Not even Fitzgerald, it would seem, knew what he was dealing with—the taut incompleteness that has allowed generations of Americans and non-Americans of every stripe to imagine themselves into a story set on Long Island in the 1920s. When a professor named Carlyle V. Thompson published a paper arguing that Gatsby must have been a Black man, his fervor was understandable, even if he’d missed the point. Gatsby is Black—and Jewish, and an immigrant, and JFK, and Obama, and Zuckerberg, and Trump, and Jay-Z, and Anna Delvey. American fiction is full of thinly veiled Gatsbys: Don Draper in Mad Men, Alien in Spring Breakers, Coleman Silk in The Human Stain, Tom Ripley in Patricia Highsmith’s novels and their various adaptations. These imitators, conscious and unconscious, real and fictional, give the original character a richness and a solidity that can’t be found in Fitzgerald’s text alone.
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