Transcript:

Speaker What is the American dream with American Dream to you? Well, the complete phrase is the American dream of success. And of course, success is the key word. It's about getting ahead. It's about rising. It's intimately connected with the American immigrant experience. It's about people who came to America to find.

Speaker Not simply freedom, but economic advancement opportunity, which meant two things, educational opportunity and financial opportunity.

Speaker But what does it mean for you today? You're not an immigrant.

Speaker My grandparents were and I grew up in a household in which there were three languages, English, Italian and Yiddish.

Speaker And it's as though I came out. I feel as though I came out of the melting pot and the religion in our household was God bless America.

Speaker OK, can I ask you to move your arm back? Yeah, that would be great. Um, so give me a sense for you. When I think of the American dream, I think of. What do you think of?

Speaker Getting ahead are.

Speaker Succeeding. Are making money, providing next generation the children with opportunities, the American dream always deals with the next generation. It's dead now. It's a thing of the past. It dealt with providing opportunities for the next generation.

Speaker Interesting. Do you think the American dream is dead?

Speaker Well, it's different. It isn't dead. Was perhaps a snap usage.

Speaker It's different because. The nature of the American class system has changed so differently are the immigrants, immigration still goes on, but they're coming from a different part of the world.

Speaker I'm just back from a trip to the Pacific Northwest where the Asians seem to be flourishing in recapitulating the American dream that previously flourished in New York and the East Coast.

Speaker You know, we were talking outside, you said something interesting to me is the American Dream Unit or is it that's OK. Because it doesn't replicate itself all over the world.

Speaker I don't think so, because the very circumstance that you eye, other people can automatically talk about the American dream without thinking about it indicates it's particularly American is defining the American.

Speaker You've never heard anybody say, oh, it's the English dream or the Italian dream or the German dream or the French dream. It may be the Chinese dream or the Japanese dream. I don't know about that. But the American dream refers to the promises of America, the opportunities of the ability to reinvent yourself. That's it. You don't want to be Jimmy GATT's. You can be Jay Gatsby. Everybody arrives in America with a clean slate arrive that to keep putting this in the past tense arrived Manoly. The American dream is about money because money translates into mobility, upward mobility. It is self-evident that you cannot live without money, and so therefore it follows that the things you do to get your money, the ways in which you earn the money to let you live the way you live are are crucial to any understanding of American life. And certainly the best American fiction was when I talk about American fiction, I'm really talking about 1900, 1950, the first half of the 20th century. The best American fiction, which was the classic American fiction, was in every case about social mobility, social stratification, the American class system. And it was always about money. Draitser is the American writer who invented money.

Speaker What do you mean?

Speaker Well, he was the first one. He was the first American writer who dared to talk about it seriously in Henry James's Volga and Edith Wharton. It's unspeakable. And William Dean Howells, the rise of sail slap them houses is afraid to use the M word writer was the first American writer who really talked about money. And because it was Dreiser, Dreiser does it in terms of sex and race. Of money equates with sex. Sex equates with money. The richest men get the best women.

Speaker OK, let's stop for a second because. You the same like the gym?

Speaker Oh, the so-called classic writers before Theodore Dreiser were all upper class or at least came from families that had upper class aspirations.

Speaker Upper class affiliations are Dreiser is the first major American writer to come out of utter poverty.

Speaker And who therefore writes about money with an appetite, with a longing, with a passion that these other people no doubt if they read Dreiser regarded as vulgar.

Speaker OK, so let's talk about Carrie. Me first. Mm hmm. Uh, just as somebody who loves literature conjure up in your mind.

Speaker Sophisticated, no carry wire.

Speaker Dresses carry.

Speaker No, no, no, no, I'm sorry. Who is Dreiser's Carrie? What is what images pop up in your dresses?

Speaker Carrie MEBA is someone who was acted upon. She doesn't act. Men act on her. She goes along with whatever pressures are applied to.

Speaker Driss is a great determinist.

Speaker Determinists, literary determinists, sometimes called literary naturalist's, are people who believe that human conduct is completely shaped by determined by forces beyond the characters understanding, beyond the characters control Tresser. I'm sorry, Carrie. MEBA is someone who has acted on and she's also a survivor. Carrie does what she has to do to survive and Dreiser created the first.

