The Great Gatsby is the Favorite Book of a Famous 20-21st Century Japanese Writer!


“Here Are Haruki Murakami’s Five Favorite Books” (from LitHub)

Haruki Murakami is a Japanese writer. At the top of the list of his top 5 favorite books is none other than The Great Gatsby!

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

“If I were forced to select only one [book that has meant the most to me], I would unhesitatingly choose Gatsby. Had it not been for Fitzgerald’s novel, I would not be writing the kind of literature I am today (indeed, it is possible that I would not be writing at all, although that is neither here or there).”

Wonder how Fitzgerald has possibly influence Murakami? Here is a passage from wikipedia that describes his writing:

“Most of Haruki Murakami’s works use first-person narrative in the tradition of the Japanese I Novel. He states that because family plays a significant role in traditional Japanese literature, any main character who is independent becomes a man who values freedom and solitude over intimacy. . . . Another notable feature of Murakami’s stories are the comments that come from the main characters as to how strange the story presents itself. Murakami explains that his characters experience what he experiences as he writes, which could be compared to a movie set where the walls and props are all fake.”  (This quote reminds me of the narration, and narrator, of The Great Gatsby, in that I wonder what Nick Carraway is making up as he re-writes Gatsby’s story. If he has the other characters experience what he experiences when he re-writes or re-tells himself/us Gatsby’s story.)

“[Murakami] has further compared the process of writing to movies: “That is one of the joys of writing fiction—I’m making my own film made just for myself.”

I highly recomment Murikami’s dystopian novel, IQ84 and the recent film adaptation of his short story, “Drive My Car.”



We Can Never Know Enough About Characters!

In a letter to his editor, Maxwell Perkins, dated 20 December, 1924 (the year before Scribners published The Great Gatsby, and before he had finally settled on the novel’s title), in response to Perkins’s comments that “Gatsby is somewhat vague” and “everything about Gatsby is more or less a mystery . . . and this may be somewhat of an artistic intention,” F. Scott Fitzgerald responded: “I myself didn’t know what Gatsby looked like or was engaged in.” Fitzgerald returned to his manuscript draft to develop Gatsby’s into the character, the figure, the protagonist, the novel’s hero,  that we know in the published novel, while keeping certain aspects of his identity mysterious, one might even say mythical.

To assist our discussion of characters and characterization/character development in the novel, I have included a helpful overview in the link below.  Although what it addresses in explaining different types of characters in fiction for fiction writers, the online article is also informative for readers and students of fiction. If you activate your extension while reading it, you’ll be able to annotate it!

“All the Different Types of Characters in Literature” from Master Class

Here is an excerpt to get you thinking about possible ways to identify the characters in The Great Gatsby by “kind” or “type” of character: “There are three ways to categorize character types. One is via archetypes—broad descriptions of the different types of characters that populate human storytelling. Another way is to group characters by the role they play over the course of the story. The third method is to group characters by quality, spelling out the way they change or stay the same within a narrative.”

The “archetype” will be especially relevant in Unit 2 when we explore the myth-like aspects of the novel and of its titular character, the mythologizing of Nick as the narrator, and the myths about America that F. Scott Fitzgerald seems to be exploring to show, in part, how such myth-making happens, to demythologize or demystify those myths, critique our investment in myth, etc.

The Gatsby Jam groups can refer to this article if it helps their Jam, though the information in this article will be relevant to all of you in the Unit 1 longform writing assignment you will be working on beginning with Freewrite 3 on Asynchronous Friday. The descriptions of the kinds of characters are rather broad, so I also suggest a quick wiki search if you are interested in writing more about characters-character development- characterization in relation to human nature/the human condition, society, etc. in your assignment.

For example, the Wikipedia explanation of “Foil” both echoes what Master Class explains, elaborates slightly, and also provides some etymological information, i.e. an original definition,  “. . . the word foil comes from the old practice of backing gems with foil to make them shine more brightly. . .” and adds even more examples from a variety of fictional works.

In closing, I’ve decided to let a few writers have that last word in this blog post:

“You can never know enough about your characters.” W. Somerset Maugham

On the reciprocal relationship between character + plot: “Plot grows out of character. If you focus on who the people in your story are, something is bound to happen.” Anne Lamott

On creating characters who are not merely stereotypes or caricatures: “When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.  — Ernest Hemingway, from Death in the Afternoon

On the relationship between fictional characters and ordinary people: “The character that lasts is an ordinary guy with some extraordinary qualities.” — Raymond Chandler

“I try to create sympathy for my characters, then turn the monsters loose.” ―Stephen King

On the significance of minor characters (I mentioned this Wednesday) in class: “It is sometimes the minor, not the major, characters in a novel who hold the author’s affection longest. It may be that one loses affection for the major characters because they suck off so much energy as one pushes them through their lives.” –Larry McMurtry

On characters as either likeable or unlikeable: “Creating characters is like throwing together ingredients for a recipe. I take characteristics I like and dislike in real people I know, or know of, and use them to embellish and define characters.” –Cassandra Clare

Lastly, “Characters must not brood too long.  They must not waste time running up and down ladders in their own insides.” –E.M. Forster. Is this why some people don’t like Nick Carraway? Not just because he is the narrator but because he is too much in his own headspace (though he is, arguable, not always transparent and honest. But, is this what happens when a character does this who is also the narrator? Does that connect to their unreliability? 

