Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Literature 101

Back in high school we had to read books for English class.  One was the standard classic To Kill A Mockingbird and another one was The Great Gatsby.  The first one I read, but the second one didn't interest me after the first few pages so I gave it up.  It was pretty easy to find a cheat sheet for it to get by in class so it remained most definitely unread.  It remains that way to this day.  In fact, my Gatsby radar never did lock into anything that caught my eye - not the movie with Redford or the one with DiCaprio.  The whole spoiled rich people thing just didn't register.  

I did, however, watch Ebert's biographical documentary Life Itself.   At the end it is mentioned by someone that the final page of Gatsby was his favorite piece of literature.  

"Most of the big shore places were closed now and there were hardly any lights except the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound.  And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailor's eyes - a fresh, green, breast of the new world.  Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby's house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate with his capacity for wonder.  
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.  

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 - tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther...And one fine morning -----

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past." 

When I am at the North Henderson Community Center working on my 6th or 7th beer, I'm going to do a reading of this page and we should be good for another couple hours of heavy conversation.

One can quibble with Bill's reading of the last page - he talks too fast, as if it were a contest for speedreading, and he says "org-i-astic" rather than the correct "org-astic", but he was Ebert's friend so I'll keep him in the post. 

One cannot quibble, however, with the sheer mastery and beauty of those words.  It's almost enough to make me want to pick up a copy and finally read it.  Miss Billings would be so proud of me.  

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