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Gatsby: Sam Guo as James Gatz

Monday, 24 August, 2015

With his vast wealth, James Gatz purchased a lavish mansion on Long Island and proceeded to throw elaborate parties. Those who swam in the rivers of booze during those wild nights at West Egg didn’t know he was born James Gatz, however. To them, he was Jay Gatsby, a self-made millionaire. Likewise with Kui Zhang Guo, a Chinese businessman who bought a manor for $11.45 million in the upscale Hunters Hill area of Sydney last year. Gatsby He prefers to go by his anglicized name, Sam Guo, writes the Sydney Morning Herald, which begins its story about his fabulous parties thus: “His neighbours have already dubbed him the ‘Chinese Gatsby’, which judging by the largesse in the form of rivers of French champagne and no expense spared parties inside his lavish Hunters Hill mansion, would seem like a fitting nom de plume for Kui Zhang Guo.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald would have loved it. The Guo-Gatz symbolism is uncanny and with the Sydney Morning Herald reporting another awful day at the exchanges “as tanking Chinese sharemarkets wipe out the past two years of gains on the local bourse”, the scene is set, perfectly, for our annual reading of The Great Gatsby. Let’s kick off with a passage that reflects the thrill of the party on the edge of the abyss:

“The last swimmers have come in from the beach now and are dressing up-stairs; the cars from New York are parked five deep in the drive, and already the halls and salons and verandas are gaudy with primary colors, and hair shorn in strange new ways, and shawls beyond the dreams of Castile. The bar is in full swing, and floating rounds of cocktails permeate the garden outside, until the air is alive with chatter and laughter, and casual innuendo and introductions forgotten on the spot, and enthusiastic meetings between women who never knew each other’s names.

The lights grow brighter as the earth lurches away from the sun, and now the orchestra is playing yellow cocktail music, and the opera of voices pitches a key higher. Laughter is easier minute by minute, spilled with prodigality, tipped out at a cheerful word.”

Tomorrow, here, a hot young writer on the enduring greatness of Gatsby.


Comments (1)

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  1. Henry Barth says:

    When Fitzgerald wrote and published, the U. S. was full of WASP anti-Semitic attitudes and prejudices. Jews were seen as people who changed their surnames. As example, from Gatz to Gatsby. That should be kept in mind when reading the tale.

    A personal favourite of the surname-changing Semite was the late delightfully Trollopian-named Montague Francis Ashley-Montagu, known to his parents as Israel Ehrenberg. British fop.