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The eyes have it

Wednesday, 15 April, 2015

The Great Gatsby turned 90 last Friday and the publisher has reissued a commemorative edition with that famous jacket art by the Catalan artist Francis Cugat, for which he was paid the grand sum of $100. Those two melancholy eyes and the red lips in the blue of the night sky, hovering above a glowing skyline, evoke the glamour and sorrow that are central to the story.

In a letter to his editor, Max Perkins, Fitzgerald requested that Cugat’s art be retained exclusively for the novel. “For Christ’s sake don’t give anyone that jacket you’re saving for me,” he wrote, “I’ve written it into the book.” What exactly Fitzgerald meant by this is not clear, but it might be that Cugat’s image reflected the billboard for Dr. T.J. Eckleburg that watches over one of the key moments in the novel:

The eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg are blue and gigantic — their irises are one yard high. They look out of no face, but, instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a nonexistent nose. Evidently some wild wag of an oculist set them there to fatten his practice in the borough of Queens, and then sank down himself into eternal blindness, or forgot them and moved away.”

The Great Gatsby

Tomorrow, here, the Ella Fitzgerald connection.


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