June 21


Seeing Gatz

I want to get deeper into books. I want to layer them low in me, so that I see and write with a part of all I have read. This necromantic project was helped along, yesterday, by seeing Gatz, the performance of the entire uncut Great Gatsby.

I queued from nine thirty to get day tickets. The play began at two thirty pm; it ended a little before eleven pm.

The experience was hard on the bottom, the concentration, the knees. But it was an amazing wondrous time: every drunken argument, every vital description, every flowery speech tag. This Gatsby was no charmer, although he was charming, a sad reserved lonely man, never at ease with anyone.

The play begins in a busy office. A man starts reading the novel, and slowly his colleagues become the characters. He carries the book around from scene to scene, reading it all. Seeing the novel performed in full made me realise how much of it I selectively remember from my own reading. Some scenes I have perfectly, anticipating jokes, good lines. Other moments caught me off guard. On stage, the true story of Gatsby’s early life was very powerful: I had always thought it the worst part of the book.

On stage, too, one sees how much Jordan is present through Nick’s story, and how much of a couple they are. In the novel, Nick repeatedly plays down their relationship, and questions Jordan’s motives, sincerity, and character. Seeing how little evidence there is of this onstage makes Nick’s attitude to her stranger.

Novels I would like to see on stage, novels that blend both narration and vivid dialogue (some would take far longer than eight hours, but why require a play to last only a full day?):

Mrs Dalloway
Invisible Man
Moby Dick
The End of the Affair.


Gatz, Noel Coward Theatre, novel on stage, The great gatsby

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