Speaker So admirable. That's not that's not the exact word, but let's go with it for the moment. The first admirable woman of easy virtue in American literature before Dreiser, girls who slept with men out of wedlock were whores, and that was it.

Speaker Dreiser understands what Carrie does. And in a sense, you can hear him saying, Atta girl, Carrie. Atta girl.

Speaker What does Carrie do? What are you talking about? Who's the person?

Speaker She just she a woman of loose morals who is in what they call today, a gold digger.

Speaker Now, Carrie does not set out to be a gold digger, a gold digger, a kept woman, a whore. She doesn't set out to sell herself. As I've said, she is acted upon when she realizes that.

Speaker Living with Drewe is infinitely superior to working in a sweatshop. She does it and Trisha doesn't say shame, shame you've lost your virtue and you can never get it back. Crisis's, of course, you did what you had to do. Good girl, Gary.

Speaker That's great. That's just great. How about that first? What I mean, because, you know, you're right. You know, that's a pretty comfortable, good life.

Speaker What's the motivation for moving on to the next bigger paycheck? All right.

Speaker Again, Carrie is acted on, and when the next man comes along, a man who seems more forceful, more educated and more admirable than Drew, Drew, after all, is just a fast talking drummer, a traveling salesman. Carrie hasn't had much experience. She thinks Heriot-Watt is some sort of an aristocrat. When the next man comes along, Carrie goes where she is pressured to go of.

Speaker She doesn't have enough experience yet to see that her Eastwood has better manners than Drew. But he's not much of a step up in the world for her.

Speaker Kerry thinks he's a step up because of the close.

Speaker I mean, literally the clothes and the clothes, the speech, the manners are.

Speaker So why then what is it with, you know, Kerry continues, this rise through theatre would just take a nosedive in the vote. What do you think? Um. First of all, what do you think Dreiser's saying that a woman will destroy?

Speaker Oh, Gracer was again the first major American writer to talk honestly about the force of sexual desire, sexual appetite, Hearst Wood is a man approaching middle age.

Speaker He probably is middle aged who falls passionately for a young quiet, please.

Speaker Is is Dreiser making Sister Karia? I mean, this is a guy sitting down and your Theodore Dreiser was an intensely we cut y eater advisor imagining the stuff of creating it all of his imagination.

Speaker Theodore Dreiser was an intensely autobiographical writer and much of his material came from his family. And Carry MEBA replicates the career of one of his sisters and indeed another one of his sisters was Jenny Gearheart. One of Grace's sisters did run away with an embezzling saloon manager.

Speaker And and went to New York, went to New York, yes.

Speaker And so what does that say to you about trying to as a writer, what he's also a right.

Speaker This is not extraordinary for Dreiser to be writing about members of his own family. Most great social fiction is autobiographical after all.

Speaker What does a writer have to write about? And in particular, most first novels are about the writer's family. For example, Look Homeward, Angel Thomas Wolfe's first novel and.

Speaker Given Rice's family, given Grace's personal history, he had enough material for a dozen novels.

Speaker We'll talk to you about that personal matter. What is it that's different?

Speaker I mean, I grew up in dire poverty. He was denied an education except for one year at Indiana University.

Speaker He rose through journalism, as did so many poor would be writers at that time before there were these waste of time creative writing programs at college people, young people who wanted to become writers began as newspapermen. That was the incubator for American lit. Most of them never got out of the city room. Dreiser was one of the great ones who worked as a reporter and worked his way up into literature. Self educated, self trained, against enormous odds, against the odds of poverty.

Speaker That's great. Christopher, let me ask you then in your how he writes and what you write the.

Speaker Theodore Dreiser was.

Speaker Perhaps the greatest of all the American reportorial writers are he.

Speaker Converted journalism into a form of literature. He came out of newspaper work and he retained the devices, the training, the observation technique that he had learned as a reporter, which is why Dreiser's work is so documentary.

