23 May 2008

In my younger and more vulnerable years...

Recently I decided that instead of listening to the comedy stations on Itunes radio or any of my music while working, I would listen to the The Great Gatsby audiobook I bought for my drives from Corvallis to Seattle. This version is read by Tim Robbins, whose soft, melodic voice matches perfectly the lyrical prose of Mr. Fitzgerald. I've told people before, in only half-seriousness, that Gatsby is the reason I became an English major and then later decided to pursue an MFA. It was half-seriousness because this book represented the first time I really dug into a book enough for it to dig into me, there was never any conscious thought process about wanting to be the next Fitzgerald or write the next Gatsby. Anyways, I listened to Tim Robbins guide me with his sing-songing voice past the eyes of Dr.TJ Eckleburg and onto the shore of Gatsby's lawn, staring at that unreachable green light, knowing what would happen next until before I was ready for it, I heard him reading:

"It eluded us then, but that's no matter - tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther...And then one fine morning-
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

I was startlingly close to tears at my desk. At first it was a sort of shock at the beauty of the words themselves. Even though I've read and heard them many times before, there was something cutting in my unprepared state. Then the more I thought about it, I realized something: this is why I want to write. Fitzgerald was somehow able to capture hope, failure, and beauty in the span of two sentences. Yes yes of course the rest of the book is quite perfect (even though Fitzgerald wrote in his letters that the Gatsby has its flaws that he simply covered in "blankets of excellent prose"), but come on, two sentences! That's my American Dream right there.

My high school teacher that taught Gatsby to me was also my high school coach, a gruff, mean-looking softie who totally knew his literary shit. During a discussion of the importance of Dr.TJ Eckleburg's eyes or why Daisy was always wearing white, a girl asked him, "Do you think he really thought about all this, or are we just reading too much into it?" After a brief and intense moment of silence, Mr. Nickerson simply pointed at the door and said, "Out."

No comments: