Gatsby anticipation is in the house. We’ve got a ticket for this evening’s 7 pm screening and great are the expectations. Meanwhile, the spin-off industry rumbles on and no (precious) stone is left unturned as it seeks to cash in on the film of the book. F. Scott Fitzgerald was a customer of Tiffany, the [...]
The screening of The Great Gatsby in Cannes tonight sends a message that stands in stark contrast to the policy of austerity that much of Europe is now experiencing. The hated hair-shirt imposed by Brussels/Berlin has divided the continent along its traditional geographical and cultural fault lines and exposed the myth of unity. “The European project now stands in disrepute across much of Europe,” states a Pew global survey published on Monday.
Jay Gatsby did not tolerate austerity. “The cost of the champagne and fruit alone racked up a whopping $81,300 to fuel Gatsby’s fun loving party guests. This assumes 500 guests for each weekend and that he bought fruit from The FruitGuys, and that he used Korbel champagne.” So reckons Nickolay Lamm, who asks, How Much Would it Cost to be The Great Gatsby? His conclusion: a lot. “After running the numbers on the cost of being The Great Gatsby the total figure came in at $34,320,880!”
Catching the wave, Belinda Goldsmith, reporting for Reuters from the Côte d’Azur, declares, “Cannes set to ditch austerity with ‘Great Gatsby’ launch“. She sees tonight’s premiere as “an opportunity to shed the caution of recent years overshadowed by broader economic gloom.” Let the party begin! Down with socialism!
By the way, Cannes does get a mention in The Great Gatsby. In Chapter 4, where we learn about the troubled origins of Tom and Daisy’s marriage, the novel’s narrator, Nick Carraway, tells us:
“The next April Daisy had her little girl, and they went to France for a year. I saw them one spring in Cannes, and later in Deauville, and then they came back to Chicago to settle down. Daisy was popular in Chicago, as you know. They moved with a fast crowd, all of them young and rich and wild, but she came out with an absolutely perfect reputation. Perhaps because she doesn’t drink. It’s a great advantage not to drink among hard-drinking people. You can hold your tongue, and, moreover, you can time any little irregularity of your own so that everybody else is so blind that they don’t see or care.”
All human life is there.
“How I rewrote ‘The Great Gatsby’” was the Telegraph headline yesterday. That did not bode well as everyone knows rewriting The Great Gatsby is as just as impossible as repainting the Mona Lisa. Of course, online versions of newspapers have to lure readers and so-called “link bait”, while blatantly dishonest, is part of the journalism trade today. The hooked reader then discovers that the headline changes to “Craig Pearce, co-writer of Baz Lurhmann’s ‘The Great Gatsby’, reveals all.” That’s slightly less bombastic, but Gatsby fans will be alarmed to read that, “At the end of our first months working in Australia, our screenplay was four hours long.” If the author of Gatsby could create a masterpiece with just 180 pages of prose, what is the need for four hours of screenplay?
Pearce gives the game away when he writes, “One of the things that makes Gatsby so potent is Fitzgerald’s gorgeous, poetic prose, and it’s very hard to recreate that cinematically.” The “very hard” there is one of the great understatements of our time because the more fitting term would be “impossible”. No one can film this:
“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. The groups change more swiftly, swell with new arrivals, dissolve and form in the same breath; already there are wanderers, confident girls who weave here and there among the stouter and more stable, become for a sharp, joyous moment the centre of a group, and then, excited with triumph, glide on through the sea-change of faces and voices and color under the constantly changing light.”
Now, just because the ethereal beauty of these words cannot be filmed it does not mean that Baz Luhrmann was wrong to attempt to capture what they say for the screen. “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?” wrote Robert Browning and it is very brave of Luhrmann to risk the opprobrium that will appear here on Friday if it turns out that he mistook the rewriting of Craig Pearce for the impressionistic painting of F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Opening sentence: “It is on The Great Gatsby by Australian director Baz Luhrmann, that the curtain will rise at the inauguration of the 66th Festival de Cannes, on Wednesday 15th May, in the Grand Théâtre Lumière of the Palais des Festivals, out of Competition in the Official Selection.” Festival de Cannes press release
Opening sentence: “In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.” The Great Gatsby
Unlike the writers of many press releases, F. Scott Fitzgerald knew how to balance the contents of a sentence. He could do short: “His wife was shrill, languid, handsome, and horrible.” And he could do long: “At the enchanted metropolitan twilight I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes, and felt it in others — poor young clerks who loitered in front of windows waiting until it was time for a solitary restaurant dinner — young clerks in the dusk, wasting the most poignant moments of night and life.” Overall, though, he strove for symmetry and one of many delights of re-reading Gatsby lies in savouring the different ways in which he achieved proportion.
