Monday, September 24, 2012

fashioned classics

Vogue Sept. 2012
Two classics are being envisioned for the big screen this fall: Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. I have read both and it is safe to say that neither is one of my particular favorites. The Great Gatsby was introduced to me, as it was to many Americans in a high school English class. I didn't like it. The characters didn't live in a way that I imagined myself living. Be Daisy? No. Be Nick or Tom or Gatsby? No. And the scene set wasn't romantic for me. I didn't give up Fitzgerald. Not at all. I began reading some of his short stories ... an old copy of my grandmother's sat on the gold book shelves that my parents had inherited from her city apartment, and I had the good sense to pick it out and start to read. That lead me to what became an important novel for me to read ... Tender is the Night.

What I read in Tender is the Night in high school was a romantic notion of what life could be, especially if one had the opportunity to winter in the South of France. A great dreamer, I often spent time imagining the world that I would visit once I got off of the block that I grew up on. The world of the Divers was alien to me. It was just so different and seemed so elegantly paced. Time was not consumed by worries or demands. Yes, the novel is so much more than where it was set, but it is what captivated me at 17.
at the restaurant with Paula in Nice
the note that Paula left at our hotel
In my mind, the most romantic place in the world was the South of France. And that held me for many years. Thankfully, I have had the opportunity to visit. And my experiences there are exactly as I had imagined them to be. Lucky girl. One of the first times that I visited, my friend and I visited Nice to visit with his landlady, who co-shared a house in Baltimore and Nice with her sister. They would spend six-month periods in each home separately so that they could care for their ailing mother in France. Paula, the landlady, was a very interesting woman: petite, impeccably dressed, and sophisticated. She had been a ballerina in her day ... a Premiere Danseuse Etoile de l'Opera, and so was often invited to events at the French Embassy in Washington, D.C. I was fortunate enough to attend several of these events as her guest when I was visiting my friend in Baltimore. Oh! those were grand events ... and the champagne always flowed. My kind of soiree. When we were in Nice, she was in town and invited us for drinks and then dinner. Her Nice apartment was what I imagined the Divers would live in... soaring ceilings, French windows, old furniture ... she served us caviar and scotch. My goodness, I couldn't have wished for any better. Me, little ole me, from State Street in Nice with a beautiful hostess eating caviar! She took us to a restaurant where we sat outside, naturally, and for the first time in my life I ate a flower on purpose! What a wonderfully tender night.

Years later, I heard that a friend of a friend read Tender is the Night every year. Hm, I had to re-read it and figure out why he read it so often. So I did. And what a surprise. The book had changed so much with the years. The setting was still charming for me, but the struggles of the characters became more apparent to me. Reading it at 17, I was naive and wasn't as concerned about the lives the characters led. I realized, for me, why the guy read it every year. I think that he connected to Dick Diver. He wasn't living up to his own expectation ... he fashioned a life rather than lived one, and discovered that life may have passed him by. I don't know if that makes sense; but Dick, he thought that he was the savior. He thought that he had it all figured out, but his mistake was to forget not only himself, but that he couldn't choose how others think and feel about living. I still love the novel, so much more so than The Great Gatsby. I think that they are similar, sure. F. Scott Fitzgerald, though, is more Dick Diver than any other character that he writes, in my opinion. 

Keira Knightly will play Anna/ Vogue Oct. 2012
I don't have any personal experience with Tolstoy. I read Anna Karenina because I thought that it would be good for me. A big Russian novel. Isn't it good for everyone? Oh dear, that was a hard one to drag myself through ... all that I got out of it was that Russian men are sort of whiny complainers. I understood, from the characters, why the revolution occurred. I didn't even find romance in the novel ... I am embarrassed to say, but none of the story really stuck. And I am at a loss for words in describing it now. So I won't pretend any longer, but what I will say ...

I am looking forward to both of these movies being delivered. As seen by the pages of Vogue, the fashion is going to be OUT OF THIS WORLD. They are going to be beautiful, luxurious films and I imagine they will have a life of their own. I think of what Martin Scorsese did for The Age of Innocence. Gorgeous! A produced visualization of a story can bring it to life. These films will become picture books, and sometimes a narrative needs a beautiful picture to tell a story.

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