Baz Luhrmann’s theatrical adaptation of The Great Gatsby is going to be released in theaters later this week and we wanted to take the opportunity to look closer at the subject of one of our most popular journals — F. Scott Fitzgerald’s early handwritten manuscript for The Great Gatsby.

The cover of the Paperblanks Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby journal is a painstaking reproduction of the first page of an early The Great Gatsby draft handwritten by F. Scott Fitzgerald; and what’s neat about this manuscript page is not only that it looks amazing (as we’ve seen previously, Fitzgerald has nice handwriting) but that it gives us a fascinating look at Fitzgerald’s revision process. The text in this manuscript features several crossed-out words and differs in subtle but not-insignificant ways with the final published work.

F. Scott Fitzgerald's Trimalchio, an early version of the Great GatsbyIn fact, this manuscript’s differences were so significant that it was ultimately published by the Cambridge University Press as a completely separate book with the subtitle “an early version of The Great Gatsby.” It’s known as the Trimalchio draft, taking its name from a title Fitzgerald flirted with using for the classic literary work.

Even more interesting? If hardcore fans of The Great Gasby get the impression that Leonardo Dicaprio’s portrayal of Jay Gatsby in the new movie is a lot more rough, violent and gangster-ish than the Gatsby they remember from the novel – blame it on the Trimalchio version! The filmmakers took a cue from this early draft, with its darker version of the Jay Gatsby character. In fact, the movie also took many pieces of dialogue from the Trimalchio version and Dicaprio apparently carried a copy of Trimalchio around with him at all times on set. (Why they felt it necessary to go this darker route is perhaps a discussion for another time.) Read more about that here.

It’s interesting to compare the slight differences between the early Trimalchio version and the final published text of The Great Gatsby.

Here’s the original Trimalchio text for the first page of the manuscript (which, again, is the basis of our Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby cover):
Fitzgerald's early manuscript for The Great Gatsby

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father told me something that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.

 

“When you feel like criticizing any one,” he said, “just remember that everybody in this world hasn’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”

 

He didn’t say any more but we’ve always been unusually communicative in a reserved way and I understood that he meant a great deal more than that. In consequence I’m inclined to reserve all judgements, a habit that has opened up many curious natures to me and also made me the victim of not a few veteran bores. The abnormal mind is quick to detect and attach itself to this quality when it appears in a normal person, and so it came about that in college I was unjustly accused of being a politician, because I was privy to the secret griefs of wild, unknown men. Most of the confidences were unsought—frequently I have feigned sleep, preoccupation or a hostile levity when I realized by some unmistakable sign that an intimate revelation was quivering on the horizon—for the intimate revelations of young men or at least the terms in which they express them are usually plagiaristic and marred by obvious suppressions. Reserving judgements is a matter of infinite hope. I am still a little afraid of missing something if I forget that, as my father snobbishly suggested and I snobbishly repeat, a sense of the fundamental decencies is parcelled out unequally at birth.

 

And, after boasting this way of my tolerance, I come to the admission that it has a limit. Conduct may be founded on the hard rock or the wet marshes but after a certain point I don’t care what it’s founded on. When I came back from the East last autumn I felt that I wanted the world to be in uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever; I wanted no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart. It was only Gatsby who was exempted from my

And note what changed. Here’s the same text–the first few paragraphs of The Great Gatsby–as it was eventually published:

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.

 

“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”

 

He didn’t say any more but we’ve always been unusually communicative in a reserved way, and I understood that he meant a great deal more than that. In consequence I’m inclined to reserve all judgments, a habit that has opened up many curious natures to me and also made me the victim of not a few veteran bores. The abnormal mind is quick to detect and attach itself to this quality when it appears in a normal person, and so it came about that in college I was unjustly accused of being a politician, because I was privy to the secret griefs of wild, unknown men. Most of the confidences were unsought–frequently I have feigned sleep, preoccupation, or a hostile levity when I realized by some unmistakable sign that an intimate revelation was quivering on the horizon–for the intimate revelations of young men or at least the terms in which they express them are usually plagiaristic and marred by obvious suppressions. Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope. I am still a little afraid of missing something if I forget that, as my father snobbishly suggested, and I snobbishly repeat a sense of the fundamental decencies is parcelled out unequally at birth.

 

And, after boasting this way of my tolerance, I come to the admission that it has a limit. Conduct may be founded on the hard rock or the wet marshes but after a certain point I don’t care what it’s founded on. When I came back from the East last autumn I felt that I wanted the world to be in uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever; I wanted no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart. Only Gatsby, the man who gives his name to this book, was exempt from my

Fascinating!

Finally, here’s the journal we lovingly created as a tribute to Fitzgerald and the book:

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

The Great Gatsby opens in select theaters on May 10th.

Like Paperblanks’ Gatsby journal? Click here to find a retailer

1 COMMENT

  1. I have the distinct impression that movies (as well as books) are darker in our current time. Even animated films on subjects that were directed at children originally explore heavy themes like murder (and this in a neutral light), insanity and fear.

    In comtemplating the reasons for this, some of it can be attributed to the fact that we’ve become desensitized through a surfeit of stories, so directors and writers are trying harder to get a reaction out of us.

    Or, perhaps, it’s the world we live in today. There are maniacal forces in the news every day. It’s part of our common experience.

    I, for one, look forward to the day when the tragic occurence (as well as events leading up to it) that Fitzgerald depicts in his great novel is seen as brutal and life-altering–even earth-shaking–once again.

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