A New Realm of The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby, a love story made extraordinary by the sad yet perfectly characterised Jay Gatsby…

Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby
Jay Gatsby himself, ‘Old Sport!’

Last night F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby overwhelmed me once again, this time in a totally new realm. I have seen the 1974 Great Gatsby film, directed by Jack Clayton starring Robert Redford, watched those electric party scenes over and over again with complete awe – wishing myself there, reliving the novel I became enchanted by the first time I picked it up. And I’ve read the novel countless times, falling more and more in love with Fitzgerald and the world he penned so perfectly. Nevertheless,  that doesn’t take away from how special I found watching The Great Gatsby on the big screen last night.

No matter how many times I have read The Great Gatsby or, in fact, any of Fitzgerald’s novels, long or short, without fail I am guaranteed to be ignited by his acute characterisations, his ability to materialise the human condition so tenderly on paper and his faultlessly captivating descriptive writing that paints with clarity a very rich and colourful picture of the Roaring Twenties. To any writer, aspiring writer, literature enthusiast or lover of a good narrative, I have no doubt that Fitzgerald or his definitive novel The Great Gatsby will mean something to them too, for me Fitzgerald is the only writer I have come across thus far that inspires me to write and intimidates my writing on a daily basis. He is the writer that sets the bar and leaves that antagonising voice in the back of my head that says, ‘You’ll never write anything nearly as good as this.’

Watching Baz Lurhmann‘s The Great Gatsby last night was overwhelming and spectacular, of course for all my admiration and respect for Fitzgerald and the novel, but also because it would be the first time I would see this great American Classic come to life in my lifetime, with actors I am familiar with, fashion designers that I covet, fashion eras that I have studied and the Roaring Twenties, an epoch that I have fallen in love with, studied and written because of my admiration for Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby, the 1920s, literature and fashion all mean so much more to me now than it did when I first read the novel, because since then I have had plenty of time to cultivate my understanding for each of these elements and neither of them has ever failed to keep my intrigue.

 After reading reviews that claimed that the 2013 film rendition of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s defining American Modern Classic was all style no substance, my heart plummeted, I wanted nothing more than for Baz Luhrmann and Leonardo Di Caprio to raise goosebumps across the world. The promotion had been nothing but alluring, the trailer was magnetic, the press was sending out the buzz accordingly, designers were creating Flapper inspired collections, features on Fitzgerald and Zelda filled the pages of the Fashion glossies for months before its release and in the lead up to the premiere The Great Gatsby and all things associated had gone viral on Social Media. It was a move that was truly ‘highly anticipated’ and had been set on a pedestal to be brilliant and I wanted nothing more than it to be so.

Admittedly I was apprehensive when I when I sat down to watch it, for it to be disappointing would have been heartbreaking. It takes moments to recognise the film is highly stylised, but with it it’s visually stunning and what of the novel can’t be conveyed  in film has been translated into a symbolism that evokes the senses that film calls upon. Gatsby was noisy, opulent and colourful hence you hear the music, because you’re familiar with it, you see the colour because it’s almost cartoonish and emphasised and you feel the opulence, because the entire film is exactly so – opulent at all angles. That’s the style, now the substance; I could argue that the style in itself has already offered up a pretty good foundation in itself, but  if that’s all a little too floaty, then Toby Maguire and Leonardo DiCaprio’s rendition of Nick Carraway and Jay Gatsby most certainly brought the film back down to earth with their weight and substance. Of course I expected Leonardo Di Caprio to be nothing short of impressive, for me he is up there with the greats of our time, and his performance was unsurprisingly superb. However,what I hadn’t expected was, to be so moved by Toby Maguire’s rendition of Nick Carraway. I suppose I have always been so fascinated by Fitzgerald’s creation of the character Jay Gatsby, that I hadn’t given much thought to what I might expect of Nick Carraway’s characterisation in the film. Toby Maguire evoked such a sympathy for Nick Carraway that it brought to the screen a character that was just as discernible and as moving as Jay Gatsby.

In my humble opinion, if you are going to watch Baz Luhrmann’s Great Gatsby this spring, don’t go expecting to see a perfect imitation of the pages you read in the book on screen – The Help was very successful at this achievement, as was Sam Mendes’ film adaptation of Nick Yates’ Revolutionary Road. Nevertheless, what you will see is a film director that has celebrated his visual medium by recreating the tale of The Great Gatsby in a way that is entirely exclusive to film and what you should appreciate is the chance to experience the novel in a whole new dimension.

