Sunday, September 14, 2008
Her Voice Is Full Of Money
I have just finished "The Great Gatsby". What a marvelous work.
This is my first reading of this. Okay, all of you stop gaping in wonder. That's how classics work from time to time...some books just get by you. I've been meaning to read this for the last..oh...thirty years. I have finally done so.
. . . One autumn night, five years before, they had been walking down the street when the leaves were falling, and they came to a place where there were no trees and the sidewalk was white with moonlight. They stopped here and turned toward each other. Now it was a cool night with that mysterious excitement in it which comes at the two changes of the year. The quiet lights in the houses were humming out into the darkness and there was a stir and bustle among the stars. Out of the corner of his eye Gatsby saw that the blocks of the sidewalk really formed a ladder and mounted to a secret place above the trees--he could climb to it, if he climbed alone, and once there he could suck on the pap of life, gulp down the incomparable milk of wonder.
I swear when I read that prose I wanted to applaud. But the beauty of the writing, the lyrical use of description (the incomparable milk of wonder)paints astonishing images and at the same time sets up metaphors that weave in and out of the theme.
The characters here are complex.
The tragic Gatsby, in love with a woman who can never really love him back; a woman so shallow that she can be described by a few words: "Her voice is full of money." God. In that sentence, placed where it is in the book, we have unquestionably established Daisy. With those words the author has driven a needle through her, pinning her into place. A specimen. And Gatsby, pursuing her, is persuing a dream which can never find fruition. This shell, though noble and poetic, running from one past, pursuing another, has nothing to offer the future. Gatsby has seen his finest hour and it is behind him.
This novel, a tragedy of unfulfilled love, empty dreams, shallow relationships,
pathetic decadence and punished materialism deserves the accolades it has
received over the last several decades.
This is one of the greatest American novels ever written. I am embarrassed to only be reading it for the first time at age fifty three. If you haven't read Gatsby, then grab a copy, sit down, and read.
But read interactively. Don't just follow the words and expect to be entertained.
Read and question. Explore. Stop between paragraphs occasionally, and think about what
you have read. I don't mean plotting, I mean structure, language, description.
Here's to Jay Gatz. And to Daisy, where ever you landed.
Posted by Stewart Sternberg at 8:58 PM