February 20, 2013

"I remember the fur coats of the girls returning from Miss This-or-That’s..."

"... and the chatter of frozen breath and the hands waving overhead as we caught sight of old acquaintances, and the matchings of invitations: 'Are you going to the Ordways'? the Herseys'? the Schultzes'?' and the long green tickets clasped tight in our gloved hands."

That other sentence — "At the hookah bar, Jordan and Emily Wernet, a 25-year-old freelance illustrator of comics and tattoos, joked about the grotesqueness of a hand appearing inside a belly and about 'parasites,' 'popping one out,' and 'horrible little grubs' in the midst of more serious conversation about their fears of relinquishing sole ownership of one’s own body" —  made some readers feel that there was a "Gatsby" sentence gestating somewhere inside the womb of my Blogger account, so I thought I'd better pop out this post. I hope you don't find it grotesque, this string of words that F. Scott Fitzgerald, in full possession of the autonomy of authorship, determined to be, in fact, a sentence, worthy of a place in the pages of "The Great Gatsby."

And I hope it's not horrible that I ripped it out of his context and put it in my context as I, clasping tightly to my bloggerly autonomy, decided that this — this! — is a blog post. It is not for the professors, journalists, and literary critics to resolve the difficult question of when some quotes from this-or-that tossed together with some connective prose amount to a blog post. It's enough to say there's a divergence of thinking on this most sensitive and difficult question, and therefore it's up to me to decide what is worthy of publication here. My blog, my choice.

This "Gatsby" sentence has a simple structure. The subject is "I" and the predicate is "remember." How many sentences in the history of humanity begin "I remember...."? There's no end to where you can go from there (especially if you're not hung up on nonfiction and truthtelling). So string along the memories — the memorabilia, the "things... worthy of being remembered."

I remember the Michael Jackson memorabilia, the Bruce Lee memorabilia, the Martin Luther King Jr. memorabilia, Malcolm X memorabilia, the Jimi Hendrix memorabilia, the $43,350 Rolex watch, the fur capes and parkas....

I mean... I remember the fur coats.... They — the girls returning from Miss This-or-That’s — weren't wearing their fur in cape or parka form back in 1922.

Things remembered: fur coats, chatter, hands waving, matchings of invitations, and long green tickets. These remembered things give the reader a sense of the incompletely delineated human beings. Who are the unnamed girls and who are the "we"? There's the overspecificity of the people offstage, Ordways, the Herseys, and the Schultzes. There's the silly half-specificity of Miss This-or-That. These people — or, really, places (hence the possessive) — are, like fur coats and gloves, appurtenances to the human beings we are trying to see in this picture.

This is a mass of faceless humanity, cluttered with hands, waving and clasping. Hands appears twice in the sentence — the grotesqueness of a hand appearing — first, waving (connecting with others), and second, clasping a ticket (intent on getting to one's predetermined destination). The hands of the others reaching out are grubby and horrible and we've got a fear of relinquishing sole ownership of our long green tickets.

25 comments:

traditionalguy said...

Sounds like newborns emerging from fur coat wombs and waiving their hands to get attention and check their life's green written fate ticket to see where they belong to and to whom they will go on their long life ticket.

rhhardin said...

The curious fact about "I" in general is that it is not a reference to the person.

Its sentence is more performative than descriptive.

mccullough said...

Girls just want to have fun.

edutcher said...

Reminiscent of a sentence from "The Virginian" where the narrator recalls the valedictions of the masters as the boys were off for Christmas vacation.

rhhardin said...

A dual defense antioxidant blend of vitamins E & A along with minerals zinc and selenium supports a healthy coat.

gadfly said...

Althouse is doing her Joe Brainard, "I Remember" schtick - but she can't top the master.

I remember when babies fall down "oopsydaisy"

I remember, with a limp wrist, shaking your hand back and fourth real fast until it feels like jelly.

I remember trying to get the last of cat food from a can.

I remember when a piece of hair stands up straight after a night of sleeping on it wrong.

I remember before green dishwashing liquid.

I remember a free shoehorn with new shoes.

I remember never using shoehorns.

I remember when, in high school, if you wore green and yellow on Thursday it meant that you were queer.

I remember when, in high school, I used to stuff a sock in my underwear.

I remember Dorothy Collins.

I remember Dorothy Collins’ teeth.

I remember planning to tear page 48 out of every book I read from the Boston Public Library, but soon losing interest.

I remember my grade school art teacher, Mrs Chick, who got so mad at a boy one day she dumped a bucket of water over his head.

I remember Moley, the local freak and notorious queer. He had a very little head that grew out of his body like a mole. No one knew him, but everyone knew who he was. He was always ‘around’.

I remember liver.

ricpic said...

Fitzgerald was not just intoxicated, he was over-intoxicated with youth. He could never make it to the next stage.

edutcher said...

Like a great many of the "Don't Trust Anyone Over 30" crowd.

