Midwestern bond salesman Nick Carraway, 30, is spending the summer working in Manhattan and living in a rented bungalow out on Long Island. Slowly, he is getting to know his neighbors:
At 9 o’clock one morning late in July, [Jay] Gatsby’s gorgeous car lurched up the rocky drive to my door and gave out a burst of melody from its three-noted horn. It was the first time he had called on me, though I had gone to two of his parties, mounted in his hydroplane, and, at his urgent invitation, made frequent use of his beach.
Rolls Royce Silver Ghost
‘Good morning, old sport. You’re having lunch with me today and I thought we’d ride up together.’
…He was never quite still; there was always a tapping foot somewhere or the impatient opening and closing of a hand.
He saw me looking with admiration at his car.
‘It’s pretty, isn’t it, old sport?’ He jumped off to give me a better view. ‘Haven’t you ever seen it before?’
I’d seen it. Everybody had seen it.”
Gatsby and Carraway have an interesting lunch in the city with one of Gatsby’s friends, which ends when the friend gets up to leave:
’I have enjoyed my lunch,’ he said, ‘and I’m going to run off from you two young men before I outstay my welcome.’
‘Don’t hurry, Meyer,’ said Gatsby without enthusiasm. Mr. Wolfsheim raised his hand in a sort of benediction.
‘You’re very polite, but I belong to another generation,’ he announced solemnly. ‘You sit here and discuss your sports and your young ladies and your—’ He supplied an imaginary noun with another wave of his hand. ‘As for me, I am 50 years old, and I won’t impose myself on you any longer.’
As he shook hands and turned away his tragic nose was trembling. I wondered if I had said anything to offend him.
‘He becomes very sentimental sometimes,’ explained Gatsby. ‘This is one of his sentimental days. He’s quite a character around New York—a denizen of Broadway.’
‘Who is he, anyhow, an actor?’
‘Meyer Wolfsheim? No, he’s a gambler.’ Gatsby hesitated, then added coolly: ‘He’s the man who fixed the World Series back in 1919.’
‘Fixed the World Series?’ I repeated.
The idea staggered me. I remembered, of course, that the World Series had been fixed in 1919, but if I had thought of it at all I would have thought of it as a thing that merely happened, the end of some inevitable chain. It never occurred to me that one man could start to play with the faith of 50 million people—with the single-mindedness of a burglar blowing up a safe.
‘How did he happen to do that?’ I asked after a minute.
‘He just saw the opportunity.’
‘Why isn’t he in jail?’
‘They can’t get him, old sport. He’s a smart man.’”
Back home in St. Paul, where he has started work on his third novel, best-selling writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, 25, has received an interesting offer.
A leading Hollywood producer wants to buy the rights to Fitzgerald’s first novel, This Side of Paradise, published two years ago. And he has suggested that the lead characters could be played on screen by Scott and his wife, Zelda, just turned 22.
This Side of Paradise
Scott is considering it. Even though he tells his editor at Scribner’s, Maxwell Perkins, 37, that this would be their “first and last appearance positively,” Max knows the Fitzgeralds better than that. He manages to talk Scott out of it.
“Such Friends”: 100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”: The Literary 1920s. Volumes I and II covering 1920 and 1921 are available as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and also in print and e-book formats on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. For more information, email me at email@example.com.
Later in the year I will be talking about the centenary of the publication of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes at Carnegie-Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.
If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”: Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.