Speaker Dreiser is perhaps the most documentary of American social novelists, the American tragedy, for example, 1925, An American Tragedy 1925. Same Year as Gatsby is a novel drawn from newspaper accounts of a murder in upstate New York.

Speaker So let me ask you this.

Speaker We're talking about Senator Kerry is, in your estimation, the great writer Theodore Dreiser is the greatest bad writer in American literature, perhaps the greatest bad writer in the English language. Are he overwrites? He's showy, he's ostentatious. He tries to be elegant and it never works. And yet the enormous sincerity carries the reader through the work. The reader is so moved by Dreiser's obvious yearning and straining and striving that the reader makes allowances and forgives Theodore Dreiser almost everything, including that parolable, ponderous style.

Speaker That's great. Thank you.

Speaker Let's talk about other than that, the publication History of The Great Gatsby is one of the great moments in American literature because. I'm sorry. Excuse me. The publication History of Sister Carrie is one of the great events in American literary history, because the editor at Doubleday who accepted, who read and accepted Sister Carrie was Frank Norris the other great. There were three great writers at that time, Stephen Crane, Frank Norris, Theodore Dreiser. Two of them died. Young Driss is the only one who lived to an old age. If the other two, Crane and Norris social writers, social realist, had lived to old age, the history of American literature in 20th century be completely different anyhow. Frank Norris is working as a publisher's reader, publisher's editor at Doubleday, and he's the one who accepts Sister Carey. And probably he understood that if the respectable senior people in the firm saw this book, they'd block publication because the Doubleday's Frank and Doubleday, known as Efendi and his wife apparently didn't see the book till this was in fact a book. And then Mrs. Doubleday read it and said to her husband, We can't possibly let this book appear with our name on it.

Speaker Because it's about a girl who loses her virtue and she is not punished.

Speaker She is rewarded at the end of the novel, Carrie is successful, admired, secure, that was not permissible in 1900.

Speaker Naughty girls had to go to hell in 1900.

Speaker OK, so what does your advisers.

Speaker But he tries Frank double day when his wife calls the book to his attention, first tries to withdraw the book, tries to persuade Dreiser not to have the book distributed, sold Dreiser.

Speaker Demands that double day honor the contract. Well, there are all kinds of ways for a publisher to honor a contract and of Doubleday doesn't destroy the book, but they don't try very hard to sell it and they don't try to sell it at all. If people come and demand a copy, they might have been able to buy one. But there was no attempt to market the book and the book. The book was, in effect, stillborn, and it produced Great Depression in Dreiser.

Speaker And he stopped writing fiction for a while.

Speaker And it. It wasn't till.

Speaker Five, six years later that he resumes writing fiction, but the novel Sister Carrie was never reprinted by Doubleday.

Speaker Later Dreiser arranged probably putting up some of the money for Carrie to be republished, reissued by another publisher.

Speaker I must ask if you can, Dreiser, emotionally, what does that do with the guy?

Speaker The I suppose you could call it censorship of Sister Carrie in 1900 produced a feeling of frustration, disappointment and a temporary writer's block, Draitser obviously felt that the kinds of books he wanted to write weren't publishable and he stopped writing for a while.

Speaker And went into a period of depression and he actually had a nervous breakdown, I suppose, and his brother, Paul Dresser, the songwriter, sent him to one of these health camps for him to be built up again of the Sister Carey debacle of.

Speaker Temporarily halted the Theodore Dreiser's career.

Speaker Great.

Speaker OK, I'm going to shift from where the quote was, the very rich are different from you and me, not the rich, the very rich.

Speaker He's talking about the effect on character and personality of big money, old money, family money.

Speaker And in a sense, The Great Gatsby is about the difference between old money and new money. And poor Gatsby doesn't understand that. And he thinks new money is good and he thinks Gatsby money is as good as Buchanan money.

Speaker Buchanan Money bought Daisy, so he thinks Gatsby money can buy her back. Gatsby doesn't understand anything at all.

Speaker Poor son of a censored about the way money worked in America at that time. Money is not money.

Speaker Um, let's do this.

Speaker The Jazz Sichuanese. All right, go ahead.

