Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Great Gatsby (Or, F. Scott's Dirty Little Secret)

No, I don't have too much time on my hands.
   Although it is true that I generally don't like most things, there are a few that I absolutely love. I like the the droid at the Star Tours ride at Disneyland; I like Robert Kennedy; I really like Field of Dreams. (He's playing catch with his father. HIS DEAD FATHER. If that doesn't make you cry, you are a heartless, un-American hipster douchebag. Or, you have better things to do with your life than worry about Kevin Costner's well-being. Which I guess isn't a bad thing.) But, most of all, I really, really like The Great Gatsby. I free-lanced myself as a Gatsby essay-editor my junior year of high school, just because I liked that book so goddamn much that I would happily devote my free time to reading the essays of slightly more socially-adjusted teenagers. 
     I mean, it's beautiful: you have F. Scott Fitzgerald, a man deeply indebted to a largely apathetic social structure which he both derided and desired to join, who goes from middle-class anonymity in the Midwest to world renown (only greater after his death by alcoholism, no less), all while falling into the very decadent nihilism that he was trying to observe in the first place. I nerdgasm just thinking about it. By some sort of loyalty to F. Scott Fitz-geezy, I refuse to like Ernest Hemingway, but I did read all the Scott-related chapters of A Movable Feast, so I know from a very reliable (and very succinct) source that Mr. Fitzgerald had some issues with the size of a certain male appendage. I have very strong feelings about Princeton (sorry, I can't appreciate the school from This Side of Paradise, I just can't), and about Zelda Fitzgerald.
   The Great Gatsby, though, is the pinnacle of everything else in the Fitzgerald universe. The story itself is pretty simple: guy loves girl, girl is married, guy fails to discover that girl is a heartless psycho-bitch, guy is gunned down in a swimming pool. There are some parties thrown in here and there, a few affairs, some good flashbacks, a golf conspiracy. But this is one of those books that isn't really the sum of its parts -- it's the goddamn American dream, all in a tidy little package. There's Tom Buchanan, with his mistresses and white supremacy; Nick Carraway, the supporting character in his own life; bootlegging, Jewish mafias, a basically abandoned toddler (good parenting, Daisy, good parenting), and the weirdest seduction scene in literary history (I'm talking, of course, about the scene in Gatsby's house while Klipspringer plays the piano and Nick watches as Daisy throws Gatsby's satin shirts across into a pile, stating that she's never seen such beautiful shirts before.) There's some good ol' fashioned torture porn (I still don't understand Fitzgerald's need to describe, in detail, how Myrtle Wilson's whorish boob looks as her body is splattered all over the roadside. I can be kinky, but I'm not that kinky.)
My beautiful shirts bring all the boys to the yard
     Yes, I realize that the characters in this book are wealthy, vacuous, detestable, soulless, empty, mean-spirited assholes, but I think that's kind of the point: they're not likable, but they're real. There are girls who will utilize the little bit of social standing they have at the expense of everyone else around them (here's looking at you, Daisy). There are men who will rub their jockstraps in everyone's faces, and cheat on their wives, and then get all Freddy Kruger when their wife returns the favor -- and there are women just like Myrtle Wilson, who will gladly flock to the douchey glamour of the Tom Buchanans of the world. The book has some really beautiful moments, too: Nick watching all the lonely souls of New York, the green light at the end of the dock (heavy handed metaphors all up in hurrrrrr), the eyes of the billboard looking over the Valley of Ashes. It also has some incredibly idiotic plot devices (note to Jay Gatsby: let's NOT take the blame for the bitch driving the car, even if she is kind of hot and is nice to you and ohmygodshe'stheloveofyourlife) and a hero who, though charismatic and iconic, is also self-absorbed, greedy, and too fucking stupid to realize that he loves a girl who will never, ever be with him. And then they all move forward, looking for a green light or a green orgastic future or boats and currents or something, and it's the most gorgeous last page in literature.
    So, what have we learned? Love makes you die in a swimming pool, and having a small penis makes you write about people who die in swimming pools. Also, rich people are kind of assholes. Also, the future is green and pretty. Also, the Jazz Age was full of emo alcoholics.
    Oh, and I think the Who wrote a song about The Great Gatsby. I mean, I can't prove it, but come on.

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