A Great Gatsby Top Ten from 2012

On 9  June 2012, a year before the release of Baz Luhrman’s film adaptation of The Great Gatsby, the following article was published in The Guardian (which is, by the way, a British newspaper).

“The Great Gatsby Facts – In Pictures: 10 things you should know about The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.” Of these 10 things — or facts — one of the most interesting to me is the novel’s reception by some writers and critics who were Fitzgerald’s contemporaries:

“Upon its publication, Gatsby was praised by fellow writers such as Edith Wharton, Willa Cather and TS Eliot, who called it “the first step the American novel has taken since Henry James”. However, critics were less kind – HL Mencken felt it was “no more than a glorified anecdote” – and the book fell into relative obscurity until after Fitzgerald’s death. It was reassessed in the late 1940s and is now widely considered a masterpiece. ”

The image that goes with the above quotation shows “The Great Gatsby featured on Time Magazine’s all-time 100 greatest novels list.” For some reason the image that made Time’s cover was not of the actual book cover, but a still from the 1974 film adaptation!

Also of interest are the other titles Fitzgerald contemplated before finally choosing (with a nudge from his editors at Scribners) The Great Gatsby:

“Fitzgerald was never completely happy with the [novel’s] title; shortly before publication he made several attempts to change it – to Trimalchio in West Egg; Gold-Hatted Gatsby; and Under the Red, White and Blue – but was overruled. Other titles considered included Among Ash-Heaps and Millionaires and The High-Bouncing Lover. The title he eventually went with (which owes a debt to Alain-Fournier’s 1913 novel Le Grand Meaulnes) was, he felt, “only fair, rather bad than good.”

Here is the wikipedia link to Le Grand Meaulnes, which includes the English translation of the French title: “impulsive, reckless and heroic, Meaulnes embodies the romantic ideal, the search for the unobtainable, and the mysterious world between childhood and adulthood.”

What do YOU think of these other titles?

Eleven years later in 2023, what would YOU consider putting in a Top 10 Things Contemporary Readers should Know about The Great Gatsby?

Human Behavior & the Human Condition

I’ve been thinking a lot about the starting questions from our first Google Doc collaboration, and here is another, inspired by one of my favorite singer-songwriter-musician-performers, Bjork: What aspects of the human condition are on display from the characters in The Great Gatsby?”

Let’s see what from her song “Human Behavior” resonates with human behavior in The Great Gatsby–and what that might imply, show, or even critique about the human condition, and what F. Scott Fitzgerald wanted to convey about it . . . 


Click here for the Official Music Video for “Human Behavior”

Click here for the Song + Lyrics for “Human Behavior”

Human Behavior
If you ever get close to a human and human behavior
Be ready, be ready to get confused and me and my here after
There’s definitely, definitely, definitely no logic to human behavior
But yet so, yet so irresistible and me and my fear can
And there is no map uncertain
They’re terribly, terribly, terribly moody of human behavior
Then all of a sudden, turn happy and they and my here after
But oh, to get involved in the exchange of human emotions
Is ever so, ever so satisfying and they and my here on
And there is no map and chair too
Human behavior, human behavior
Human behavior, human behavior
And there is no map
And a compass wouldn’t help at all
Yeah, uncertain
Human behavior, human behavior
Human behavior, human behavior
Human behavior, human behavior
Human behavior
There’s definitely, definitely, definitely no logic
To human, to human, to human, to human
There’s definitely, definitely, definitely no logic
To human, to human, to human, to human

Find your current! Welcome to The Great Gatsby: Myth to Meme

The Great Gatsby tattoo art! 

This song by The Whispers could be Gatsby’s theme song. Here, have a listen:  “And the Beat Goes On”

Check out these lyrics and compare them to the quotation in the tattoo, which is a quotation from the end of The Great Gatsby:

“And the beat goes on
Just like my love everlasting
And the beat goes on
Still moving strong on and on

Do you ever wonder
That to win, somebody’s got to lose
I might as well get over the blues
Just like fishing in the ocean
There’ll always be someone new

You did me wrong ’cause I’ve been through stormy weather

And the beat goes on
Just like my love everlasting
And the beat goes on you’d better believe it
Still moving strong on and on

Don’t stop for nobody
This time I’ll keep my feet on solid ground
Now I understand myself when I’m down
Like the sweet sound of hip music
There’ll always be something new
To keep the tables turning
Hey, this super song
There’ll never be an ending

And the beat goes on
Just like my love everlasting
And the beat goes on
Still moving strong on and on
The beat goes on
The beat goes on

Get down playing that fee, sure the beat is real

The beat goes on . . . ” (and repeats past lyrics for a full 4:29 minutes . . .)