January 28, 2013

"Even when the East excited me most..."

"... even when I was most keenly aware of its superiority to the bored, sprawling, swollen towns beyond the Ohio, with their interminable inquisitions which spared only the children and the very old — even then it had always for me a quality of distortion."

This is today's sentence in the "Gatsby" project, where we look at one sentence from "The Great Gatsby," in isolation.  We don't worry about what else is going on in the great F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. It's a sentence unto itself. Whatever feeling or meaning that is generated within the bounds of the sentence — that is our concern here. And we're allowed to get it wrong. We can go off the tracks. It's pure language and the journey from one capital letter — Even — to the period — distortion.

Are you even or distorted? Get a grip! What is exciting you? Why are you sprawling and swollen? Get a hold of yourself and your excitement and your keen awareness, or we'll cut you down to size, because you are not a child or an impossibly old geezer. You're someone upon whom falls the demand to control yourself, and so I'm inclined to subject you to The Inquisition, the Inquisition that goes on forever. Interminably.

Nobody expects the Ohio Inquisition!

67 comments:

Bob_R said...

The Ohio Inquisition would definitely use the Comfy Chair.

Meade said...

It's not the Ohio inquisition. It's the beyond the Ohio inquisition. I'd call it the Indiana inquisition. The Wabash who, what, where, and why.

Bob_R said...

Is Mead old enough to be ineligible for the interminable Indiana inquisition.

Ann Althouse said...

If you are young enough or old enough, you are exempt... otherwise: Here come the comfy cushions.

edutcher said...

I can only suppose inquisitions were conducted at the Masonic Hall every Tuesday evening.

PS Every woman should have comfy cushions.

Palladian said...

Has anyone calculated how long this Gatsby project is going to go on? How many sentences are in the book? How many sentences have been covered so far?

I ask partially out of curiosity and partly because I hate "The Great Gatsby". Why couldn't we have done Chaucer or "Paradise Lost" or something?

Paul Zrimsek said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul Zrimsek said...

From there, the Inquisition grew rapidly in the Kingdom of Castile. By 1492, tribunals existed in eight Castilian cities: Ávila, Córdoba, Jaén, Medina del Campo, Segovia, Sigüenza, Toledo, and Valladolid.

betamax3000 said...

"the Inquisition that goes on forever. Interminably."

Ann has gone full Althouse Snow Globe Theory now:

"She sets the Snow Globe with cruel neutrality for us to shake and see patterns from the flitter. There is not the expectation of sentimentality. She is asking us to look, together; however, often there is no resolution, each reader seeing only his own flitter of understanding."

chickelit said...

I have never lived east of Ohio. After college, I felt a desire to leave America entirely, to skip over the east coast and to go to Europe.

betamax3000 said...

"Questions abound: can Ann's exposure to Althouse Snow Globe Theory corrupt the Theory? Can the Theory corrupt Ann's own self-awareness?

Will this knowledge lead to self-conscious neutrality? Would the attachment of an "Althouse Snow Globe Theory" tag negate the self-awareness of a post?"

I see at least two "yes" answers, I believe.

kentuckyliz said...

The comfy chair and the soft cushion. Get it right, Biggles.

Have you got the stuffing all pushed up into one end?

Do you think the shouting makes it worse?

Fear. Surprise. Ruthless efficiency. Fanatical devotion to the pope. Fancy red outfits.

kentuckyliz said...

I grew up in and live in the land of supposed inquisition. I don't see it, really.

Interdependent small communities are far less ruthless, stratified, impersonal, and power-politicking than the big east coast cities.

Just saying.

edutcher said...

How many days in the year?

28.

How many sentences in "Gatsby"?

Ann?

Palladian said...

Has anyone calculated how long this Gatsby project is going to go on? How many sentences are in the book? How many sentences have been covered so far?

I ask partially out of curiosity and partly because I hate "The Great Gatsby". Why couldn't we have done Chaucer or "Paradise Lost" or something?


Chaucer????

Paradise Lost?

