The Great Gatsby

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that  I’ve been turning over in my head ever since.

I have been fortunate in the recent past to have read books of such magnificent literary quality that I am still grappling with a sensation akin to breathlessness long after the moment has passed, the last page turned. It may be a “mere” hundred and eighty pages, but the Great Gatsby is almost poetic in its prose. Quite unlike other American novels that I have read and curiously similar to Mahfouz, Shafak and Hamid.

Not a word seems out of place, the actions are meticulously crafted to reveal character more than words or descriptions and each symbol, from Gatsby’s ‘circus wagon’ to T.J. Eckleburg’s ominous bespectacled eyes glowering down on the Valley of Ashes, leaves a lasting impression on the reader. It reminds me of R. K. Narayan and his delicious description of “the fire-eyed Vedanayagam”  in Malgudi Schooldays, though of course the symbolism isn’t quite as psychologically thrilling as Gatsby. There is a haunting quality to them much like the green light on Daisy’s dock.

And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

Perhaps what I enjoyed about the novel is New York. For a city that is so fascinating and rewarding, it was a pleasure to read about how it came to be what it is today. And that description of the first sight of it from the Queensboro bridge is probably one of my most favourite quotes in all of literature.

The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and beauty in the world.

It’s true. Every time I see the rise of the buildings, the Empire State, Chrysler, Freedom Tower, the glow of the tip of the Statue of Liberty – the lights, the magic of New York: it’s in the air and especially, especially, on that bridge where the entire vista reveals itself all at once.

And then there is the man himself, Jay Gatsby, and for all his incredible antics shrouded in mystery, he was but human, swept up by the hopeless optimism of falling in love. Through the novel, Nick’s ambivalence bordering on suspicion, Gatsby’s melodramatic flair and half-truths, even outright lies, make you wonder whether he deserves the appellation of greatness presumed by the book’s title. And yet, by the end of the novel, I understand why this selfish, affected rich man with questionable morals  is “great”. It’s undefinable, like something that you can’t quite put a finger on, but true nonetheless. Clearly, Nick has the same dilemma.

When I came back from the East last autumn I wanted no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart. Only Gatsby, the man who gives his name to this book, was exempt from my reaction — Gatsby, who represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn. If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life — it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again. No — Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men.

The end is as beautiful as the beginning, and perhaps even more so. It speaks of the hope for unbounded happiness that we strive towards with unrelenting optimism, often not realizing that the moment we seek is long past. If we did realize it, would we then still be brimming with the starry-eyed longing with which we chase down our dreams?

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…and one fine morning–



Thoughts While Watching WONDER WOMAN

    1. My friend is freaking out about us not getting to the theatre on time even though AMC famously starts the show after TWENTY WHOLE MINUTES of advertisements and trailers. Double whammy of shameless capitalism inside and outside in the popcorn queue. THIS IS WHY YOU NEED AN INTERMISSION, AMERICA! But I’m grateful for the buffer. Thanks AMC.
    2. Gah, the dude at the door forgot to give us our 3D glasses. Minutes before the start of the film I’m running down the escalator to the ground floor. But that’s OK because trusty ol’ AMC also devotes three hundred seconds to turning off cellphones. And really driving the point “we’re awesome” home.
    3. And so it begins! I have goosebumps.
    4. The wide angle camera shot of what looks like the Great Wall of China. Oh it’s Themababababa. OK island. You are cool because your name is complicated.
    5. THE AMAZONS! Such a time-waster this back story is. WHERE IS CHRIS PINE?
    6. There he is.
    7. “We are the good guys, the Germans are the bad guys”
      Heh heh heh.
      *slowly sinks into popcorn and avoids making eye contact with German friend*
    8. The Amazon warriors kicking some major dude ass is oddly satisfying. I was concerned about Wonder Woman wearing a skirt-armour but looks like the frock-uniform was all the rage in the early 20th century.
    9. Ah, 20th century Britain. You are beautiful.
      Must. Remember. Not. Think. Of. The. Indian. Blood. Spilt. Building. It.
      Is that treachery? Nah, probably just sedition.
    10. This woman is breathtaking. Come on Chris Pine, GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER.
    11. I’m told that Chris Pine has an actual name in this movie that is not Chris Pine.
    12. Wonder Woman, Amazon with no knowledge of the human world, bedecked in American colours and symbols. Uncanny.
    13. Wonder Woman’s dress is very very distracting because her derrière, protected by three tenuous pieces of fabric, is constantly threatening to moon the audience.
      Side Note: A quick search says that the radical idea of Wonder Woman wearing pants was tossed around and then tossed out. I think it was to ensure that I spent at least part of this movie in equal parts cold sweat and amazement that neither the (strapless!) top slips nor the bottom slips up. She really is magical, isn’t she?
    14. THE LASSO OF TRUTH!! And the special effects are brilliant.
    15. I love the moment where he’s all, “Come damsel, let me protect you”. Then Wonder Woman beats up everyone and his expression changes to an astonished, “Please damsel goddess, protect me!”
    16. The actress is amazing, so I shudder to say this, but in some scenes she looks so demure and dainty rather than powerful. I wish they had done a little less getup and a little more Geeta.
    17. They stop at a village along the way to find Ares and take The Most Convenient Photograph in DC History. It means someone, most likely Chris Pine or everyone, is going to die. He does.
    18. Why is Remus Lupin bothering to reveal himself as Ares when he knows that Wonder Woman is the God Killer? She’s going to beat you, dude!
    19. And she does.
    20. What does Batman have to do with Wonder Woman? Should I have watched Batman v. Superman?
    21. Update: I watched Everything Wrong With Batman v. Superman instead.