June 04, 1979 12:00 PM

Fitzgerald’s schizophrenic reaction to wealth and high living—lusting after it one minute, lampooning it the next—speaks eloquently to our times, too. Those who might have doubts, after the disastrous 1974 Hollywood rendition of The Great Gatsby, should tune in to this eight-night National Public Radio series (running June 3-10 in most cities). Each of the hour-long programs is half docu, half drama. The first 30 minutes is a look at Fitzgerald and his era (the premiere, for instance, includes excerpts of speeches by Theodore Roosevelt and Warren Harding, the ditty/Didn’t Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier and the trivium that French toast used to be German toast before the anti-Boche feelings stirred by World War I). The second half hour consists of dramatizations of Fitzgerald short stories with actors like Barbara Rush, Hugh O’Brien and Jerry Orbach. Though the narrator, Richard (John Boy Walton) Thomas, who reads from Fitzgerald’s diaries, letters and stories, seems unable to muster either enough enthusiasm or enough cynicism, the series is largely successful. A TV production would have obvious advantages, but radio drama fans are right—it is fun conjuring up images to fit the characters. You can also wash the dishes, put up a shelf or rest your eyes.

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