In late 1938, Radcliffe College student Frances Turnbull sent her latest short story to family friend F. Scott Fitzgerald. His response, found in F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Life in Letters, stresses the importance of emotional investment in writing and offers some very honest advice on the essence of great writing:
November 9, 1938
I’ve read the story carefully and, Frances, I’m afraid the price for doing professional work is a good deal higher than you are prepared to pay at present. You’ve got to sell your heart, your strongest reactions, not the little minor things that only touch you lightly, the little experiences that you might tell at dinner. This is especially true when you begin to write, when you have not yet developed the tricks of interesting people on paper, when you have none of the technique which it takes time to learn. When, in short, you have only your emotions to sell.
This is the experience of all writers. It was necessary for Dickens to put into Oliver Twist the child’s passionate resentment at being abused and starved that had haunted his whole childhood. Ernest Hemingway’s first stories ‘In Our Time’ went right down to the bottom of all that he had ever felt and known. In ‘This Side of Paradise’ I wrote about a love affair that was still bleeding as fresh as the skin wound on a haemophile.
The amateur, seeing how the professional having learned all that he’ll ever learn about writing can take a trivial thing such as the most superficial reactions of three uncharacterized girls and make it witty and charming — the amateur thinks he or she can do the same. But the amateur can only realize his ability to transfer his emotions to another person by some such desperate and radical expedient as tearing your first tragic love story out of your heart and putting it on pages for people to see.
That, anyhow, is the price of admission. Whether you are prepared to pay it or, whether it coincides or conflicts with your attitude on what is ‘nice’ is something for you to decide. But literature, even light literature, will accept nothing less from the neophyte. It is one of those professions that wants the ‘works.’ You wouldn’t be interested in a soldier who was only a little brave.
In the light of this, it doesn’t seem worth while to analyze why this story isn’t saleable but I am too fond of you to kid you along about it, as one tends to do at my age. If you ever decide to tell your stories, no one would be more interested than,
Your old friend,
F. Scott Fitzgerald
P.S. I might say that the writing is smooth and agreeable and some of the pages very apt and charming. You have talent — which is the equivalent of a soldier having the right physical qualifications for entering West Point.
“But above the gray land and the spasms of bleak dust which drift endlessly over it, you percieve, after a moment, the eyes of Doctor T.J.Eckleburg. 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 [...]
Their new album, Modern Vampires of the City, will be officially released on Monday and the expectations are that with it Vampire Weekend will transcend the novelties of the noughties and establish themselves as a band of some considerable sophistication and endurance. As next week here on Rainy Day will be devoted to The Great Gatsby, there’s no better way to warm up than with Step, which is all about words and feelings plus imagery of the place that’s central to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece: “The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and beauty in the world.”
YouTube has launched a paid channels experiment that can be accessed by paying a variable subscription fee, which starts at $0.99 a month. National Geographic is there, and so is TNA Wrestling Plus. Among the other offerings: Fix My Hog and Gay Direct. And there’s more to come. Notorious B-movie producer and director Roger Corman has announced that he will launch a paid YouTube channel this summer. “Corman’s Drive-In” will showcase his library of around 400, er, classics.
For all those who equate YouTube with free, this will come as a shock, but Jaron Lanier, the computer scientist who popularized the term “virtual reality”, will be pleased. Who Owns the Future? is the title of his new book and in it he pleads for a radical rethink of how all those busily engaged in creating the digital commons should be compensated. The Lanier solution? If information is worth money (and the share price of Google would suggest it is), then people must be paid for what they contribute to the web. He proposes an intricate system in which Facebook, for example, is no longer free, but also stops getting user data for free. Information creators of would be rewarded with nanopayments generated by users of information in Lanier’s scheme.
The internet, claims Lanier, is currently biased in favour of “siren servers” (big companies) that convince users to exchange data for “free” services — search, e-mail, social networks. But instead of heralding a new age of prosperity, he writes, the net is making us poorer. Careers in professions such as music and writing are disappearing, thanks to the ease of copying, and more traditional middle-class jobs will certainly follow. “To grasp the Huffington Post’s business model, picture a galley rowed by slaves and commanded by pirates,” wrote Tim Rutten. While some grow fat, creatives are not paid and many are driven to destitution by those who pretend that they have our interests at heart. Jaron Lanier’s heart is in the right place, but his nanopayment proposal is unworkable. Paid channels offer a better solution.
If Rainy Day has a manifesto, it is the great essay “Politics and the English Language”, which George Orwell wrote in 1946. The English language and politics are at the heart of this blog and while we cannot hope to match Orwell in any way, he is our style guide, mentor and patron saint. To [...]
In May 2005, David Foster Wallace, the most brilliant American writer of his generation, delivered the commencement address to the graduating class at Kenyon College Ohio. He talked about the difficulties of daily life and “about making it to 30, or maybe 50, without wanting to shoot yourself in the head.” On 12 September 2008, David Foster Wallace committed suicide by hanging himself.
“Because here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship — be it JC or Allah, bet it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles — is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.”
