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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Eager For Bread And Love Or, Hey Baby, I’m Just About Starving Tonight…

I’ve started reading On The Road by Jack Kerouac.

I’m one chapter in and this phrase jumps out at me.

Actually, this phrase pretty much leaps off the page, grabs my face and makes out with me like a Catholic high school boy, all hopped up on pent-up lust, Mountain Dew and Axe body spray.

“Dean just raced in society, eager for bread and love; he didn’t care one way or the other, “so long’s I can get that lil ole gal with that lil sumpin down there tween her legs, boy,” and “so long’s we can eat, son, y’ear me? I’m hungry, I’m starving, let’s eat right now!” and off we’d rush to eat, whereof, as saith Ecclesiastes, “It is your portion under the sun.”

Was there ever a more apt description of the fire and freshness stored up in my ghostly heart?

Like Dean, I am starving for both bread and love and I want to eat now. Like right now. Like all the time.

My evangelical fervor for bread is well-documented and I’m pretty sure no-one wants to read another ode to the baguette (but seriously – a dab of creamy goat cheese, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil a sprinkle of sea salt, a diaphanous ribbon of basil and one perfect blushing slice of tomato eaten while sitting in the sunshine? It’s kinda perfect, right?).

As for being a girl in love with the world? It’s this dichotomy of being utterly effortless and being incredibly difficult all at once.

It’s tough because it’s so easy to get mired in the muck – work, money, the unfettered bullshit of the RNC, the unfettered bullshit of media, relationships and adult problems in general.

However, there’s a facility about it because this world is magnanimous with love. You fall in love with people you meet and the people you won’t ever meet. You fall in love with moments – the way the light dapples through the tree outside of your bedroom window and the way your dog sighs and rests his head on your lap. You fall in love with sound and images – the ice cream sweet calliope of Wouldn’t It Be Nice? by The Beach Boys and that great picture of Neil Armstrong and you fall in love with simple pleasures like taking off your pants when you get home or sleeping during a rainstorm.

You’ve got to hold onto that stuff. With both hands and a fierce, intractable grip. You’ve gotta remember it any way you can — I scribble in notebooks and all over my left hand, I take pictures, I reblog, I make mix CDs, I never shut the hell up and even though it helps me to remember, it’s not enough. It never will be. The world is entirely too vast and intricate for me to consume it all.

But it matters. Because here’s the thing – this world is beautiful and one day, we’re all going to die.

So while we’re here – this blink of time, this barely-exhaled breath of a moment – we should actively work to be in love with the world. It’s not easy but isn’t that what makes it worthwhile?

So, if you’re starving like I am – it’s time to eat.

Pass the bread.

Fifty Shades of Grey Or, I’d Rather Be A Broad Than A Bella (Or An Ana)

I started reading 50 Shades of Grey last night and I am appalled.

APPALLED.

Not because of the content.

Dudes, I grew up in the era of the internet, went to public school and lived with boys. There is very little that shocks me at this point.

I’m appalled at how ass-achingly terrible the writing is and how this is becoming a thing in society.

When did pale-faced, gawky and gangly girls become the norm?
Does anyone find this remotely attractive?
Is this really a standard to aspire to?

“Oh no, I’m all klutzy and painfully awkward. I’m all pensive lip-bites and doe-like skittishness and FEELINGS. And yet, my milkshake brings all the boys to yard.”

Chick Lit heroines! They’re just like us!

Only…not. Because dudes, this is not me at all.

This is where my defective girl gene rears up in a big way.

Anyone who reads this blog knows I’m crap at being a girl.

I don’t bake – my cookies suck, my brownies come straight out of a box and the notion of frosting a cupcake causes me to break out into a cold sweat.

I don’t relate to Taylor Swift – Dude! You are tall, blonde, skinny, pretty and rich! It defies the very laws of physics for you to have man problems! You know what I would do if I was tall, blonde, skinny, pretty and rich? Sing about how amazing it is to be tall, blonde, skinny, pretty and rich!

