Tuesday, April 19, 2011

This.

Everybody's All-American

[Editor's note: I'm experiencing problems with the video I embedded, You can watch it here.]

It pains me to see historic architecture erased--like Land's End, the Long Island mansion in the CBS report above, which is thought to have inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald to write The Great Gatsby. It's gone now--torn down to make way for a bunch of smaller homes with, no doubt, less-interesting stories and architecture. But actually, I don't want to talk about Land's End. I want to talk about a throw away line at the beginning of the news report. I want to talk about this idea of The Great Gatsby being THE great American novel.

I've heard this said before--that The Great Gatsby is indicative of the American experience. And to be sure, the striving Jay Gatsby is a very American character. But I've always found talk of "great American this" or "all-American that" to be offensively narrow in what it recognizes as legitimately "American." Surprise, surprise, what is greatly American is nearly always centered on white culture and male experiences.

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