Congratulations to The Glossary for its inspired transformation of David Foster Wallace’s words into video.
Is this the cityscape of the future? “In 2050, the nouveau-riche arrivistes stake their big skyline claims on the public eye. That glassy, twisting spire, as gaudy as any Christmas ornament, is owned by offshore Chinese. The gloomy tower with 85 stories of modestly greyed-out windows is an all-female enclave of Islamic business feminists. The scary heap that resembles a patchwork quilt of iron was entirely crowd-sourced.” According to the American science fiction author, Bruce Sterling, that’s a possible (frightening) scenario for our urban destiny.
Sterling is one of seven experts commissioned by the BBC to look at ways cities may evolve. “Bruce’s Sterling’s vision of the future city,” which kicks of the series, deserves the term dystopian. “The mid-century city has created means of food production that are post-agricultural. With swordfish extinct and cattle way beyond the budget, the people eat — well, to put it bluntly, they mostly eat algae, insects and microbes. Of course this tasty goop has been effectively refined, rebranded, and skeuomorphically re-packaged as noodles, tofu, and hamburger substitute. Soylent Green is crickets.”
Interestingly, Sterling mentions Dubai and followers of his Beyond the Beyond Wired column will be aware of his interest in “Gulf Futurism“, in which a recurring theme is the ubiquity of the shopping mall. “Only engineers and architects will ever rub their hand at this dreadful prospect,” writes Sterling, not just about the Gulf mall, but about the future city. And then he hits his stride:
“These modernists are in secret collusion with the feral urban crows and hungry pigeons picking over the blast zone. For years, while a sentimental mankind clung to a museum economy, they have rehearsed another city, some angular, rational monster with an urban fabric that’s a whole lot more nano-, robo-, and geno; buildings they can shape, and that will henceforth shape the rest of us.”
His conclusion is bleak: “To tell the truth, we never liked that city. But it just keeps happening.” By the way, Bruce Sterling does live in a city, an old one. Around 28 BC, the Romans created a military camp there and called it Castra Taurinorum.
“On a beach walk one day, Nicole told him she would be reluctant to use the app he was working on because her pictures would never be as good as the ones a mutual friend took. ‘I said, ‘Well, you know what he does to those photos, right?’ She’s like, ‘No, he just takes good photos.’ I’m like, ‘No, no, he puts them through filter apps.’ She’s like, ‘Well, you guys should probably have filters too, right, then?’ I was like, ‘Huh.’”
Excerpt there from The Money Shot, a superb profile of Instagram founder Kevin Systrom by Kara Swisher in Vanity Fair.
To get an idea of the photographic revolution ushered in by the smartphone, take a look at the magnificent work of Richard Koci Hernandez.
One of the reasons the Mashable website is so popular is that it exudes positivity. Sure, there are viral cat videos, but it’s mostly tech optimism. Typical of the genre is the recent article by Adam Popescu, “Coding Is the Must-Have Job Skill of the Future.” Not content with that broad statement, he adds that “Coding is the new black,” and he quotes Hank Leber, CEO and cofounder of the data-sharing utility GonnaBe, who calls coding the new literacy. “Leber cites the growing unemployment rate and diminishing prospects for newly-minted college graduates as motivators,” writes Popescu.
But is that really true? If coding is so cool and it’s where the jobs really are, why are millions of Greeks, Spaniards, Portuguese, Irish and lots of Americans signing on for welfare instead of learning MySQL or to how to administer Cisco and Linux? On the face of it, getting a job as a programmer appears easy as it doesn’t require a particular degree or training. Indeed, programming or system administration can be learned by anyone anywhere who has a personal computer and an internet connection. That being the case, it’s perplexing that millions of jobless Americans haven’t learned to code. And neither have millions of up-and-coming Chinese, Indians and Africans who could, theoretically, make fortunes if they learned the skills needed to turn First-World customer needs into working code. Here’s an e-commerce website that the government of California has spent $327 million upon, and it still isn’t finished. Coders from less wasteful cultures would surely have completed the job for less.
As it happens, there’s a good reason why everyone isn’t a good programmer. Simply, the job is not for everyone. Jeff Atwood, who runs the excellent Coding Horror blog, put up a post titled “So You Don’t Want to be a Programmer After All” last week and it contains some sobering insights for those dreaming of instant app riches. According to Atwood, it all comes down to one word: passion. If you don’t have a passion for software, you won’t be a good programmer and you would be better off doing something else. Coding may be cool in some quarters, and the software field does offer great opportunities, but according to Mashable’s rival, The Verge, Orange is the New Black. Talking of memes, Lucy Kellaway, management columnist with the Financial Times, is adamant that “White is not the new black.” She concludes, “Black is black, white is white.” Hard to argue with that. Punditry is, by a mile, the best job of all. Unlike coding, where logic counts, the pundit can say whatever she wants, no matter how obvious or vague.