I don’t know about you, but I’m really feeling this trailer. Baz Lurhmann’s signature penchant for assigning an anachronistic soundscape to re-imagined and vividly colorful fictional histories had me at beat drop from Jay and Ye’s No Church in The Wild. That track is perfect for setting the tone for the uninitiated; a dark and sexy accompaniment to what —we who never lived through the decadent bacchanal— known as the Jazz Age. More than anything, it made me want to re-read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece. It was my summer reading from 2002, a quiet book about a society’s unraveling at the height of wealth and opulence, a post war America lumbering its way into modern age. I never had to read The Great Gatsby in high school. My required reading consisted of nerdy (esoteric?) and eclectic titles (Christ Stopped at Eboli, The Metamorphosis, The Bluest Eye, Darkness at Noon –I know, random).
Some books stalk you. Or maybe it’s just me? But more often than not, my summer reading results in some strange subconscious hacking into the zeitgeist, and I look to literature to contextualize patterns I’m living through to see where we were and we’re headed. In the summer of 2002, I also read Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and if you all can reach back into the cobwebs of your mind, the summer of 2002, a post September 11th America, and if you know the book, it read(s) prescient then and now. One summer I read Rand’s Atlas Shrugged inside of three weeks. I knew nothing of objectivism (I can feel you judging me, I know. I skipped those parts of the book. I didn’t care. I only needed to know who John Galt was.)
Lurhmann’s last lavish cinematic feast for the eyes was his mashup adaptation of Puccini’s La Boheme, which also debuted in 2001, at the end of the last century, a pre- September 11th world. And if you can get past the dizzying color and quick camera cuts, you’ll notice that it too, is a story of lost innocence, carrying a weird resonance as we moved forward through the aughts.
It was F. Scott Fitzgerald is the man who coined the overused and sometimes misunderstood or applied, ‘There are no second acts in American lives.’ And I think all of us hope that isn’t true. We’re living through wild and uncertain times, dreams lost, deferred and re-imagined. A shaky economy, the widest gap in wealth in history, odd resurgence of suppression of civil liberties and bodies.
My ambitions for Summer 2012 reading beyond Gatsby? Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, Home by Toni Morrison, The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington, Where The Line Bleeds by Jesmyn Ward, Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow, Near to the Wild Heart by Clarice Lispector, Lizz Free or Die by Lizz Winstead, Eyes, Stone by Elana Bell — to name a few— a mix of fiction, nonfiction and poetry. It’s a little ridiculous, but I’ve been known to read books simultaneously.
What say you fair reader? What literary jams you looking to get into during the sweet lazy, hazy days of summer?