SUCH GREAT HEIGHTS: the great gatsby + the social network… works?
Of course it does.
Chris Cole has written a pop novel that moves about as fast as America crumbles, or: this book starts off with a gunshot and accelerates until its bloody climax.
Full disclosure: I work with Cole on the Quiet Lightning board of directors and on top of that am proud to be his friend and sometimes small-time editor. We had been working on his first book for about the span of a human pregnancy when one day he told me he’d written another.
> When did you do that?
> Last month!
It was a surprise to both of us, though the more we became familiar with what he’d done the more sense it made. Ever since I’ve known Cole he’s had the same tattered copy of The Great Gatsby next to his reading chair, so it’s no surprise to me that this book parallels that plot with such accuracy, despite its obvious joys in free-association. In a very real way, this is a cover novel; but this was also around the time The Social Network came out, and the two arcs collided with such force that what is now called Such Great Heights became something much more than that.
All the lessons we can learn from The Great Gatsby are here. But we’re riding backseat in a Maybach listening to Kanye and Jay-Z, as our shy hero is unknowingly on his way to broker a secret tryst between first and former loves, Joss and Maisey, separated by her father’s business interests (and force). The class divide pervades this story, the murder is done in broad daylight (sort of)… a cover book, if you will, yes, but with a clear recalling of the original:
“He tried to beat back whatever it was with his left leg, but there was more than one of them trying to pry their way in. He tried to shut the door but he couldn’t.” We’re not just talking about retelling the same story here; we’re dealing with the story and picking up where it left off through the context of today’s culture:
“There is no past,” she continued. “There are only stories that we tell in the present. The past is a phantom tail that we wag, when we feel anxious; when we need to believe that we take up more space than our mere bodies occupy.”
For a book described as “a novel for the Instagram generation, a generation for whom nostalgia is a stylish accessory and instant messages are sacred texts,” Such Great Heights is filled with nuggets of wisdom. It says a lot not just about the themes presented in The Great Gatsby — the idea of America — but also about how it’s unfolded since, and how this generation stands before it:
“Here’s to bloody fucking capitalism,” Klondike shouted across the rooftops of Reseda, raising a nearly empty bottle of Tanqueray. “May she allow us to dine on her,” he pulled Joss in with his meaty arms, “until we decide to devour her!”
Thrilling, real and yet utterly fantastic, Such Great Heights is as profound as it is entertaining and easy to understand. You might find, while reading it, that the great hope and the great possibilities of a new nation are yet alive, here and now, in you and in me, as you’ve always felt them to be. “Never forget where you came from and you’ll never be lost,” says a minor character, indelibly.
Joss Stember: You could tell it was his lawn by the way he stood on it.
Maisey Graft: “I believe in the moon more than I believe in my own reflection,” she said dreamily.
Charlie Middle: “With my better-educated eyes I saw Maisey’s father as a demon, disguised in sandy blond hair and pastel jacket. He clutched a glass filled with an amber liquid and I imagined it as a potion he must keep consuming to prevent from changing back into demon form.”
Reed Graft: “He thinks he can just buy everyone’s respect,” Reed foamed. “But respect isn’t purchased. It’s inherited.”
Brogan Landing: “God makes too much of a dividend off Legacy Partners to ever let anything happen to me, Charlie.”
Harris Fink: “There’s a company that manufactures Ecstasy that is side-effect free, and you think I wouldn’t be involved?” Joss could hear Harris’ words now. “Have we met?””
- You can read the prologue here and listen to the first chapter here.
- You can get a digital copy of the book right now for only $4.99, and a print copy for only $8.99.
- If you do get a copy, write a review on the Amazon. It really helps, and people should read this book.