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Donald Trump and the Great Gatsby

Greil Marcus

The following advertisement appeared in Elite Traveler, Spring 2013:

The Trump International Hotel & Tower New York pays homage to The Great Gatsby—the film adaptation of the iconic novel coming out this May—by inviting guests to plunge into the Roaring Twenties with their very own Great Gatsby experience.

A special package, available for $14,999 through August 31, 2013, combines opulent Art Deco accommodations, unforgettable meals and striking Ivanka Trump Jewelry to impart the glamour of the twenties. Guests can live as lavishly as Jay Gatsby, while the hotel’s enchanting views overlooking Central Park will bring to mind the captivating scenes that unfolded within.

The Trump Central Park’s Great Gatsby package makes for a couple’s dream getaway. Guests enjoy a three-night stay in a Central Park-view suite, plus luxe extras like chauffeured car service, dinner for two at three-Michelin-starred Jean Georges restaurant, daily breakfast at Nougatine at Jean Georges and a magnum of Veuve Clicquot Champagne. A bonus Ivanka Trump Fine Jewelry Art Deco shagreen-and-onyx cuff (with a personal note from Ivanka) will complete any chic lady’s look, while men will impress with a custom-tailored suit from Bergdorf Goodman, complete with vintage Art Deco cufflinks.

It hardly matters how many people took up the offer, or if it was a travel writer’s idea of a joke (good luck), or if the thing ever really got off the ground at all. Somehow, almost a hundred years ago, F. Scott Fitzgerald managed to insert an infinitely self-replicating symbol that walked and talked like some semblance of a person, if not exactly a real person, into the common imagination, where it remains, playing games, as if for its own amusement, if not anyone else’s instant recognition, and then you realize that no matter how obvious the fit of the name to the object, it doesn’t fit.

You don’t want Trump or anyone else owning Gatsby. You don’t want anyone buying and selling him, or it, or whatever Jay Gatsby, or Jimmy Gatz, or Fitzgerald himself wanted to the character to be. For all this time people have been slapping the tag on anything that moves as if everyone will immediately understand it, but it never sticks. There’s always a feeling of the cheat involved—some intellectual Ponzi scheme. But sometimes, when you chance upon the free-floating reference lighting down on someone or something, and get a feeling of queasy displacement, as if to give the name is actually to try to steal it, to kill it, you might find yourself reading the book again. And then you might realize that what the word Gatsby signifies is what can never be settled. Some legacy was left, no one but Nick Carraway wanted it, but everybody got it, and half of everybody thinks they can use it without getting their fingers dirty. You might find yourself refusing to settle for the end of the story, as the novel has it, just as you are faintly repulsed by whatever manifestation of the diffusion of the metaphor you might find staring you in the face, imagining what other lives the man who lost Daisy might have lived. You can even see him forking over that $14,999 for the Trump package, to pass as just another sucker, like, as legend has it, Elvis showing up at an Elvis impersonators’ contest, to see if he could win.

Greil Marcus has written many books, including Mystery TrainLipstick TracesThe Old, Weird America, and The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Ten Songs. With Werner Sollors he is the editor of A New Literary History of America.

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