January 26, 2013

"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."

To diagram that sentence — today's sentence from "The Great Gatsby" — begin with: brace | came. The subject of the sentence is brace, and the predicate is came. You've got a long clause beginning the sentence which has 3 parts to it — one with a we | pulled subject and verb, one with snow as a subject and the verb began tied to stretch and twinkle, and one with lights and moved. There is also a pair of "into" phrases — "into the winter night" and "into the air" — near the beginning and at the very end of the sentence.

You could easily get on the wrong track reading this sentence and think the real snow is part of what we pulled out into, especially with no comma after night, but the real snow, our snow is the subject of the next phrase. We don't pull out into the snow, only into the night. The snow then takes over the action, stretching out beside us. That's a little sexy, like the snow is in bed with us. But then we see that we must be on a train and the snow is out there in the night, on the other side of the windows. The snow twinkles against the window. It's a kind of light, twinkling. It's tiny lights that mingle with dim lights, the tiny lights of small Wisconsin stations. The stations move by — that's the illusion as we move forward on this train into Wisconsin, into the real snow, our snow, the snow that's like a lover in bed with us, with tiny twinkly lights all around.

Did you get that thrill? It was a sharp wild brace that came suddenly into the air. Orgasmic!

ADDED: Speaking of thrills, here's Chip Ahoy's animation of the "Gatsby" sentence I revealed to be my favorite, 3 days ago:



"A tray of cocktails floated at us through the twilight, and we sat down at a table with the two girls in yellow and three men, each one introduced to us as Mr. Mumble."

55 comments:

ByondPolitics said...

orgasmic? What I got was a teenager's dental appliance coming loose.

TerriW said...

I loved sentence diagramming back in Catholic school, a gazillion years ago. With this and the memorization post, all I need is one on Latin and I'm going to get the hat trick for Things I Teach My Kids That Are Pedagogically Passé.

Terry said...

Maxfield Parrish. I believe one of his young models was a child or grandchild of jurist Learned Hand.
It's not easy, some days, maintaining middle-brow culture all by myself.

kentuckyliz said...

I experience the dim lights twinkling on the Wisconsin snow from the train each year right before Christmas. Empire Builder CHI to MSP.

Sdv1949 said...

Ooooh, I love Maxfield Parish. I have two of his prints hanging over my mantle.

Chip Ahoy said...

Aw bless. Come to think of it, David Lynche's Dune isn't all that bad.

creeley23 said...

"[W]ild brace" is the climax of the sentence and it does "[come] suddenly," so orgasmic is not too far a bridge to claim or claim to bridge, whichever.

Well-spotted, Madam.

creeley23 said...

"[W]ild brace" is the climax of the sentence and it does "[come] suddenly," so orgasmic is not too far a bridge to claim or claim to bridge, whichever.

Well-spotted, Madam.

edutcher said...

Nice animation.

The word brace is an odd one, it can mean a chill or a pair, as "A brace of pistols".

And, of course, a support of some kind.

Ann Althouse said...

The snow then takes over the action, stretching out beside us. That's a little sexy, like the snow is in bed with us.

Did you get that thrill? It was a sharp wild brace that came suddenly into the air. Orgasmic!


Hmmm, and some people here give me a hard time for letting my imagination run toward the erotic.

I simply saw the snow next to the train, but, then, I didn't know they were in bed.

madAsHell said...

Gatsby never appealed to me. Pretentious. It was never gonna happen to me.

I have read "Call of the Wild" multiple times.
"To Build a Fire" is important too.

Lem said...

Love On a Real Train - Tangerin Dreams...

Taking us back to the beginning...

"Every Friday five crates of oranges and lemons arrived from a fruiterer in New York, every Monday these same oranges and lemons left his back door in a pyramid of pulpless halves."

Terry said...

Strangely enough, madAsHell, "To Build a Fire" was written on Oahu. Pearl City, I think.

virgil xenophon said...

My gandparents on my Mother's side had that very Maxfield print in their home...Parish had fallen out of favor by the time I first viewed it in the 50s--was regarded as very lower middle-brow..

Leslie Graves said...

How is he experiencing the brace in the air if he's enclosed in the train?

traditionalguy said...

The train starts with a jerk that makes the riders brace themselves and carries them, whether they are liking it or not, steadily along a journey into their own falling snow...and then the sudden orgasm overtakes them.

betamax3000 said...

Reading this sentence it occurred to me: many of Gatsby's sentences are set-pieces lovingly detailed in miniature and perfect for setting in snow globes.

"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...

"tiny train-set snow globe.

"...enough colored lights to make a Christmas tree of Gatsby’s enormous garden..."

Christmas garden snow globe.

"A tray of cocktails floated at us through the twilight, and we sat down at a table with the two girls in yellow and three men, each one introduced to us as Mr. Mumble."

