SUCH GREAT HEIGHTS: the great gatsby + the social network… works?

Of course it does. 

Such Great HeightsChris 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.

augustine__by_indiae-tumblr-e1368246215414All 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!”

Angels_on_the_sidelines_by_mp3d-e1368245897898Thrilling, 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.