Speaker The Jazz Age, the roaring 20s, terribly misunderstood. It's become a caricature, caricature, concept. People in funny costumes, dancing, the Charleston, the 1920s were, in fact, the American renaissance, not just in literature, but in all the arts, but in literature. Extraordinarily rich are much greater than that so-called American presence in New England in the middle of the 19th century, and also art music. It was a period that was committed to two things greatness, genius. It was a period that yearned for heroes. And if you have a period that yearns for heroes, they will find heroes. In addition, it was a period that believed in the value of art. It wasn't all wonderful nonsense. The term Jazz Age, by the way, was coined by Fitzgerald. At least he claimed credit for it. And it is one of the great ironies of American literature that Fitzgerald do nothing about jazz at all and doesn't write about it, didn't understand it. But nonetheless, so great was Fitzgerald's power of language that he put Jazz Age not into not just into the American language, but into the American imagination.

Speaker Yeah, OK, great with Kurt.

Speaker OK, this is the how does the Jazz Age, the speakeasy, the gin? Is that the way the rest of the country is experiencing the 1920s?

Speaker It was a period of national confidence, ebullience. America emerged from World War One as the most powerful nation in the world for the first time, replacing the Brits. And that was combined with material prosperity symbolized by the rising stock market, a joke compared to today's stock market. But even so, and all the reports of instant fortunes being made on Wall Street, it was, above all, a decade of possibilities. Anything and everything seemed possible in the 1920s.

Speaker So then let's talk about Fitzgerald. He's writing this book at this moment. This is a guy who I've just utter brilliance in terms of having him. Sense of the heartbeat of the country at this moment, if you sit down to write any old book, does he think it's a run of the mill American novel?

Speaker Fitzgerald was very ambitious for literary greatness when he was at Princeton. He said, I want to be one of the greatest writers who ever lived, don't you?

Speaker And people thought that was a joke. It wasn't a joke. And having written this side of paradise, which was a fluke and the beautiful and Damned, which was a bad novel of Fitzgerald still in his 20s, I wanted to write a novel that would establish his literary greatness. And he wrote that letter to his editor, Maxwell Perkins, which he said he wanted to write something simple and complicated and.

Speaker Astonishingly, he conceives of a complex narrative structure that a kid in his 20s shouldn't have been capable of, really, but of course, we're talking about genius. Genius is born that way.

Speaker And Fitzgerald was a self-taught writer because genius knows what it needs to know and teaches itself what it needs to know. And The Great Gatsby is a result primarily of Fitzgerald's ambition, literary ambition.

Speaker That's great. So let's let's talk about the book for a second. How are we like Dreiser or are we seeing Harry on the first page? We know everything we need to know about Harry right off the bat.

Speaker In a sense, we never see Gatsby at all. Everything we learn about Gatsby, we learn from other people, mainly from Nick Carraway, the invention of Nick Carraway as partially involved. NARRATOR is the most brilliant thing about that novel. The novel would not work without Nick Carraway if there were no Nick Carraway to act as a filter. As an interpreter, Gatsby would seem a ridiculous character, a cartoon character in romance.

Speaker And Nick Carraway provides us with two things perspective, us being the readers perspective and judgment.

Speaker Nick is a very judgmental person. He's always weighing, assessing behaviour, conduct. And since the reader trusts Nick, the reader trusts Nick's judgments. And when at the end of the novel, Nick says to Gatsby, You're worth the whole damn bunch of film. The reader agrees, right?

Speaker So is it Fitzgerald who identifying with Nick, do you think that Nick is is Fitzgerald?

Speaker Nick is clearly the voice of F. Scott Fitzgerald in the novel. It's Fitzgerald's way of addressing the reader without seeming to intrude. Fitzgerald's great problem was keeping out of his work because Fitzgerald, as a writer, liked to talk directly to his readers. And in The Great Gatsby, Nick enabled Fitzgerald to be all over the place without being noticeable as Fitzgerald.

Speaker Nick, I mean, it just could be that the. Fitzgerald is Nick Nikias Fitzgerald.

Speaker Nick is the voice of F. Scott Fitzgerald, thank you.