I would probably blind myself if I attempted to apply liquid liner, jewelry doesn’t impress me and the notion of reading the Twilight series makes me want to tear off my own arm and club myself to death with it.

(Yeah — Augs hit the jackpot, right?)

Chick lit? I just can’t relate because I am not like this.

When I fall, it’s not all awk-dorable like a baby giraffe taking its first, tenative steps. It’s a graceless, sprawling wipeout of dipshittery.

I am not doe-like in any capacity. If anything, I’m a labrador. “Hi, I’m Jaime! Wanna grab a bite to eat? Sure you do! Dude, let me tell you all about this awesome shit that went down!”

I don’t toy nervously with the straw in my glass. I look the waitress in the eye, smile brightly and say, “Hi. Can I please have the biggest Diet Coke you have? Like, if you have one the size of my head – I’ll take it. Oh and lemon.”

In short — I’m a broad. Or a dame. And I refer to myself thusly partly because I have a thing for old-timey words, partly because I dig noir and partly because it’s sounds much better than the alternatives.

Broads and dames?

We drink gin.
We read real books by Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Chandler, Gaiman, Martin, Sedaris and Moore.
We watch good television.
We can out-talk you.
We will out-talk you.
We’ll probably out-curse you too.
We like to eat and eat well.

We are interesting and loud. We have opinions and we are unapologetically, unabashedly smart.

We will touch you when we talk and it’s not just because we want to touch you. It’s because we’re passionate and we can’t really communicate without gesticulating.

And when we bite our lip — it’s a whole new ballgame, slugger.

I’m just really tired of these passionless, boring women populating fiction these days. They just waif around waiting for some beautiful stranger to come along and imbue them with a sense of purpose.

Fuck that.

A life in stasis is a really dull way to live and honestly, I don’t have the patience to wait around for someone to come along and make some noise.

So, I make my own and if you wanna grab a drum and bang along with me? Sweet! Let’s bring the noise.

Oh and I’ve decided I’m going to write a response to this insipid pablum. I’m calling it 100 Shades of Pink and it’s going to feature a bad-ass broad as the protagonist. It’s also going to be smart, well-written and just effing awesome.

Who’s down to pre-order?

Dead Writers’ Society Or, That and 50 Cents Will Get You A Cup of Coffee

I picked up The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler at the library and spent most of Saturday afternoon on the deck, sipping an icy Diet Dr. Pepper and reading aloud to Ryely.

Rye looks so noble here. I love this picture.

He wasn’t impressed (he’s more of a Fitzgerald kinda guy) but I’m pretty sold.

I’ll read a couple of pages and then, I’ll have to put it down for a second because goddamn it, it’s good.
How does this guy do that?
How does a man come up with these perfect, perfect statements like, “I was as hollow and empty as the spaces between stars.”

Holy shit, that’s good, right?

I wish Raymond Chandler were still alive. Wait. Let me amend that. I wish I could call him up and say, “Hey. You wanna meet up and get a drink?”

We’d meet at some Los Angeles hole-in-the-wall that only a guy like Raymond Chandler would know about and order real coffee – strong, rich and served in thick white ceramic mugs with cream (not creamer), sugar cubes and a bosomy waitress who calls you ‘hon’ when she tops you off – or gimlets. Real gimlets. The kind Terry Lennox drank – half gin, half Rose’s Lime and nothing else.
I’d talk to him about his writing (because in a fantasy world where dead authors come to life and meet you for a drink, they’d actually give a shit what you think) and the way his writing and similes are so goddamn perfect and beautiful and precise.

Dead men tell no tales so my chances of having a drink much less a conversation with Chandler are pretty slim.

So, I guess it’s just me, a good book, a warm day, a cold drink, a deck and a dog who rests his head on my lap and looks at me like I’m nuts when I read aloud to him.