My most unexpectedly-wonderful experience in the last year was being in the audience for a seven-hour reading of The Great Gatsby. I feel thankful that my son insisted I rush for tickets to the always-sold-out off-Broadway play “Gatz” and that I lucked into a second-row seat.
I’d forever loved the beginning and ending of the novel, both prose poems of the highest order, and the way they make it easy to teach point-of-view because the reader knows nothing of Gatsby except through the narrator who Scott Shepherd plays, Nick Carroway. Between the beginning and the end was a heavily-plotted novel that I’d read several times but never really fallen in love with.
I’d always considered Tender is the Night superior. An example of the prose in Gatsby I used to fight, even think of as over-written, is, “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money of their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made." I found such assertions overstated, but I realize now they’re 100% consistent with Fitzgerald’s truth and those of his stand-in, Nick Carroway.
Scott Shepherd’s reading, and the ensemble cast acting out the parts with him made me see the novel as entirely deserving of its bookends. The reenactment brought Gatsby’s love for Daisy to life. Ultimately I began to take Carroway’s (and Fitzgerald’s) word that Gatsby was truly, hopelessly in love with Daisy, and to accept the plot as well. He gave his life for her.
I now see The Great Gatsby as a chilling story of love-conquers-all, even life itself. This point of view, which I previously thought overly-romantic, has allowed me to accept Gatsby, lying face-down in the pool, as tragic. Scott Shepherd lowered my defenses so I could accept Gatsby’s feelings for Daisy as true love.
Causes Kevin Arnold Supports
Poetry Center San Jose, East Palo Alto Police Activities League (EPA PAL), Squaw Valley Community of Writers, Yale Writing Conference, Gold Rush Writers