Books | December 24, 2020 11:46 am

What Happens When “The Great Gatsby” Enters the Public Domain Next Month?

Related: Is the world ready for Space Gatsby?

"The Great Gatsby"
An iconic novel is set to enter the public domain in 2021.
Bruce Bisping/Star Tribune via Getty Images

We’re a little over a week from the beginning of 2021, and with the arrival of a new year, we’re also about to see a seismic moment in American literature. On January 1, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, one of the most acclaimed books of the last century, will enter the public domain. That Fitzgerald’s novel still exerts a pull on popular culture is not in doubt; next year will also see the release of a high-profile Gatsby prequel.

In a new article at Time, Annabel Gutterman ventured into the questions Gatsby‘s public domain maneuver might lead to. Gutterman notes that some works’ place in the public domain has inspired other acclaimed literary works — the example cited is Jane Eyre inspiring Wide Sargasso Sea. But there are hazards to this approach as well. Gutterman writes that Gatsby moving into the public domain “could open the door to editions that change the text for the worse.”

The article takes a cautiously optimistic tone, pointing to an upcoming theatrical adaptation that offers an intriguing narrative lens through which to view the novel’s themes and story. And if your heart’s desire has been to read a version of The Great Gatsby set on the moon as opposed to Long Island, well, 2021 might be your lucky year.

All of this talk about revisiting bygone times and repeating the past might put some readers in mind of a certain acclaimed novel. It certainly seems as though that book might come in handy right now — and, thankfully, we’re likely to see a whole lot more of that come next year.

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