Saturday, April 18, 2009
I have been listening to a recording of The Great Gatsby. ever hear of the book??? well yeah, it is a warhorse. I 1st read it in high school, 9th grade. and I liked it, I think. that it is as ubiquitous a cultural item as, say, Vivaldi's Four Seasons should not take away from the pleasure of the book. Fitzgerald had a magnificent ease with his writing. edit that, his best writing was honey smooth. I dutifully read Tender is the Night and it was pretty much of a botch. too much effort following thought out strictures rather than allowing the story to find itself. the plot of Gatsby is meticulous to the point of being burdensome. it is wonderful to see the intricate play of elements but that ends up seeming like gimcrack. the interwoven relationships work, but they derive from that basic novelistic falsity that does not draw me in much. I am taken with how Scott's satiric edge merges with his fascination. he belongs to the world of which he writes yet also stands aside. the tension of those 2 viewpoints holds the story together. I saw the movies after having read Gatsby at least a couple of times, and the look of the movie (I mean the version with Robert Redford) informs how I imagine the characters and look of the book. Redford's crisp woodenness seems perfect for Gatsby, and just seeing all that white flannel and those airy mansions evokes a milieu and an era. Scott's description of the social interactions between people is Proustian in its presence. certainly Scott was not attempting the depth charge that Proust committed to, but the prickling light bouncing off the social surfaces in Gatsby are pretty vivid. the scene in which Tom Buchanan dismally honks about the need for racial purity, and the women prattle about his great intellect, is clustered unknowing fatuousness. and there's the library of uncut books, and that ridiculous drunken car crash at the first Gatsby party that Nick attends. oh, and I love the litany of attendees to Gatsby's party, with the goofy names and desperate invocation of importance as in the society page of the newspaper. about which I wonder, whither goest? as newspapers conk out, will there be a venue for those pictures of Dr and Mrs Whosis at the charity ball? I mean, would a website serve so lusciously? a brave new world is nigh. anyway, Scott's short stories, which Gatsby extends from, are flush with a humoured embrace of present giddy particulars. Tender represents the artist's attempt to create weight. the result is something that cannot bear its own weight. I think of Truman Capote's Answered Prayers, which is his attempt to find value in the tacky social network he teased himself into. Capote had Proust and probably Fitzgerald clanking in his head as he tattled about his friends and acquaintances. he missed the boat entirely. everyone had the clef to his roman, probably because he had gossiped it all right along. and these elite are not so fascinating, of themselves, as he believes. Lee Radziwill? Babe Paley? Fitzgerald was not just fascinated by the milieu of America's rich explosion. Gatsby ends, almost jarringly, with a reminder that the main players in the drama were Midwesterners. the implication of the American turbine may not be drawn out enough but it is a node of interest and relevancy in the book. I do not entirely trust Fitzgerald or, in fact, many of the most interesting 20th Century American novelists. Hemingway interests me almost not at all, but Wolfe and Dos Passos have their moments, and I really like immersing in Faulkner, but there is something that I do not trust about them, all of them. it is something about these United States that scars or misshapens the work. dare I say that the pure products of America go crazy? there is something to that, tho I recognize that a curveball exists in the word pure.