John Collins

Jan 25, 2021

John Collins on F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby"

Great Books Series

New Books Network 2021

The Great Gatsby is one of the greatest novels ever written and a masterpiece of American fiction. Midwesterner Nick Carraway spends a summer on Long Island where he is lured into the ultra-glamorous parties and social circle of his mysterious neighbor, Jay Gatsby. It is a tale of obsessive passion, reckless decadence, excess, and disillusionment, but also of the power of love and dreams to alter our world. Fitzgerald’s glittering portrayal of 1920s elite society during the Jazz Age is an enduring testament to the tantalizing power and peril of the American Dream. I personally consider Carraway one of the most despicable characters in all of America's fiction, because he trades in his capacity for dreaming for an arrogant and superior sense of detached knowledge. He's just barely saved from full-on nihilism by his encounter with Gatsby... and I don't mind Jordan Baker, nor Daisy, and of course my heart goes out to Myrtle... but listen for yourself (and check out my Afterword to a newly released edition of The Great Gatsby published by Warbler Press).

I spoke with John Collins, Founding Artistic Director of the experimental theater company, Elevator Repair Service, which has staged Gatz, a word-by-word enactment of Fitzgerald's novel, in a 6.5 hours-long stage production.

Francis Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) published his first novel, This Side of Paradise, in 1920 to instant acclaim. He soon after married and his wife Zelda, and the two embodied spirit of the Jazz Age—the glamour and grit which Fitzgerald captured in stories and novels that powerfully resonate today, including

The Beautiful and Damned and Tender Is the Night.

Haunted by alcoholism, marital problems, and Zelda’s illness, Fitzgerald took his immense literary talents to the dream factories of Hollywood where he died in 1940 while working on his unfinished novel of Hollywood, The Last Tycoon.

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Uli Baer

Uli Baer teaches literature and photography as University Professor at New York University. A recipient of Guggenheim, Getty and Humboldt awards, in addition to hosting "Speaking of…” he hosts (with Caroline Weber) the podcast "The Proust Questionnaire” and is Editorial Director at Warbler Press. Email ucb1@nyu.edu; Twitter @UliBaer.

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