Gah!!!

Bocaccio.

War and Peace (how's your Russian, bublichka?), maybe.

And there's always Rudyard ("Ship me East of Suez, Where the best is like the worst...").

Ann Althouse said...

"I ask partially out of curiosity and partly because I hate "The Great Gatsby". Why couldn't we have done Chaucer or "Paradise Lost" or something?"

I don't think the project asks you to like "The Great Gatsby." It should work for the haters. Bring that hate!

Eventually, I may need to move on. But to what? You're seriously pushing me to something so old? Hmmm.

Any other ideas?

I was thinking of "Moby Dick."

Or "The Marble Faun."

Ann Althouse said...

It must be something originally written in English.

Paddy O said...

I think Midwesterners and Easterners all have a bit of an inferiority complex, so they're always trying to prove how awful the other is and how superior they are. Or idolize the other and denigrate themselves.

I suspect it's because there's the great unknown still out there, that they or their family never quite got the gumption to go where the real adventurers went. Play it safe, stay home or go to the big city where everything is already set up for accomplishment.

Meanwhile in the West, we're happy to have people in other parts, happy to have other people stay where they're at.

Our forebears made the trip, put it all out there. There's no more west to West so while we're mildly angsty, it's self-oriented, not so competitive or dismissive, needing somewhere else to denigrate. We've come to the end, seen everywhere in between and realize the grass is the same color wherever you're at, because you're still you and that's what matters.

Paddy O said...

I think Steinbeck would be a good random sentence discussion generator. Or Jack London.

betamax3000 said...

Moby Dick?

Sperm Whale Snow Globe?

Palladian said...

I don't think the project asks you to like "The Great Gatsby." It should work for the haters. Bring that hate!

That's true! I think the general tone of the comments on these threads led me to think of them as reverential, but your writing about them is actually neutral and occasionally negative.

Eventually, I may need to move on. But to what? You're seriously pushing me to something so old? Hmmm.

Well, I just pulled those two examples out of the air, but "Paradise Lost" is full of great images and language.

Any other ideas?

Hmm... "Moby Dick" might be fun. I'm much more attracted to Melville's prose.

CEO-MMP said...

How about just hating Fitzgerald and his weak as dishwater prose?

edutcher said...

Ann Althouse said...

It must be something originally written in English.

What fun is that?

Don't you remember the joy of Caesar's Commentaries?

Reading Camus in the original?

ricpic said...

By inquisition Fitzgerald probably meant that if you're a dreamy type midwesterners have no use for you and keep haranguing you to snap out of it and do something useful, mister.

Meade said...

Yeah! Like, rhyme me some verse, Coastie!

Meade said...

Either that or shut the gate - you're letting all the idealized American Dream cows out.

betamax3000 said...

"Even when the Eastern girls excited me most, even when I was most keenly aware of their superiority to the bored, sprawling, swollen Ohio women, with their interminable inquisitions which spared only the children and the very old — even then it had always for me the quality of a numb potato."

betamax3000 said...

Re:"idealized American Dream cows"

American Cow Idol?

Who are to be the judges*?


(*that leaves a pretty low-hanging pinata)

Meade said...

Fine. But be honest - even numb potatoes, with the way they french kiss, have been known, from time to time, to make even robots feel alright. Have they not?

Meade said...

especially naked robots.

betamax3000 said...

Remember what Naked Andy Kaufman Robot said about "the devil's Handle"...

betamax3000 said...

Naked Fitzgerald Cow says:

"There was a ripe mystery about it, a hint of tasty grassland more beautiful and lush than other grasslands..."

betamax3000 said...

Naked Fitzgerald Cow says:

"My udder is swollen full of the incomparable milk of wonder. Will no one milk me?"

betamax3000 said...

Naked Fitzgerald Cow says:

"On buffet tables, garnished with glistening hors d’œuvre, spiced baked hams crowded against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold: it is good to be a dairy cow."

betamax3000 said...