I’ll put my hands up and say, I am no film writer and that I am writing this on account of the fact that any chance I get to talk about, read about or write about Fitzgerald I will do so, but what I will say is, I wasn’t disappointed. Half way through the film I took a moment to appreciate how immersed and possessed I was by this visual marvel. The hairs on my arms were raised, my senses were stirred and there I was again, like when I read the novel, wishing myself at those parties, guessing Gatsby, growing angry at Daisy Buchanan, tingled by Carraway’s observations, hating Tom Buchanan, loving Gatsby, then feeling sorry for him, then empathising with him…. For me, watching the film was just another way I could run in the playground of the world that was F. Scott Fitzgerald and again, I was ignited. 

Leonardo DiCaprio - Gatsby
The Great Gatsby – Daisy comes for tea
Toby Maguire - The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby party scene
The Great Gatsby Flappers
Great-Gatsby-Flappers at the party scene
Daisy, Nick, Jay Gatsby and Tom
Daisy, Nick, Jay Gatsby and Tom party scene at Gatsby’s
The Great Gatsby party scene
The Great Gatsby party scene – exquisite!

Be charmed, stay inspired! x      

Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Tender is the Night Book Cover
Tender is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald

My readers will know that I have an undying love for F Scott Fitzgerald, his literature and the era he penned to perfection. The flappers,  the Charleston, Art Deco design and ‘the whole shebang’! It came to my attention recently that I have none of the Fitzgerald quotes that have been charming me for so long on Charms of a Dandizette…so I though I should share some.

It was my attempt to reread my Fitzgerald collection before the release of The Great Gatsby film starring Leonardo Di Caprio and Carey Mulligan. However, since finishing Tender is the Night I have been drawn to another book, the same book that possibly every other woman at present has been drawn to – E. L James’ Fifty Shades of Grey – there’s plenty to say about that but I shan’t digress. So, I began my Fitzgerald journey with Tender is the Night.

Tender is the Night is yet another of Fitzgerald’s devastating and gentle tales about the fall from grace, the wonders of falling in love quickly and uncontrollably – without reason, whilst falling out of it slowly and painfully with complete clarity.

I love to read Fitzgerald because I adore his capacity to write the human condition so well – regardless of whether he or any of his characters were ever able outsmart it.  Tender is the the Night paints the perfect picture or illusion for destruction.

I had to share my favourite quotes! x

 Tender is the Night Quotes

“Often a man can play the helpless child in front of a woman, but he can almost never bring it off when he feels most like a helpless child.”

“The strongest guard is placed at the gateway to nothing. Maybe because the condition of emptiness is too shameful to be divulged.”

“Well, you never knew exactly how much space you occupied in people’s lives. Yet from this fog his affection emerged–the best contacts are when one knows the obstacles and still wants to preserve a relation.”

“When I see a beautiful shell like that I can’t help feeling a regret about what’s inside it.”

“New friends can often have a better time together than old friends.”

“It is not necessarily poverty of spirit that makes a woman surround herself with life—it can be a superabundance of interest…”

“…The delight on Nicole’s face–to be a feather again instead of a plummet, to float and not to drag.”

“…To be included in Dick Diver’s world for a while was a remarkable experience: people believed he made special reservations about them, recognizing the proud uniqueness of their destinies, buried under the compromises of how many years. He won everyone quickly with an exquisite consideration and a politeness that moved so fast and intuitively that it could be examined only in its effect. Then, without caution, lest the first bloom of the relation wither, he opened the gate to his amusing world. So long as they subscribed to it completely, their happiness was his preoccupation, but at the first flicker of doubt as to its all-inclusiveness he evaporated before their eyes, leaving little communicable memory of what he had said or done.”

Tender is the Night by F Scott Fitzgerald, 1934

F.Scott Fitzgerald – A Love Story

I watch the infamous party scene from The Great Gatsby with the exact same intensity I watch a Lanvin show. With that bottled up combustible excitement. Each and every time I am completely bowled over. The amount of fabulousness all in one place is overwhelming and deliciously tempting. Oh how I would still do anything to be at that party, amongst all that glitz and glamour. To wear those dresses and pile them up with the fanciest of accessories, drink those cocktails, smoke from those cigarette holders (even if I think smoking is ghastly) and dance the Charleston in the Roaring Twenties.

I learned and fell in love with the roaring twenties; the flappers, the slickers, the slang, the excess and the scepticism that came along with it through reading the literature of the man who wrote it to perfection. I can’t imagine this glittering era without my mind instantly painting a picture that has been conjured up by language as evocative as a John Held illustration. It is indeed the astounding Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald that I have fallen in love with. I liked him in Jelly Bean, Bernice Bobs her Hair and A Diamond as Big as the Ritz. I was infatuated by him in This Side of Paradise and Tender is the Night and by the time I read The Beautiful and Damned I had decided it was a full blown wondrous affair- as exciting and passionate as any flapper romance or cocktail party.