Lem said...

The hands reminds me of the comment I made last night on a most sensitive and difficult question... about Obama using two hands on a "neck bend" to make a wah wah cry baby effect with his white house press corps.

I tossed the link w/o any connective prose... I was waving my hands overhead, in an effort to catch sight of some recognition.

But alas, the Ordways', the Herseys' and the Schultzes' had gone to Aspen, where the chatter of their frozen breaths would have the ear of the first lady instead.

Chip Ahoy said...

Very good Lem. You totally had me there.

Incidentally, Lem, I can see why told me that sometimes you cannot say, "no." The girl you put me in contact with is sweet as can be and I was totally taken. She could have asked anything, but I think we're finished now.

Lem said...

The connective prose is everything... except when quoting Freud or some worthy of publication figure like that ;)

I'm getting a sample from the printer tonight. I'll let you know how it turns out. He warned me that some detail was lost.

And thanks again. You were a life saver.

Crunchy Frog said...

I remember now. I remember how it started. I can't remember yesterday; I just remember doing what they told me... told me... told me...

Methadras said...

I'm still staring at Kate Upton in the Antarctic. Oh my.

mccullough said...

"the chatter of frozen breath" is pretty damn good.

mccullough said...

Why "clasped tight" instead of "clutched"?

Lem said...

Why "clasped tight" instead of "clutched"?

It could be the difference between clerking for Justice Breyer, with the cute "clasped tight" or Justice Thomas heavily edited "clutched".

Lem said...

I, clasping tightly to my bloggerly autonomy,... My blog, my choice.

Sooner or later the invisible hand of commerce appears inside the garden to kick out free riders and 'horrible little grubs', in the midst of more serious conversation about the fears of relinquishing sole ownership of one’s own blog.

Lem said...

...but I think we're finished now.

Not quite.

Please check your email when you get a chance.

Lem said...

Hey, where is everybody.

Did we finally get swept up by an Ohio interminable inquisition.

betamax3000 said...

Sigh. The cross-referencing Gatsby to other post's non-Gatsby lines (hookah bar, etc), the sideways deconstruction / reconstruction like the following:

" I remember the Michael Jackson memorabilia, the Bruce Lee memorabilia, the Martin Luther King Jr. memorabilia, Malcolm X memorabilia, the Jimi Hendrix memorabilia, the $43,350 Rolex watch, the fur capes and parkas...."

This sentence had me geared for twenty-plus posts but Ann has deflated me before I start.

Ann has out-Betamax'ed me. I am now Betamax 1012. Or so.

"My buttocks are a defeated wedding-cake"

Chip Ahoy said...

Lem, that was no problem at all. Color changed to CMYK.

Lem said...

Could you send me the new CMYK.

So I could give them to the print guy.

thanks.

wyo sis said...

beta
Tomorrow is another day.

slumber_j said...

The name-specificity also echoes the epic catalogue of party guests that opens one of the chapters. Weirdly, I'm pretty certain one of the names is an altered version of my grandfather's. He had the same first initial and unusual surname as the character and was an an acquaintance and exact contemporary of Fitzgerald's among the Irish Catholics of St. Paul. A sample:

"From West Egg came the Poles and the Mulreadys and Cecil Roebuck and Cecil Schoen and Gulick the state senator and Newton Orchid, who controlled Films Par Excellence, and Eckhaust and Clyde Cohen and Don S. Schwartze (the son) and Arthur McCarty, all connected with the movies in one way or another. And the Catlips and the Bembergs and G. Earl Muldoon, brother to that Muldoon who afterward strangled his wife. Da Fontano the promoter came there, and Ed Legros and James B. (“Rot-Gut.”) Ferret and the De Jongs and Ernest Lilly — they came to gamble, and when Ferret wandered into the garden it meant he was cleaned out and Associated Traction would have to fluctuate profitably next day."

slumber_j said...

The name-specificity also echoes the epic catalogue of party guests that opens one of the chapters. Weirdly, I'm pretty certain one of the names is an altered version of my grandfather's. He had the same first initial and unusual surname as the character and was an an acquaintance and exact contemporary of Fitzgerald's among the Irish Catholics of St. Paul. A sample:

"From West Egg came the Poles and the Mulreadys and Cecil Roebuck and Cecil Schoen and Gulick the state senator and Newton Orchid, who controlled Films Par Excellence, and Eckhaust and Clyde Cohen and Don S. Schwartze (the son) and Arthur McCarty, all connected with the movies in one way or another. And the Catlips and the Bembergs and G. Earl Muldoon, brother to that Muldoon who afterward strangled his wife. Da Fontano the promoter came there, and Ed Legros and James B. (“Rot-Gut.”) Ferret and the De Jongs and Ernest Lilly — they came to gamble, and when Ferret wandered into the garden it meant he was cleaned out and Associated Traction would have to fluctuate profitably next day."