Speaker Very good at this. Uh, so do you think that Fitzgerald believes that in America one can reinvent themselves, that Gatsby comes out of the American Middle Way?

Speaker And Fitzgerald giving a stamp of approval.

Speaker Fitzgerald, of course, was not Theodore Dreiser, whose background was much different, but Fitzgerald, well, Fitzgerald came out of solid middle class. The family lived on his grandfather's money. The grandfather was an Irish immigrant who'd gotten rich for what was in those days a small fortune in the grocery business in the Midwest. I suspect he was selling whiskey to the Indians, but that's never been proved. I'm serious. But Fitzgerald went to Eastern Prep School, went to Princeton. At the time, Princeton was a rich boy's club.

Speaker Are Dreiser was always an outsider guessing about how the rich live and usually getting it wrong. Fitzgerald was a spy. He was the insider. He was at the club. He wasn't a member of the club, but he was at the club as a guest of the member. Dreiser was outside mowing the lawn. Fitzgerald was in there and taking notes. He was a spy. And that's the big difference.

Speaker Talk to me. This is a great talk to me a bit about how Fitzgerald grows up. He he grew up in a big mansion in St. Paul.

Speaker So many things about F. Scott Fitzgerald life were symbolic. And one of them was the setting, the physical setting of his boyhood. He grew up on the best street in St. Paul, Minnesota. Summit Avenue are in rented apartments or rented houses. His father was a business failure. Everybody knew his father was a business failure. All of this, Gerald's friends on Summit Avenue were the children of wealthy, successful men. And Fitzgerald grew up with what he called a double barreled inferiority complex.

Speaker It's great, I mean, give me a sense of what some might have looked like as Fitzgerald's growing up in the teens.

Speaker Fitzgerald described Sumner Avenue, I think, as a museum of American architectural failures. It's got a lot of a lot of unattractive Victorian houses, but it also gives off the aura, the smell, the bouquet of money. It took money to live in those ugly houses. That's great. They were houses that required servants, by the way.

Speaker Let's go into the book for a second. What do you think, Daisy, in the book represents to Gatsby? What is?

Speaker What Daisy represents to Gatsby is no great mystery, Gatsby says it, her voice is full of money, old sport.

Speaker Get Daisy, Daisy represents to Gatsby the fulfillment of all the promises of American life for a poor Midwestern farm boy, which is to say.

Speaker In his own way, Fitzgerald, as much as Gatsby links money with sex, Daisy represents for Gatsby love and money and poor Dumb Gatsby, one of the great Dobis, an American literature, which is why we like them. Poor Dumb Gatsby confuses money with love, a mistake Tom Buchanan never makes.

Speaker So let's talk about this for a second. You know, Gatsby goes back to get Daisy if we can convert. She just any girl that he picks up after he's got his cat.

Speaker Gatsby's need to recover Daisy is expressed and Gatsby says very little novel, so whatever he says is memorable. And the most memorable thing he says is can't repeat the past. Why, of course you can, Gatsby.

Speaker Thinks that he can not just recover Daisy, but to relive the previous experience with Daisy and make it come out right this time.

Speaker Much of Fitzgerald's early fiction, which is to say. Uh.

Speaker Through the 30s is a retelling of his courtship again and again when you have a Fitz-Gerald male character winning or losing a woman, it's still another retelling of Fitzgerald wooing Zelda Sayre, losing soul, Zelda Sayre, winning Zelda Sayre by the miracle of writing a best selling novel for first time out.

Speaker And in a way, The Great Gatsby is a retelling of Fitzgerald's courtship with the Rinkel that during the summer Fitzgerald was rewriting The Great Gatsby.

Speaker He rewrote The Great Gatsby on the Riviera summer of 1924. His wife was betraying him. The extent of her unfaithfulness will never be known, but she had some kind of an involvement with a French aviator. And that feeling of betrayal, disappointment more than disappointment, heartache, heartbreak went into The Great Gatsby when Fitzgerald was writing about Gatsby and Daisy.

Speaker OK, let's talk about Sophie, just the girl she picks up on the street things. She's pretty.

Speaker Daisy represents to Gatsby the unattainable, which is miraculously attained under false pretenses. He isn't.

