Thursday, October 25, 2007

The inexhaustible variety of life

I'm taking a break from writing an article which is really giving my brain a good wringing. See, I've been invited by a magazine - whose main audience is journalists - to write a piece about, you guessed it: Graphic Novels. This is a task that I approach with extreme caution, and, I must admit, with a slight sinking sensation. That said, I also don't want to miss an opportunity to show "our thing" in the best way I possibly can, especially when the audience comprises the very people we hope will embrace, understand and write insightfully about it.

As a regular reader of Mr Campbell's blog, I know that this topic is a minefield. But the Bug is (relatively) unafraid! Let's see what I come up with... and whether my mate Campbell tears me into small strips afterwards, and then "does what he can to make the strips miserable" (with apologies to Raymond Chandler - see here for more quotes). I'm optimistically hoping that we'll all be happy with the result.

So I'm taking a breather from this arduous task, and thinking about another adaptation of The Great Gatsby which came to my attention recently, and which I would dearly love to see. It's a theatre production by a New York company called Elevator Repair Service, titled "Gatz" (which is of course Jay Gatsby's "real" surname). This is what their website says about it:

James Gatz - that was really, or at least legally, his name.

One morning in the low-rent office of a mysterious small business, one employee finds a ragged old copy of The Great Gatsby in the clutter of his desk and starts to read it out loud. And doesn't stop.

At first his coworkers hardly seem to notice, but then weird coincidences start happening in the office, one after another, until it's no longer clear whether he's reading the book or the book is doing something to him. . . .

6 hours long and with a cast of 13, Gatz is by far ERS's most ambitious endeavor yet — not a stage adaptation of Fitzgerald's novel but a verbatim reading of the entire book [my emphasis], accomplished by the staff of a small office in the midst of their increasingly bewildering business operations.


A verbatim reading of the entire book! In this mysterious office context! Extraordinary! The actor who plays the protagonist of the play actually knows the entire novel by heart. This fact alone thrills and amazes me - partly because it evinces a truly Gatsby-esque level of passion that I wholeheartedly admire, and can certainly relate to. But on top of this, the play sounds really fabulous - and it's certainly snared excellent reviews.

I've had a lovely exchange of emails with a member of Elevator Repair Service, John Collins, who is (of course) a huge Gatsby fan. And I'm delighted to report that he gave my adaptation of Gatsby an absolutely glowingly huge rap, and said that it moved him to tears. Beam!

Of course I am thrilled that the book resonated with someone as passionate and knowledgeable about The Great Gatsby as John. John has travelled far deeper into Gatsby geekdom than I have, and knows not only one version of the book but various drafts and edits inside out (whereas I was content to stick with my Penguin edition with the great intro by Tony Tanner, and certainly couldn't recite even that). One interesting snippet that he shared with me was this one:

Towards the end of chapter 2, when Nick is looking out of the window at the close of the tawdry drunken party with Tom and Myrtle and their friends, he imagines another observer looking up at them from the street. He says "And I saw him too, looking up and wondering". Apparently in one version of the text this reads "And I was him, too..." - and this was later corrected by the publisher. But in the context of the next sentence, I can't help but wonder which is the right word:

"I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life."

Oh, the gorgeousness of it!!

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