Art Deco party snow globe.

"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."

Opulent manor snow globe.

"redolent of this year’s shining motor-cars"

snow globe you get free at the era's gas station for a ten-gallon fill-up.

****and of course****

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

bleak snow globe.

betamax3000 said...

Chip Ahoy's Maxfield Parrish Mr. Mumbles scene would make a great snow globe.

betamax3000 said...

The magic moving hand-with-tray drifting through the snow globe confetti.

betamax3000 said...

The confetti settling gently upon the yellow dresses of the girls in repose, implicitly asking to be shaken again...

betamax3000 said...

The three Mr. Mumbles with confetti gathering on the shoulders of their tuxedos.

betamax3000 said...

Space Monkey would be enthralled.

AS would I.

betamax3000 said...

The swirling tiny flakes would mix the hanging flowers in the background: they are not snow, they are delicate flower petals.

betamax3000 said...

A set of Great Gatsby snow globes arranged across the mantle, in sequence. You would experience the novel by shaking one at a time, mesmerized. Better than any movie.

The Chip Ahoy one you could shake two or three times before proceeding to the next, simply to extend the beauty of the scene.

betamax3000 said...

""A breeze stirred the gray haze of Daisy’s fur collar."

VERY snow globe.

betamax3000 said...

Hemingway's "For Whom the Bell Tolls": not very conducive for snow globes.

Same, to some extent, with most Faulkner novels.

betamax3000 said...

"Lady Chatterley's Lover": risque snow globe.

betamax3000 said...

The great thing about a Gatsby snow globe is that you can slowly turn it in your hand and see all angles of the scene as the flakes fall. Very panoramic.

betamax3000 said...

""Every Friday five crates of oranges and lemons arrived from a fruiterer in New York...
... every Monday these same oranges and lemons left his back door in a pyramid of pulpless halves."

I can see the confetti flakes coming to rest on that pyramid of pulpless halves.

The 'after-the-party' snow globe.

betamax3000 said...

The relevant sentence would be written on a small plaque set along the curve of the snow globe's base.

betamax3000 said...

Daisy and Gatsby, frozen in miniature from their own inertia and ennui. A light drift of flakes swirls around them yet they cannot move forward.

betamax3000 said...

"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."


Still not fond of this sentence, even as a snow globe.

betamax3000 said...

""He lit Daisy’s cigarette from a trembling match, and sat down with her on a couch far across the room..."

Of course, he would never light Daisy's match: his hand would be frozen in indecision just shy of Daisy, always, as the snow began to fall.

betamax3000 said...

""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 men, and drowsing asleep at dawn with the beads and chiffon of an evening dress tangled among dying orchids on the floor beside her bed."

Flakes falling on her on her bed, drifting down to the delicate chiffon.

Quintessential snow globe.

betamax3000 said...

We look at Gatsby's world through this succession of snow globes, always outside, appreciating the beauty within but never to be a part of it.

"The Great Gatsby" is meant for snow globes.

betamax3000 said...

Did I mention that Chip Ahoy's Maxfield Parrish Mr. Mumbles scene would make a great snow globe?

I think I did.

Bears repeating, I believe.

betamax3000 said...

"Did you get that thrill? It was a sharp wild brace that came suddenly into the air. Orgasmic!"

All this from shaking the snow globe vigorously.

betamax3000 said...

With each shake of the globe "a little of her warm human magic upon the air."

Orgasmic and glittery.

betamax3000 said...

From Wikipedia:
"Initially snow globes consisted of a heavy lead glass dome which was placed over a ceramic figure or tableau on a black cast ceramic base, filled with water and then sealed. The snow or "flitter" was created by use of bone chips or pieces of porcelain, sand or even sawdust."

Yep: the snow is called "flitter". How appropriate for "The Great Gatsby": the characters flitter about at their parties, and the flitter swirls around them in their snow globe.

Although it does give a different texture to think of Daisy in the midst of bone chips.

betamax3000 said...

Many of Ann's Winter photos would make a great tableaux for a snow globe: the snow is already there. Daisy, ice-skating. Gatsby, only watching. He is outside the scene but within the snow globe.

betamax3000 said...

At this point I would probably segue into the snow globe in "Citizen Kane" but I feel no need to explore that path.

Everything Fitzgerald can be found within his snow globes.

betamax3000 said...

The girls in yellow, the Mr. Mumbles: they are already figurines, not characters. They are there in the snow globe to set the scene, not tell a story.

betamax3000 said...

Notice I am not using "Naked Snow Globe Maker Robot": the distance is already there.

More and more, I find the snow globe is the prism in which to view this project.

betamax3000 said...

A snow globe can be seen as a description of a scene through which the only action is Nature, set in motion by the Unseen Hand.

