Simultaneously Enchanted and Repelled by The Great Gatsby Or, I Wanna Change My Hair, My Clothes, My Face

I am the first girl to hold out her fork and say, “Dude! This is so good! You have to try this!”

If I love you and you need something, I’m going to damn well make sure you get it.
Or a very close approximation of it.
Or a sandwich because dude, even if I did have Ryan Gosling’s phone number – I wouldn’t give it to you first. I mean, we’re friends but I’m not running for Jesus here.

As demonstrated above, I’m very selfish in a very peculiar way.

If I have a particular affinity to something, I’m reluctant to share it with the unworthy. It doesn’t take much but you have to earn your way to my favorite menu item and my most beloved b-side.

And that’s why I’m really worried about the fallout of Baz Luhrmann’s take on The Great Gatsby.

gatsby

The movie comes out on Friday – all bombast and bling. Slick and shimmery as Beyonce’s thighs and calm like a bomb. And with this comes the inevitable gaggle of idiots who get taken in by the, ‘Oooh pretty shiny!’, idealize Jay and Daisy’s romance and basically, take something I love and like it wrong.

Can you ‘like’ something wrong?
Yes.
Yes, you can.

I’m fully aware of the fact that I sound like a crazy person right now. I mean, The Great Gatsby is a classic and it belongs less to be me and more to the collective conscience but I still think of it as mine.

I’ve written about it extensively, I own two copies (one of which lives in my purse) and when I miraculously have more body mass, I’m going to get that last paragraph inked on my flesh.

I love this story even though it’s been criticized as being nothing more than a glorified anecdote. A shivery wisp of a story we’ve all heard a million times – boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy reconnects with girl, boy loses girl again – but there’s a whole other world that ebbs and flows within the confines of that cliche.

As much as I love the lushness of the language, my favorite thing about the novel is its duality. The notion that the very hope that sustains a man is the same that will eventually slay him knocks me out.

Only love will break your heart, right? Love will tear us apart. Love is a battlefield. Love is blindness. Love hurts, right? It wounds, it scars and it breaks your fucking heart…BUT hope? Hope will reduce a man to ashes.

Love pretends that it’s dangerous, but hope will drag you through hell before it kills you and whisper sweet nothings in your ear the entire time.

A couple of nights ago, I had a conversation about the novel and it got me thinking about reinvention, reinterpretation of self, how it’s never too late to start over and how The Great Gatsby really is the great American novel.

The blue-jean clad, hip-swiveling hero from Springsteen’s Dancing In The Dark is James Gatz:

I check my look in the mirror
I wanna change my clothes, my hair, my face
Man I ain’t getting nowhere
I’m just living in a dump like this
There’s something happening somewhere
Baby, I just know that there is

Both men springing from platonic conceptions of themselves. Both sons of God, but while Springsteen’s jukebox hero spent his time twistin’ the night away with a pre-Friends Courteney Cox, James Gatz ached for Daisy and casually dispensed starlight to moths in the tenuous hope that she would grace his doorway.

God, is there anything more redolent of the American spirit than this? After all, what are Americans but conceptions of themselves? Children of God who don’t mold themselves in His image but rather their own.

Unlike Gatsby, I don’t regard the silver salt and pepper of the stars looking to repeat the past. If anything, I want to extricate myself from its gnarled roots and I hope this marked difference will spare me the elegiac tragedy that befell Fitzgerald’s high bouncing, gold-hatted lover.

However, I am fascinated by the idea of reinvention and living out your personalized runaway American dream.

My life is kinda up in the air right now and I have no idea what’s going to happen, but I’m buoyed by the same sense of extraordinary hope as Gatsby.

I don’t really have a plan and I don’t really know what’s going to happen, but I do know that if you don’t like something – you can change it and start over.

That I can be the person I want to be and live the life I want to live.

All I have to do is run faster, stretch my arms out farther and one fine morning…

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