Naked Fitzgerald Cow says:

"Her face, above a Holstein dress of dark blue crêpe-de-chine, contained no facet or gleam of beauty. but there was an immediately perceptible vitality about her as if the nerves of her four stomachs were continually smouldering."

betamax3000 said...

Naked Fitzgerald Cow says:

"The only food in sight was a small block of yellow hay sitting on the edge of the waste land, a sort of compact farm ministering to it, and contiguous to absolutely nothing."

edutcher said...

betamax3000 said...

Even when the Eastern girls excited me most, even when I was most keenly aware of their superiority to the bored, sprawling, swollen Ohio women, with their interminable inquisitions which spared only the children and the very old — even then it had always for me the quality of a numb potato.

The robot needs a trip to Cleveland. The women here aren't swollen, just amply endowed.

Chip Ahoy said...

I hate Gatsby too and resent being force to read it back then. But I'm having fun with it now.

If we combed these comments for sentence entries, one for one, we could assemble a new Gatsby that's 10 X better. Just throw everything in there and let it go all over the place with little or no relation to the original.

betamax3000 said...

Naked Fitzgerald Cow says:

"Her expression was curiously familiar — it was an expression I had often seen on other cows' faces...
"... but on Myrtle's face it seemed purposeless and inexplicable until I realized that her eyes, wide with jealous terror, were fixed not on Tom, but on Jordan Baker, whom she took to be his milker."

betamax3000 said...

Naked Fitzgerald Cow says:

"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. Outside, I ate grass."

betamax3000 said...

Naked Fitzgerald Cow says:

"When the milker's melody rose, her voice broke up sweetly, following it, in a way contralto voices have, and with each change Myrtle Cow tipped out a little of her warm bovine magic into the bucket."

Howard said...

COLONEL KURTZ "Where are you from Willard ?"
WILLARD "I'm from Ohio, sir."
KURTZ "Were you born there ?"
WILLARD "Yes, sir."
KURTZ "Whereabouts ?"
WILLARD "Toledo, sir."
KURTZ "How far were you from the river ?"
WILLARD "The Ohio river, sir ? About 200 miles."
KURTZ "I went down that river when I was a kid. There's a place in the river.. I can't remember... Must have been a gardenia plantation at one time. All wild and overgrown now, but about five miles you'd think that heaven just fell on the earth in the form of gardenias...
Have you ever considered any real freedoms ? Freedoms - from the opinions of others... Even the opinions of yourself. They say why..., Willard, why they wanted to terminate my command ?"
WILLARD "I was sent on a classified mission, sir."
KURTZ "It appears.. that its no longer classified, is it? What did they tell you ?"
WILLARD " They told me that you had gone totally insane and that your methods were unsound.(130)"
KURTZ " Are my methods unsound?"
WILLARD " I don't see any method at all, sir."(131)
KURTZ " I expected someone like you. What did you expect?" Willard only shakes his head ,
KURTZ " Are you an assassin?"
WILLARD " I'm a soldier."
KURTZ " You're neither. You're an errand boy, sent by grocery clerks to collect a bill."

betamax3000 said...

Naked Fitzgerald Cow says:

"A tray of buckets floated at us through the twilight, and we waited in the barn with the two farm-girls in yellow and three farmhands, each one introduced to us as Mr. Mumble Cold Fingers."

betamax3000 said...

Naked Fitzgerald Cow says:

"Sometimes a shadow moved against a hillside above, gave way to another shadow, an indefinite procession of shadows, and it probably was very beautiful and all, but mostly we grazed.

betamax3000 said...

Naked Fitzgerald Cow says:

"A breeze stirred the gray haze of Daisy’s fur collar. Daisy was a fine-looking cow, but a little snooty."

betamax3000 said...

Naked Fitzgerald Cow says:

"I suppose the latest thing is to sit back and let Mr. Nobody from Nowhere milk to your wife."

betamax3000 said...

Naked Fitzgerald Cow says:

"Through this twilight universe Daisy began to move again with the season..."
"... suddenly she was again keeping half a dozen dates a day with half a dozen milkers, and drowsing asleep at dawn with the beads and cow-bell tangled among dying orchids on the ground beside her stall."

betamax3000 said...