Speaker Jimmy GATT's, when he woos her, he's an officer by Act of Congress in a uniform and. Daisy believes everything he tells her about himself, in a way, he's a con man, but he represents to her.

Speaker The perfect life he represents to her the fulfillment of the dreams of Jimmy Gatz, the girl, and the money that goes with the girl, Great Scott Fitzgerald, or was it anything like what we read about in Gatsby?

Speaker Gatsby's courtship of Daisy is, in a sense, another version of Fitzgerald's courtship of Zelda Sayre with the difference that Zelda's people weren't rich but they had family which in the South was supposed to be better than money. Her father was the justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, and she was a notable southern belle at a time in American history when being a Southern belle was a sufficient career in itself.

Speaker Fitzgerald loved competition, and he wooed and won the most desirable, the most popular and most sought after girl in Alabama and Georgia.

Speaker And he won because, unlike Gatsby, he had money.

Speaker Now, Fitzgerald wooed Zelda and was unable to marry her because he was too poor to marry her. He went to New York to try to succeed, and he failed in New York in the advertising business. In desperation, he went on a bender, went back home to St. Paul, rewrote his rejected novel, and the miracle occurred. This side of paradise was not only accepted by the top American publishing house of the time, Charles Scribner's sons, but it sold more than 40000 copies. And like Lord Byron F.. Scott Fitzgerald woke up one day and found himself famous before he was 24 years old. And that's when he gets the girl and he got the girl with the girl came the money and.

Speaker In a way, in a way, stop, stop.

Speaker In a way, Gatsby in the novel tries to do what Fitzgerald did with the difference is that Fitzgerald did it, Fitzgerald got the girl. And as somebody once said, be very careful what you wish for. You may get it.

Speaker All right, so let's talk about that, OK, and fix your Jack Fitzgerald married the worst possible wife, a writer could have married a writer's wife, should be totally devoted to his work and she should keep the house quiet while he writes, should never, never distract him or upset him or interfere with his writing.

Speaker Instead, Fitzgerald married a woman who was selfish, undisciplined, who wanted to have a good time, and who probably never understood that her husband was, in fact a great writer and.

Speaker Fitzgerald had to achieve what he achieved by way of fulfilling his ambitions, by way of realizing his potential because he knew he was a genius, geniuses always know they're geniuses.

Speaker They have to be given the impediment of living with a woman who simply did not understand what her proper duties should be.

Speaker And if that sounds like a terrible sexist remark, you bet it is, because there's nothing more important than great writing. And if a woman marries a great writer, she should damn well commit herself to his work.

Speaker If they get their wives careers, all there is a note, a strong note of regret. Sadness that permeates The Great Gatsby, after all, it's about disappointed dreams, dreams that don't come true. And this, of course, proceeded from Fitzgerald's own feelings about living his own.

Speaker Myth of happiness and love and success while he was marinating The Great Gatsby, while he was thinking about writing The Great Gatsby, he wrote a string of short stories dealing with getting the girl and not getting the girl two of the best.

Speaker Or are the sensible thing, transparently autobiographical and Winter Dreams, which is one of Fitzgerald's most brilliant stories about not getting the girl and this notion of getting the girl or not getting the girl and its effect on.

Speaker Well, what do you waving at me? What are you waving at me for? Trying to.

Speaker I wanted to I want to ask you what while he's writing it, because that's just seeping its way into the novel.

Speaker Fitzgerald tried to write The Great Gatsby during 1923, during early 1924, Great Neck, Long Island, too many distractions.

Speaker He managed to finish some kind of draft. We don't know what that working draft was.

Speaker In April 1924, he decides to go to the Riviera, the French Riviera, which at that time was not fashionable during the summer where the living was supposed to be affordable, which was a myth because Fitzgerald couldn't live reasonably anyplace and where there would be no distractions and where he would be, therefore be able to devote himself totally to his novel because he believed that this was the turning point, the fulcrum and his literary career, that he was now ready to write his first great book and.