The books of my Fitzgerald collection are like indexes, with self adhesive tabs that I use to indicate all the reasons I love the twenties, literature and Fitzgerald. How I had read myself around the world, Roberto Bolano and Paulo Coelho of Spain, Melissa Panarello of Sicily, Gabriel Garcia Marques of Colombia, Carlos Fuentes of Mexico and Isabelle Allende of Chile, before reading the man that would change the way I read literature forever is a wonder. He is to me, the great novelist that puts into context all the other great novels of the world.

F. Scott Fitzgerald was born in St. Paul Minnesota, in 1896.  His debut novel, This Side of Paradise, was published in 1920. It was the first novel that would delineate the younger generation and possibly even helped to shape it. The 1920s was the earliest era in which children were relieved the duties of adults. Teenagers had the luxury of their adolescence and youth began to form its own culture.

The impact of this debut novel could not have been predicted, it became a bestseller in just two weeks. He became the man that was on the tips of everyone’s tongues, the media celebrated him, the debutantes formed their lives around him and parents winced, with the hope that this new flapper was just a fictitious character. She attended petting parties, she enjoyed flirting, she was at her best when the centre of a man’s attention and took great pleasure in watching herself being admired. This was a completely different mindset to the Victorian parents of these children and their reaction may explain why Fitzgerald’s novels were rejected in the outset.

Fitzgerald wrote continuously throughout his childhood and managed to have plays, short stories and musicals published in school publications, staged in school productions and eventually in his local theatre. But it wasn’t until 1917 that Fitzgerald he would begin to pen the novel that has made him the famous literary that he is today. Fitzgerald wrote one hundred and twenty thousand words in just three months. The novel was titled The Romantic Egotist and like many of his novels was a semi-autobiographical tale. Unfortunately the novel was rejected, with a letter accompanying the manuscript stating that, ‘It was too crude and too incoherent.’ B. F Wilson for the Smart Set wrote in 1924. Desperate for money and keen to write, Fitzgerald applied to work as a News reporter, but was unsuccessful in finding work. Eventually he found a day job as a Copywriter for Barron Collier and wrote short stories in the evening. Fitzgerald collected over one hundred and twenty two rejections of his short stories from editors.  He tried his hand at writing advertising concepts, poems, songs and movies but this was with no avail. Still determined to be published Fitzgerald quit his copywriting job and put his heart and soul into rewriting The Romantic Egotist, which soon became published as This Side of Paradise. Two months after Fitzgerald found himself the literary celebrity all nine of his short stories were printed in magazines.

He made his sweetheart, Zelda Sayre his wife the same year his novel was published.  The couple began to live out the material which would be the life line of his novels. They had a great hunger for life and lived it with an enthusiasm that was almost limitless. They were icons in New York, became part of the literary expat crowd in Paris and the Riviera, where they socialised with the likes of Hemmingway, Gertrude Stein and John Dos Passos, and flocked to Italy where Fitzgerald wrote. Just two years after Fitzgerald’s claim to fame he published his second novel, The Beautiful and Damned. The novel documents the romantic and tragic story of his life and love for his wife, the flapper he made iconic.

Fitzgerald was crowned the chronicler of the flapper, renowned for his sensationalism of this young girl. He wrote them with a faultless and astute observation. Although at times this new modern girl may have exasperated him, he was undeniably intrigued by her and all that she thought she was afforded. With the power of literature, the press and publicity Fitzgerald had created the flapper that every girl wanted to be and every man wanted to marry. The most enviable and coveted flapper was indeed a Fitzgerald flapper – she was Mrs Zelda Fitzgerald (Grace Patch), the woman he marries in The Beautiful and Damned. Between the artistic couple they have documented the flapper’s readings, her dancing, her fashion and her makeup. They critiqued her morals, made observations on her love life, debated her ambitions and made her one of the most fascinating women in literature and history today. It would appear that the fast life caught up with Fitzgerald, died in 1940 of a heart attack at just forty years old, leaving his novel The Last Tycoon unfinished.

 

Be Charmed, Stay Inspired

Rene Gruau Fashion illustration for Vogue Paris cover
Rene Gruau Cover Design for Vogue June/July 1985

When I am unispired I am as good as dead – I lose my whole sense of being. I am most excited about life, about its prospects and potential when my mind is open and switched on. I’m receptive, sponge like and turned on by everything.  However, I am  not always in this state of mind, so tuned in and turned on. There is that recurring dark cloud that forms from time to time that obstructs me from locating the point of it all. Inspiration? Art? Creativity? This blog? In this position I am cynical, destructive and above all, unhappy.

At the moment my mind is skipping ahead of me, collecting inspirations and ideas too fast for me to keep up or execute in anyway. I am losing sleep and my fingers are tingling with a desire to do something amazing. A quote from Paolo Sorrentino‘s Consequences of Love springs to mind; ‘I want to die and extraordinary death’. So, for the days that are uninspiring, when the black cloud casts itself and passion momentarily relocates itself, the posts from Charms of a Dandizette, whether it’s a quote, a film, a book or a person, should help to locate an escape route, that should lead to being inspired once again.

