One of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it


A note, an impression, a thank-you letter, probably not a review, for The Great Gatsby, a novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I’ll be honest straight away: I watched the 2013 film first before I read the book. And even that was accidental. Somebody left the television on and when I passed by it was playing the film. There was something in it that caught my eye; whether it was the literate narration or the camera play, I can’t really say. But I ended up sitting in front of the television. I forgot what I was going to do and watched it all the way to the end and I remember crying, not just at the end but even from somewhere halfway there. There was something in it that I found deeply personal.

I love the way the story is narrated in the film, the fuzzy melancholic prose that tells so much more than what’s on the screen, and I could already tell that they took them word-for-word from the book. So, the book is something to look out for.

A year later, and I now I live alone in the middle of perhaps the most pleasant city in the country, with a dozen different places to go every day and night and absolutely no one to go there with me. Every day I look at other people’s faces and only find shadows of those I used to know. Every night I lie on my bed and try not to think of what I’ve left behind.

And then, accidentally, on a complete whim, I found Gatsby again.

I was surprised to see that the film really did follow the book word-for-word, not just in the narration sprinkled here-and-there but also the whole story, the whole plot. Even the positioning of certain expositions and certain scenes are exact. There was a slight disappointment there, but I kept reading. And even though I read it already knowing the entire story, it still makes me feel like when I first watched it.

I didn’t cry at it any more. Always on the verge of, but didn’t. But still every time I sit down to read it, I went very quiet and my mind went very still and the world around me stopped revolving. And then there was nothing but the wind, and the words on the page and the heartbreak and melancholy and deep breaths that come with it. If anything I took the story even more personally than I did the first time.

There are things that the film pulled off much better, and there are times when the narration in the book drags on for too long and I had a hard time following it. It’s set in America in the 1920s, neither a place nor a time I’ve lived in or at all familiar with. But the film and the book made a powerful combo. I already have the images in my mind, and the narration fills in everything else.

I know of a lot of people who didn’t enjoy the story. Or even understood the story. I know people who dislike it because it doesn’t have a single moral character. It seems everyone are mad or bad or someone to loathe. But I never see it as a story of a good man. The Great Gatsby is a story of broken men and women in a confused period. It’s an ode to personal human flaws and also of finding all the little things that make life bearable.

Sometimes, sometimes you don’t love someone for their greatness, for the things they do that impress you. Sometimes you love someone for their flaws and shortcomings and how they keep on moving despite them.

He smiled understandingly — much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, one that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced — or concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favour. It understood you just so far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey. Precisely at that point it vanished

Still my favourite lines both from the film and the book. The narration does that a lot, describe things with how it feels instead of how it really is, because in life there are so much things going under the shadows than what was really said. .


Thoughts on books I’m reading

A college kid doesn’t have a lot of money to spend. So nowadays it’s mostly library books (if I can find them. There’s Shakespeare, but more readable English literature is hard to find) and those with expired copyright so they can be grabbed off Gutenberg.

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
Just recently finished this. I usually like weird and fantastic and generally whacked out stories, but Murakami is pulling way too much. Was a fine read, but I don’t really recommend. Dunno how anyone can like it.

Dracula by Bram Stoker
People gushing on and on and on and on about too many little details. Points repeated over and over and over again because characters and characters. It could be a 19th century England thing, but the narration in this book is just uuuuugh. Van Helsing is the blandest hero character possible.

The Lord of the Ring: The Fellowships of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien
Haven’t read high fantasy in a while and this is fantastic. Just fantastic. Like it.

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Because you can never have enough Sherlock Holmes. In so far, it’s pretty good. Its 19th century-ish is so much more bearable than Dracula’s.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Yes! 1920s America! I am exhausted of Victorian London. Just started. Bit purple, but so far enjoyable.