Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Great Gatsby

“What’ll we do with ourselves this afternoon?” cried Daisy, “and the day after that, and the next thirty years?”

“Don’t be morbid,” Jordan said. “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”

“But it’s so hot,” insisted Daisy, on the verge of tears, “and everything’s so confused. Let’s all go to town!”

Well, it's definitely July. The heat is all everyone can seem to talk about right now in the city and I secretly love it. I love it in the same way I love freezing cold February days when everyone is miserable, but, I don't know, bonded somehow because of it. We commiserate together and complain in tandem and it seems that despite politics and the economy and music taste and popular opinion, we are all on the same page about something. Weather as the great equalizer.

I always think about The Great Gatsby during these intense July afternoons-- That chapter where they all escape to the Plaza hotel in Manhattan from East Egg. It is in that oppressively hot hotel suite that Gatsby and Tom finally have it out over Daisy.

No matter where they are in the indirect quarrel over Gatsby's phony use of 'old sport' and the legitimacy of his claim to have attended Oxford, and ultimately, Daisy's heart, the conversation shifts to the relentless heat. They challenge each other and order up mint juleps in the same breath. They confess their love while at the same time commenting on the wedding chords below and the tragedy of attending such an event in that hot, heavy air. The relentless beating heat was beginning to confuse me, Nick muses. I love that line.

It's a fantastic use of imagery-- the heat as a third party in that hotel room. Fitzgerald uses it to suffocate the reader alongside his players. He heats the conversation in literal terms that make us want to loosen our own collars, grab our own icy drink to cool our brow. It's suffocating, and it's supposed to be. Then, just like that, the heat lets up with a cooling twilight and we are back in East Egg where Tom's furies have also subsided and Daisy has crawled back into the comfort of monotony. Stunning.

Fitzgerald's Gatsby belongs in a group of perfect things, right there next to The Philadelphia Story, Hubbell Gardner, this New Yorker Cover and white peonies. And, if nothing else, it has helped me romanticise this July heat. It's my own mint julep dripping in hand.

photo: one of my favorites, "Katarina" by Karolina Karlic


Gail said...

After reading your post, I am trying to find some romance in Nebraska with stifling heat and humidity. I think I will stay inside now until the sun goes down and think sweet thougts about my air conditioner ;-)

Mach1 said...

Yes to "The Great Gatsby." Yes to white peonies. And yes to New Yorker covers, but can I substitute this one?