What is it about “The Great Gatsby”? The dark star of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s unquiet masterpiece draws writers, critics and filmmakers into its force field, drives them a little mad, and hurls them back into the darkness. The book and its author add up to a mystery whose fascination never fades.
The trashy side of “Gatsby,” amply represented by Baz Luhrmann’s movie, remains seductive. The plot, ripped from the pages of a tabloid and crossed with a romantic novelette, has the potency of cheap music. Fitzgerald himself was one of the first to suffer the curse of celebrity. The superstar author of “This Side of Paradise,” with his “sophomore face and troubadour heart,” was so attractive, according to American journalist H.L. Mencken, that “he might have been called beautiful.” To others, he was a doomed creature of the night. Fitzgerald’s talent, wrote his rival Ernest Hemingway, “was as natural as the pattern that was made by the dust on a butterfly’s wings. At one time he understood it no more than the butterfly did.”