Speaker On the Riviera summer of 1924, while Fitzgerald is writing The Great Gatsby, his wife becomes involved with a French aviator. The extent of the involvement will never be known. Whether it was actual adultery or not can't be established. The only people who knew are dead, but nonetheless, it was more than a flirtation and.

Speaker Fitzgerald, who?

Speaker Loved to dramatize his own life, took it hard. He once wrote in his notebooks, taking things hard. That's the mark that goes into my work so that people can read it like Braille. He took it hard and his feelings about. Betrayal by loved woman. Inform The Great Gatsby, because, among other things, Daisy is the great American.

Speaker What do you what why? I mean, if somebody doesn't read the book, well, you just seem like you just seem like an easy.

Speaker It's not personal, but she is the one who not only is twice. Unable to keep her commitments to Gadsby, but she actually is guilty of collusion in his murder.

Speaker Apart from that, she's a charming girl and she doesn't speak up when she murders.

Speaker Hmm, right, well, she lets him take the rap for the hit and run accident, which she kills her husband's mistress accidentally. It's not deliberate. She lets Gatsby take the rap.

Speaker She keeps her mouth shut and probably.

Speaker She knows that her husband, Tom, has sent Wilson to kill Gatsby of.

Speaker Even if she doesn't actually plot with Tom, although Nick seems to indicate they are, because when he looks through the window and sees them, he said anyone would think they were plotting, even if she actually doesn't tell Tom what happened. Nonetheless, she keeps her mouth shut and that she dies and.

Speaker She makes no gesture, no expression of guilt or responsibility are.

Speaker And OK, go ahead, I'm sorry.

Speaker If any reader thinks that Daisy is an admirable character, that reader ought to take up another line of endeavor. Uh.

Speaker Idea. Uh, please go ahead.

Speaker So it is typical of Fitzgerald's genius that he is able to endow. A hard, selfish, vicious character with so much charm that superficial readers think Daisy is the heroine of the novel. All she is, is the female lead character does not the same as heroine. There's nothing admirable about Daisy. She's hard, cruel, mean, selfish.

Speaker There's something admirable for you about that.

Speaker Oh, God, yes. What?

Speaker Gatsby is one of the most admirable figures in all of American literature. He's faithful to his dreams. He's faithful to his commitments. Having committed himself to Daisy, he devotes the rest of his life.

Speaker To attempting to win her back, to keep his promises to fulfill all of the commitments that he made to Daisy during World War One, 1917, when he meets her in the Army training camp, no, Gatsby is not just an American hero.

Speaker He is probably the greatest romantic hero in American fiction.

Speaker And yet he's a bootlegger. He's a gangster.

Speaker Well, Fitzgerald very carefully doesn't let us know exactly what Gatsby is doing. It's hard to disapprove of him because we don't know what he's doing. He's certainly mixed up in bootlegging. In the 1920s, bootlegging was respectable with this notion.

Speaker I mean, his dad is Fitzgerald, the first one to come up with this idea up from your bootstraps.

Speaker And the American dream is as old as America. People always came to America for some form of opportunity. And before Fitzgerald, the American dream was enunciated by a man named Horatio Alger in a series of books intended for boys about ragged dick, the poor boy who succeeds.

Speaker And.

Speaker It is replicated in a whole series of great Americans, Ben Franklin and above all, Abraham Lincoln, Log Cabin to White House, the idea of the self-made man is a quintessentially American notion. In England, you're trapped in whatever class you happen to be born in. I'm sorry. Whereas in contrast, in England, people were expected to stay in their class.

Speaker So where do we see that in Fitzgerald's writing? Where does he give us the hints of Alja and of Franklin?

Speaker Well, certainly Jay Gatsby as to say Jimmy is straight out of the racial Alger books, but all with the exception of the beautiful and damned, but especially in the love of the last tycoon, the novel novelist Joe was writing on his deathbed, literally.

Speaker You have Fitz-Gerald retelling the American dream and Monroes star, the hero of the love of the last tycoon, is really the last Horatio Alger hero in American literature, the boy from the Bronx who becomes head of MGM.

Speaker Right. Let's let's talk about Fitz-Gerald starts to write, has every intention of writing the great American novel when it's finished.