This seems to apply to many of the Fitzgerald sentences we have examined.

betamax3000 said...

From Ann's commentary above: "The stations move by — that's the illusion as we move forward on this train into Wisconsin..."

The illusion of movement. This gets to the Heart of the Fitzgerald Snow Globe Theory.

betamax3000 said...

Ann's commentary from a previous day's sentence:

"The Great Gatsby" is flowing with light and darkness, we've seen time and again in this Gatsby project (where we isolate our sentence of the day and have at it). We can almost always begin with the question: Where is the light? And if not where is the light then: Where is the energy that is like light? Some sentences are just light and darkness chasing each other around..."

Light and Darkness, chasing each other around. With adjectives that swirl like flitter.

Fitzgerald Snow Globe Theory.

betamax3000 said...

Re: Ann's "where we isolate our sentence of the day and have at it."

Indeed, we are putting each sentence, isolated, into its own snow globe: we shake it this way and that to see what meanings flitter about.

And yet, Fitzgerald has already put them in the snow globes for us.

Again: Fitzgerald Snow Globe Theory.

betamax3000 said...

Let's look at an earlier Fitzgerald sentence that -- on the surface -- does not seem to lend itself to the snow globe prism:

"Her expression was curiously familiar — it was an expression I had often seen on women’s faces...
"... but on Myrtle Wilson’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 wife."

At first reading it may seem to imply some action, even if it is of only an emotional sort. Yet, her face does not change into the curiously familiar expression -- it is already there as we happen upon it. After that things "seem" purposeless and inexplicable: but again, we are simply onlooking something already in process.

However, in Fitzgerald Snow Globe Theory, there is a key word that cues us to view this in our reader's snow globe: "fixed."

Myrtle's eyes are "fixed" on Jordan Baker: Fitzgerald is showing us that the moment is frozen. Emotion swirls about, but the scene is immobile.

What the narrator does "realize" is "fixed" -- he is a bystander, everything is flitter around him. It is not a far stretch for the reader to feel the need to shake this particular snow globe, to get things moving....

betamax3000 said...

Let's look at another earlier Fitzgerald sentence that could also be seen to contradict the snow globe viewpoint.

"There is no confusion like the confusion of a simple mind, and as we drove away Tom was feeling the hot whips of panic."

Notice that Tom is not driving away -- that is, we are not in the moment of traveling from one place to another: again, it is the illusion of movement. They "drove away", and we are again frozen in a moment where a feeling is observed - in this case, "the hot whips of panic". There is nothing connoting actions that would make us see Tom's panic -- his panic is the flitter floating around him in the scene.

betamax3000 said...

"I knew the other clerks and young bond-salesmen by their first names, and lunched with them in dark, crowded restaurants on little pig sausages and mashed potatoes and coffee."

The clerks and young bond-salesmen are figurines in a snow globe depicting a dark crowded restaurant. The sounds of a restaurant -- forks on plates, dishware rattling, mumbled conversations -- are the flitter we supply ourselves.

betamax3000 said...

This last sentence had the tag "Charles Manson":

In Fitzgerald's world Helter Skelter would be Flitter Glitter.

betamax3000 said...

"Out of the corner of his eye Gatsby saw that the blocks of the sidewalks really formed a ladder and mounted to a secret place above the trees..."
"... he could climb to it, if he climbed alone, and once there he could suck on the pap of life, gulp down the incomparable milk of wonder."

The scene as described could easily be rendered in a snow globe. Notice that he "could" climb to it, but does not -- again, inaction within the snow globe. The incomparable Milk of Wonder could be set loose as flitter, but this snow globe hasn't -- and will not -- be set into motion.

betamax3000 said...

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

Sit back, let it happen: this will occur in its own snow globe. There is no action to be taken; let the flitter fall.

betamax3000 said...

"Gatsby, pale as death, with his hands plunged like weights in his coat pockets, was standing in a puddle of water glaring tragically into my eyes."

Gatsby is standing, but his hands are not plunging -- they have already "plunged". While standing he is glaring, but the moment was already set into place before we, the reader, arrive.

A depressing sort of snow globe, but a snow globe nonetheless.

betamax3000 said...

"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."

As if "after a short flight" -- but it is a flight of nothing other than fancy.

The dresses are "rippling and fluttering" but there is no action of the people within them, no movement of the figurines...

Rippling + Fluttering = Flitter.

betamax3000 said...

Through this introduction of the Fitzgerald Snow Globe Theory I have a question for Ann: does a sentence in isolation need be, by itself, frozen? Is the snow globe a form of cruel neutrality?

Do we supply the flitter?

How hard are we allowed to shake it?

Is the snow globe context enough?



(I will be contemplating this as I again view Chip Ahoy's Maxfield Parrish Mr. Mumbles scene: languid and hypnotic, a snow globe in all but the definition...)