anne Fowler, Beautiful Fools, by R. Clifton Spargo, Careless People, by Sarah Churchill – review

The Great Gatsby is one of those great works of literature, like Pride and Prejudice, that appeals as much to the general reader as to the literary bod. It’ll always be around, if not as a movie (there have been five since its publication in 1926) then as an opera or a ballet. Last year a staged reading ran for weeks in the West End, to critical acclaim. It is a short book — a long short story really — about wealth and sex and hope and disillusion and partying. These are the themes, too, of the lives of its author and his wife Zelda. Theirs was a relationship that

Spectator Play: what’s worth watching, listening to or going to this weekend | 17 May 2013

It feels like the only film anyone’s been talking about recently is The Great Gatsby. Given that even the release of the films’ multiple trailers created international news stories, it seemed inevitable that not everyone was going to love it. So, what does Deborah Ross say to the film’s critics? ‘You can tell them to go hang’. Gatsby, she says, is ‘fantastically enjoyable, and a blast. It is wild and rampant and thrilling.’ So there you go – listen to our critic, not anyone else’s. Desert Island Discs is one of Radio 4’s crowd-pullers but, as Kate Chisholm points out in this week’s radio review, the format ‘ is not best

The secret to enjoying the Great Gatsby film? Forget there was ever a book – and enjoy the entertainment.

New York At an art shindig on Park Avenue, I spotted Baz Luhrmann, the director of the latest and very noisy version of The Great Gatsby. A charming man, I was told, just before I was shocked — shocked à la Captain Renault — to hear the dwarfish mayor of the Big Bagel suggest an honorary American citizenship for — you’ll never guess — that Russian son-of-a-bitch Roman Abramovich. Too bad I didn’t have my American passport with me, because I would have thrown it at him and told him to keep it. I can understand why some broken-down English toffs need to kiss the Abramovich behind because they mistakenly

The not-so-great Gatsby

You do not need to have read the book or even seen a film adaptation to feel a thrill at the word ‘Gatsby’. More than a novel, a film or a character, ‘Gatsby’ is an aspiration. The golden age of jazz, cocktails and evening dress, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel is one of those works which has been subsumed and overtaken by its own myth. Such is The Great Gatsby’s enduring glamour that even the release of trailers for the latest film version (starring Leonardo di Caprio and Carey Mulligan) made news. You can see why. The film promises everything: beautiful people, luxurious locations and great clothes. After Gatsby has received