A polymath who writes with enviable fluency about music, literature, politics and the place where the mainstream meets the counterculture, Marcus applies a Fitzgeraldian lens to a host of disparate artistic developments, interweaving them in enlightening, idiosyncratic fashion ... [Marcus'] smart, singular book gives us invigorating new ways to think about Fitzgerald’s iconic novel.
Mr. Marcus is good on the effects that the book would come to have on our culture, from the soundtrack-like embedding of popular music in works of fiction to the Gatsby-esque elements of detective novels and movies ... other connections take us far afield. Covering the various film versions of the novel, Mr. Marcus brings in the other, non-'Gatsby' roles performed by the men who played Nick Carraway. We also get a mini-editorial on the financing of election campaigns in the United States. The author’s long-winded, add-on prose style doesn’t help, either ... But Mr. Marcus does his music critic’s best to 'hear the tunes behind Fitzgerald’s words' and to help us hear them. He often succeeds wonderfully in illuminating the appeal of the book that framed for all time the intertwining of love and money in the American Dream—as pursued by Americans of the Jazz Age, or any age.
Unlike those who write dry, hyper-specialized academic criticism, Marcus isn’t afraid, as one reader of his once put it, to let 'everything remind him of everything else' ... This intuitive collage of different voices can offer the reader insights that aren’t available otherwise. At his best, Marcus guides the reader through the secret cultural histories that wind under the shiny billboard of American life, where so much of the country’s real thinking about itself really happens. Other times, the reader is left wandering aimlessly through Marcus’s extended digressions about movies or records that they might not know or care about much ... Marcus reminds us what a collective slap in the face Tom’s assertion of hereditary dominance really is to the way America likes to think of itself.