Be Charmed, Stay Inspired x

London, Fashion, Weak: A Fashion Anecdote

Fashion Illustration by Jean-Philippe Delhomme

Without making any impact or holding any significance to the thing, ashamedly, she had noted, she took a revolting pride at her being here. She was aware she didn’t belong, she had no admission, she barely recognised herself in the thing and the thing only painstakingly and reluctantly recognised her. But for the greater good of her life, her success and everything she wanted to embody she challenged the thing every day and the thing challenged her back just as hard. She loved it and uncontrollably embraced it, but as she became better acquainted she began to distinguish the chinks and had forlornly accepted that this was a merciless and non reciprocal love, unhealthy and highlighting the malevolent vanity that resided within her. A vanity so powerful and powerless it fuelled the very ambition that was aflame insider her. She knew that a battle against the thing was one she did not possess the vigour and sanctuary to win, so instead she admired, photographed and wrote about those that belonged, those that it admitted and hoped that one day fashion would recognise her too.

Written by Ayesha Charles

Anna Karenina by Leo Toltsoy

Inspired by a visit to Waterstones and Leo Toltsoy’s opening line of Anna Karenina

Yesterday I spent two hours in Waterstones selecting my next read. I have just finished Gabrielle Garcia Marquez’s Memories of my Melancholy Whores, so there were some stipulations on my next read; it wasn’t to be set in Latin America or the Caribbean, nor could it utilise magical realism, had to be written by a woman – as I cannot tell you the last book I read written by a female – and must be just released or, at the least, contemporary.

With all that in mind, I found myself choosing between William Makepeace Thackeray’s Vanity Fair and Leo Toltsoy’s Anna Karenina.  Vanity Fair seemed most appropriate as it explores many of the themes the very novel I am still attempting to write explores. However, I read the opening  line of Anna Karenina and was moved instantly.

‘All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’ Anna Karenina, Leo Toltsoy

The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger

“If a body Catch a body coming through the rye…………..”Holden Caulfield

There are no words to describe the simplistic genius of this book…J.D Salinger’s Holden Caulfield declares his struggle to utilise the most effective language to articulate himself, yet his his voice and the language he employs to convey his outlook on the world ironically creates a perfectly articulated character, whose observations and opinions I so frequently delighted with agreement.

The acute observation required to write such a character as Holden, who at large is a pretty typical adolescent boy punctuated with moments of greatness, is admirable. Salinger’s Holden is so powerful that you lose Salinger entirely and follow the words of a character that genuinely seems to have his own soul. This novel exemplifies the brilliance of a simple character driven tale.

Quotes

If I could I’d quote the entire book…

Holden: I’m the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life. It’s awful. If I’m on my way to the store to buy a magazine, even,  and somebody asks me where I’m going, I’m liable to say I’m going to the opera.

 …

Holden: “I am always saying “Glad to’ve met you” to somebody I’m not at all glad I met. If you want to stay alive, you have to say that stuff, though.” 

Holden: I think if you don’t really like a girl, you shouldn’t horse around with her at all, and if you do like her, then you’re supposed to like her face, and if you like her face, you ought to be careful about doing crumby stuff to it, like squirting water all over it. It’s really too bad that so much crumby stuff is a lot of fun sometimes. 

Holden to Sally: “You ought to go to a boys’ school sometime. Try it sometime,” I said. “It’s full of phonies, and all you do is study so that you can learn enough to be smart enough to be able to buy a goddam Cadillac some day…”

Mr Antolini to Holden: “I’m not trying to tell you,” he said, “that only educated and scholarly men are able to contribute something valuable to the world. It’s not so. But I do say that educated and scholarly men, if they’re brilliant and creative to begin with – which, unfortunately, is rarely the case – tend to leave infinitely more valuable records behind them than men do who are merely brilliant and creative. They tend to express themselves more clearly, and they usually have a passion for following their thoughts through to the end. And – most important – nine times out of ten they have more humility than the unscholarly thinker. Do you follow me at all?”  

Mr Antolini to Holden: “Something else an academic education will do for you. If you go along with it any considerable distance, it’ll begin to give you an idea what size mind you have. What it’ll fit and, maybe, what it won’t. After a while, you’ll have an idea what kind of thoughts your particular size mind should be wearing. For one thing, it may save you an extraordinary amount of time trying on ideas that don’t suit you, aren’t becoming to you. You’ll begin to know your true measurements and dress your mind accordingly.”

“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.” Holden

The Catcher in the Rye, J D Salinger January 1, 1919 – January 27, 2010