Saturday, July 26, 2014

New comments are still appearing on this week's Rilke posts; so if you're taking part in the reading project, don't forget to check them out and add your own response.


I spent yesterday evening sitting alongside a soccer field in Corinna, Maine. In the interstices of play, I was reading The Great Gatsby, which seems to me to be almost perfectly constructed, not only structurally but in the balance of its sentences, in Nick's perceptions, in the interplay of setting and dialogue, in the shifts of comedy and tragedy, and so on, and so on.
As for Tom, the fact that he "had some woman in New York" was really less surprising than that he had been depressed by a book. Something was making him nibble at the edge of stale ideas as if his sturdy physical egotism no longer nourished his peremptory heart.
Oddly, even though I admire this novel enormously, I would never think to include it in my "favorite books of all time" list . . . not that I exactly know what I'd include there either, but I do think that most of my favorites are a lot messier than Gatsby is. (I'd make an exception for Austen, of course.) Even my modernist loves (Woolf, Bowen, Green) seem to bleed structurally in a way that Gatsby does not. Still, despite the fact that I have read it roughly one hundred times over the course of my life, I am always delighted by its cleanness and its clarity. Reading Gatsby is like eating an oyster.


David said...

'In Why Sinatra Matters, the novelist and newspaperman Pete Hamill tells the story of a rainy spring night in 1970, drinking in P. J. Clarke's in Manhattan, when the conversation turned to writers and their reputations. Jimmy Cannon, the legendary sportswriter and war correspondent, put in a word for his late friend Ernest Hemingway. A demurral came from across the table. "That Great Gatsby", said Frank Sinatra. "Come on, Jimmy, Hemingway couldn't do that."'

- D. D. Guttenplan, reviewing Frank: The Making of a Legend (Times Literary Supplement,
May 6, 2011)

Dawn Potter said...

Just the image of Sinatra as book reader is a pleasure, let alone the image of Sinatra the discerning book reader. Hard to imagine Justin Bieber having a conversation about Hemingway and Fitzgerald.