Literary Mixtape: Jay Gatsby


If you’ve ever wondered what your favorite literary characters might be listening to while they save the world/contemplate existence/get into trouble, or hallucinated a soundtrack to go along with your favorite novels, well, us too. But wonder no more! Here, we sneak a look at the hypothetical iPods of some of literature’s most interesting characters. What would be on the personal playlists of Holden Caulfield or Elizabeth Bennett, Huck Finn or Harry Potter, Tintin or Humbert Humbert? Something revealing, we bet. Or at least something danceable. Read on for a cozy reading soundtrack, character study, or yet another way to emulate your favorite literary hero. This week: Jay Gatsby, Fitzgerald’s ink and paper representation of the quintessential American dream — with a dark side.

All Jay Gatsby really wants is to marry his dream girl, Daisy. He was always disgusted by his own poverty, but once Daisy marries a wealthy aristocrat, he realizes that he must recast himself to have any chance of winning her back. So, he teams up with gangsters and becomes a rum-runner and a shady businessman, becoming unbelievably rich in the process. He then retreats to West Egg, throwing lavish parties for the ladies and gentlemen, hoping for a glimpse of his beloved. Gatsby is the epitome of both the wealthy example of the functionality of the American dream, and the nouveau riche upstart who will never find true acceptance into the world he so desperately longs for. Here are the songs we think Gatsby would woo, party, and get paid to:

“Money” — Flying Lizards

The sloe-eyed anthem of hipster materialists everywhere.

“Electric Feel” — MGMT

Gatsby throws the ultimate party for rich kids and hangers-on, after all. He’s gonna need a soundtrack.

“Out of My Head” — Fastball

This seems like an appropriate song for someone who sneakily made his fortune bootlegging. “Sometimes I feel like I am drunk behind the wheel / the wheel of possibility / however it may roll…”

“Pocketful of Money” — Jens Lekman

A song about wanting to blow all your money on a girl would resonate with Gatsby — after all, the only reason he has any money is for a girl — but we think the ominous cha cha-ing and lush, deep-voiced refrain “I’ll coming running with a heart on fire” is even more Gatsby than the cash.

“Luck Be A Lady” — Frank Sinatra

The favorite singer of self-consciously dapper gents (and their totally awesome grandpas) everywhere. Not to mention that in the prohibition era, Gatsby woke up one morning a millionaire. So that’s kind of lucky.

“Are You Satisfied?” — Marina and the Diamonds

Okay, so Gatsby would never actually admit to anyone that he liked this song, but obviously he would listen to it in his bedroom all the time. We’re convinced all guys like Marina, anyway. And, really: “Are you satisfied with an average life? / Do I need to life to make my way in life?” We all know Gatsby’s answer to that question.

“Pretty Green Ft. Santo Gold” — Mark Ronson

A modern version of aristo-cool-kid wannabe and party boy extraordinaire Gatsby would undoubtably have a turntable full of Mark Ronson-mixed tracks — or perhaps even Mark Ronson himself in the DJ booth. That’s what you get for a pocketful of pretty green.

“I Can’t Get Next To You” — Al Green

This might be Gatsby’s go-to track for floating in his pool and thinking about Daisy. Dude has everything anyone could ever want — but since he can’t get that one special lady, he’s got nothing.

“In An Operetta” — The Magnetic Fields

The Magnetic Fields would suit Gatsby’s taste perfectly: half cool and refined, half goofy and lowbrow.

“Rich Girls” — The Virgins

Hey, rich girl! Come dance with Gatsby in the back. You don’t have be such an asshole all the time…

“The Party’s Crashing Us” — of Montreal

Can’t you just see a whole ballroom full of people in ’20s finery dancing to this electro-disco-whimsy classic? We can. And we like it. Plus, there’s always that one line: “You freed me from the past / you fucked the suburbs out of me…”

“Tous Les Garçons Et Les Filles” — Françoise Hardy

Because, after all, Gatsby’s expending a lot of energy trying to seem refined. No one with any taste at all can argue with famous French chanteuses.