Naked Fitzgerald Cow Snow Globe Theory.

kentuckyliz said...

I can't say that the inquisitional hinterlands squelch creativity...they teach instrument building, songwriting, and stage singing in our schools, and the newspaper routinely publishes poetry that people send in. We have a great artisan center. Everything's free or cheap, and if cheap is too challenging, heck, we'll scholarship ya.

We rather glorify our creative types.

Meade said...

Naked Fitzgerald Cow says:

"I suppose the latest thing is to sit back and let Mr. Nobody from Nowhere milk your wife."

ricpic, dammit, I thought I asked you to shut that durn gate!

betamax3000 said...

Naked Fitzgerald Cow says:

"There is no confusion like the confusion of a simple mind, and as they drove away Tom was feeling the hot whips of panic. Naked Fitzgerald Cow did not understand the fuss, nor like the noise."

betamax3000 said...

Naked Fitzgerald Cow says:

"The farmhand went out of the barn calling 'Ewing!' and returned in a few minutes accompanied by an embarrassed, slightly worn young man, with shell-rimmed glasses and scanty blond hair. Naked Fitzgerald Cow did not like Ewing. Naked Fitzgerald Cow knew Ewing's type all too well."

betamax3000 said...

Naked Fitzgerald Cow says:

"He lit Daisy’s cigarette from a trembling match, and sat down with her on where there was no light save what the gleaming floor bounced in from the hall. His hands always trembled before insemination..."

betamax3000 said...

Naked Fitzgerald Cow says:

"There was dancing now on the canvas in the garden; old men pushing young cows backward in eternal graceless circles, holding each other tortuously, fashionably, and keeping in the corners — and a great number of single milk cows dancing individualistically or relieving the orchestra for a moment of the burden of the banjo or the traps or the buckets."

betamax3000 said...

Naked Fitzgerald Cow says:

Perhaps tomorrow we shall view the Gatsby sentence from the viewpoint of the simple cow, freed from the melodrama of the surrounding people.

betamax3000 said...

Naked Fitzgerald Cow says:

"When we pulled out into the winter night and the real snow, our snow, began to stretch out beside us and twinkle against the windows, and the dim lights of small Wisconsin stations moved by, a sharp wild brace came suddenly into the air: methane."

betamax3000 said...

Naked Fitzgerald Cow says:

"After a little while Naked Fitzgerald Cow came out of the barn, his mouth ajar, his face flushed slightly, his eyes leaking isolated and unpunctual tears. How could people do such bestial things, he wondered...

Laura said...

Moooove over, Gatsby and Moby Dick. What about Bartleby the Scrivener?

Laura said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
marvel said...

This sentence recalls Sinclair Lewis' Main Street, with its skewering of small town insularity, intolerance, and hypocrisy. Also Mark Twain's short story "The Man who Corrupted Hadleyburg." The 1920's Eastern stereotype of midwestern towns may have been inaccurate, but it did exist.

As a next project, I'd vote for Faulkner or Hemingway. Both would be entertaining.

sydney said...

I think it is more like Garrison Keillor's Minnesota Inquisition. "Just who do you think you are?"

EMD said...

It's not the Ohio inquisition. It's the beyond the Ohio inquisition

Well, the Ohio RIver runs into Pittsburgh, so technically, he could be talking about towns in Ohio.

EMD said...

I suggested Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco.

Let's have fun with that!

(Probably not originally written in English though)

deborah said...

Sydney ftw.

deborah said...

"Even when the East excited me most...it had always for me a quality of distortion."

traditionalguy said...

I nominate both Cannery Row and Log from the Sea of Cortez.

traditionalguy said...

I nominate both Cannery Row and Log from the Sea of Cortez.

Crunchy Frog said...

The Inquisition, what a show
The Inquisition, here we go
I know you're wishin' that we'd go away
But the Inquisition's here and it's here to stay!