So I’m finally reading The Great Gatsby. That’s right. I’ve never read it before this, in spite of my love of Fitzgerald’s writing.
I’m only about five chapters in, so far, but I can already see why it is considered his masterpiece. His writing is so lovely. For the most part, it just flows along, in a friendly, conversational way. And then all of a sudden he will surprise you with a passage of astonishing beauty, like this one:
We walked through a high hallway into a bright rosy-colored space, fragilely bound into the house by French windows at either end. The windows were ajar and gleaming white against the fresh grass outside that seemed to grow a little way into the house. A breeze blew through the room, blew curtains in at one end and out the other like pale flags, twisting them up toward the frosted wedding-cake of the ceiling, and then rippled over the wine-colored rug, making a shadow on it as wind does on the sea.
The only completely stationary object in the room was an enormous couch on which two young women were buoyed up as though upon an anchored balloon. They were both in white, and their dresses were rippling and fluttering as if they had just been blown back in after a short flight around the house. I must have stood for a few moments listening to the whip and snap of the curtains and the groan of a picture on the wall. Then there was a boom as Tom Buchanan shut the rear windows and the caught wind died out about the room, and the curtains and the rugs and the two young women ballooned slowly to the floor.
I mean. That is breathtaking. Even though taken word for word, it really makes no sense. Wind doesn’t make shadows on the sea. But how else would you describe what it does? And how can something as solid as a couch seem to be a balloon? But that is exactly the right way to convey the mood of the room. Then there is the moment when Tom, who I’m guessing is going to be somewhat the villain of the piece (no spoilers, please!), shuts the windows, and everything collapses. Beautiful.
And from that, he can go into saying something completely absurd, like this short description of a group of Gatsby’s guests:
… a whole clan named Blackbuck, who always gathered in a corner and flipped up their noses like goats at whosoever came near.
When I read that, I literally laughed out loud.
In a coffee shop, no less.