14 July 2012


It seems I can't manage to post more than once a month, which either means I'm very busy doing lots of stuff or I'm not doing anything interesting at all, and therefore have nothing to report.

Lucky for me, it's the former.

A few weeks ago, I had another occasion to visit Deepali in London, because Mark and I had tickets to see GATZ! Staying at Deepali's is always nice, honestly, she's such a gracious human being. She was nominated to run the Olympic torch by her workmates and won, so on the morning July 23rd, watch the Olympic torch and cheer her on!

If you haven't heard, GATZ is an 8-hour word-for-word stage production/reading of The Great Gatsby. It sounds excruciating. It is brilliant. The actor who reads most of the book and plays Nick Carraway, the narrator of Gatsby, knows the book so well that he has actually memorised the entire thing. Word for word. Astonishing.

I first read GATZ when I was 16, I think it was required for my American Literature class at Walton. I still find it strange that the American educational system hands teenagers books like this, and then asks them to write essays on the themes of the novel. I remember writing that the book was about desire and the impossibility of regaining the past. What did I know, after all, about regret?

In the years since that first reading, I've read The Great Gatsby twice. And each time, it's changed, I've seen more in it. Life and wanting and regret. The role that we allow and force other people to play in giving our lives meaning. What forever means and what money is.

The Elevator Repair Service theatre group (ERS) came up with what I think was probably a frankly nutty idea at first. Produce a live reading of an entire novel. Sure. Who's going to sit through that?

In 8 hours, they completely & forever changed how I think about The Great Gatsby, and I will never read it the same again. 

I have never thought The Great Gatsby was a funny book, a sarcastic, overblown sit-com style hilarious book. Throughout GATZ though, I found myself laughing. Giggling and snickering and straight out laughing, because ERS found these little places, little moments, that aren't funny when you read them. But when you see someone act them out in a literal fashion, those little moments become hilarious.

And because it's such a thorough exploration of a beloved novel, I felt constantly surprised at what I'd never seen before. It wasn't boring, I didn't get tired. Sure, my booty ached a bit by the end. But right around the moment I started squirming, the actor who plays Nick closed the book.

And he recited nearly the entire last chapter without glancing at the pages. It's mesmerizing.

The experience is like nothing else I've ever seen in a play. Admittedly, I don't watch much theatre. But if it were all this good, I'd watch a whole lot more. The Great Gatsby, as a novel, makes me reflect on life and regret and wanting. GATZ, the play, made me reflect on the novel, and therefore, on life, regret and wanting. But it also made me reflect on the difference between reading a book and seeing what it really means. And how sometimes a book can change how you go about giving your life meaning.

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