Our reading group’s selection for last month was Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, paired with Anita Loos‘ Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Part of the reason for the selection was that a new film of The Great Gatsby is scheduled to come out this summer and we want to have a group outing.
I’ve read the book years before, but don’t remember much of the details except the lonely figure of Gatsby standing in the back of his mansion looking out to the green light across the water. Reading it again, I was able to notice and appreciate a lot more, including the opportunities and optimism after the WWI, the prohibition, and the conflicts between “old money” and the “newly rich”.
Anita Loos’ book has nothing to do Fitzgerald’s content or perspective, but it was written in the ’20s, the same time period. I found it incredible that the stories were written by a woman – they were not only mocking men, but women as well. Both books were popular and developed into films. Loos’ book was written with tremendous humor, which probably played a key role in its success. Still I found it hard to believe Loos, a very successful screenwriter of the time, wrote something of this nature. Yet the other three women in my group, all strong characters, appeared to take in the book with good humor. The era in which it was written probably saved it.
Interestingly, The Great Gatsby reminded me somehow of China’s situation today in which the newly rich is grabbing money in unprecedented speed, and at the same time, the country is going through crisis of morality, widening disparity between the haves and have nots, and a sense of spiritual emptiness under the economic prosperity.
I look forward to watching the new interpretation and presentation of the Great Gatsby film with by group.
Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning documentary film by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset. Visit www.mulberrychildmovie.com for more information.