If you've been planning to read (or reread) "The Great Gatsby," your biggest challenge now might be deciding on which edition.
Every Jan. 1, books, songs, movies and other copyrighted works more than 95 years old enter the public domain. This year, that includes F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic, first published in 1925.
Scribner, which had held the rights to "Gatsby" since it first appeared, reissued the novel in 2018 with a new introduction by two-time National Book Award-winner Jesmyn Ward. Now, in addition, readers can choose versions with introductions by John Grisham (Vintage Classics), Min Jin Lee (Penguin Classics), Malcolm Bradbury (Everyman's Library) and Wesley Morris (Modern Library). In March, Norton Critical Editions will publish the novel with an introduction and annotations by Harvard scholar David J. Alworth.
If you prefer reinvention to reinterpretation, the lapse of copyright protection also means that writers and artists can mine the characters and plots of a work for their own purposes without having to ask permission or pay a fee. For example, K. Woodman-Maynard, a Minneapolis graphic designer, has adapted "Gatsby" into a graphic novel (Candlewick Press).
Independently published variations on the novel include "The Gay Gatsby," by B.A. Baker, and "The Great Gatsby Undead," by Kristen Briggs. (From the promotional copy: "Gatsby doesn't seem to eat anything, and has an aversion to silver, garlic and the sun, but good friends are hard to come by.")
The most ambitious early entry in the reimagining game might be "Nick" (Little, Brown), a novel by Michael Farris Smith that tells the story of Nick Carraway, Fitzgerald's narrator, before he arrived on Long Island and became caught in Gatsby's orbit. The book follows his harrowing experiences in World War I and time later spent in New Orleans.
"Gatsby" is often cited as a — if not the — great American novel, and the new editions allow for fresh analysis, nearly a century later, of what our ideas of "American" now entail.
Morris parses the book's themes using references to blackface, industrialization, "capitalism as an emotion," silent films, reality television and, uniting these strands, what it means to "perform versions of oneself."
To Lee, the book's clear-eyed view of money and class still is a rarity.
"We can talk about race all day and night in the 21st century," Lee said, "but not money."