Speaker His editor is agent. Everybody loves it. Does it become the great American, the novel?

Speaker I'm sorry. You know, the phrase the great American novel is meaningless. If it means anything, it means The Great Gatsby and the Great American novel was also the great American flop when it was published in 1925. It got warm reviews mostly of. Only one reviewer, Gilbert Seldes, identified it as a great work and Fitzgerald as a great writer, it's sold 20000 copies. That was the first printing. It sold out the first printing in 1925. A second printing of 3000 copies was ordered. And some of those copies were still in the warehouse on the day Fitzgerald died. Unsold copies. Fitzgerald's last royalty report for the year 1940 showed sales of seven copies of The Great Gatsby. I'm making a wild guess. I suspect that right now, seven copies a minute of The Great Gatsby are being sold in the United States.

Speaker So how does this life, as you characterize it, how does that affect Fitzgerald? It's just sort of roll off?

Speaker Well, Fitzgerald wrote so well about money because his career was based on money and he had hoped he had expected he always had high hopes for his books. He had hoped that The Great Gatsby would make enough money to allow him to devote himself to novel writing. Instead, the disappointment of The Great Gatsby meant that he would have to return to writing short stories. The subsidiary money was quite good for those days. The Great Gatsby was made into a bad movie. No copy survives one of the Lost American movies. It was also made into a play, The Submarine, which brought Fitzgerald in some money. But the book itself did not earn Fitzgerald much more than the advance. Fitzgerald had an advance from Scrivner actually was money he borrowed. He'd borrowed about 5000 dollars from Scribner, and The Great Gatsby barely paid back the money he'd borrowed against it.

Speaker So it was an emotionally devastating.

Speaker I don't know about emotionally devastating.

Speaker Fitzgerald knew he'd done a beautiful piece of work and he had pride in that.

Speaker But it meant that he couldn't restructuring plan, rebuild his career all through his life.

Speaker Fitzgerald was always planning to rebuild his career on a sound basis so he could be a serious writer without distractions.

Speaker And the disappointment of The Great Gatsby meant that he had to keep writing short stories. On the other hand, the disappointment of Tender is the night 1934, which is a much greater novel than The Great Gatsby.

Speaker By the way, the disappointment of the tender is the night 1934 did produce a terrible psychological effect, and it triggered what's known as Fitzgerald's Crack-Up period. But the the failure, relative failure of The Great Gatsby in 2005 did not produce a crackup. It just meant that Fitzgerald would not be able to live the kind of literary life he wanted to live.

Speaker Okay, last question. For many I these folks just really about a moment, a snapshot of a time that's gone by. And the question I have is what possibly could The Great Gatsby have to say to us all?

Speaker Great fiction, at least all great American fiction is great. Social history of The Great Gatsby has become the novel of the 1920s. When people think of the 1920s, they think of The Great Gatsby. They think that The Great Gatsby and they're mainly right, not entirely right, provides an accurate evocation of the feeling of the 1920s, not just the activities, not just the facts, the details, but the feeling of what it was like to be in New York in the 1920s. And people still read The Great Gatsby for its value as an American social history document for its evocative power, not its reportorial power, its evocative power.

Speaker Is there something about the themes of reinvention, the themes of the. The themes of loss that still speak to us as well, so that it's not just social history, or is that primarily what you see it as long as.

Speaker Gifted boys have dreams and ambitions as long as people don't want to be what they are, they want to be something different, something better, as long as young men commit themselves to.

Speaker Beautiful young women.

Speaker The Great Gatsby will be current.

Matthew Bruccoli
Interview Date:
2000-07-05
Runtime:
0:52:29
Keywords:
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
cpb-aacip-504-hd7np1x563
MLA CITATIONS:
"Matthew Bruccoli, Novel Reflections on the American Dream." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 05 Jul. 2000, https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/570
APA CITATIONS:
(2000, July 05). Matthew Bruccoli, Novel Reflections on the American Dream. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/570
CHICAGO CITATIONS:
"Matthew Bruccoli, Novel Reflections on the American Dream." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). July 05, 2000. Accessed June 25, 2022 https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/570

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