March 5, 2013

"... my underwear kept climbing like a damp snake around my legs..."

I thought you'd enjoy this taken-out-of-context sentence from "The Great Gatsby":
The prolonged and tumultuous argument that ended by herding us into that room eludes me, though I have a sharp physical memory that, in the course of it, my underwear kept climbing like a damp snake around my legs and intermittent beads of sweat raced cool across my back.
U've got to run... out into the Wisconsin snow... which was the subject of another post about a "Gatsby" sentence weeks ago.  No time to venture my comments about the damp snake and all that. So have at it. I'll join you later. 

ADDED: Herding, eluding, climbing, racing. Very active, especially the underwear, which was so memorable compared to the substance of the argument. There was a big argument, but it eludes him now. The argument ran out of his memory even as the running, racing, sweat and the climbing snakelike underwear wormed their way in.

The snake is so entrancing that it seems wrong to get to the introduction-to-creative-writing purple-prose "intermittent beads of sweat raced cool across my back." What's the point of "intermittent"? Why tag the trite "beads of" onto "sweat"? And "cool" as an adverb seems so twee. Perhaps all that verbiage was necessary to make it okay to talk about his underwear and to say snake. Damp snake.

53 comments:

grackle said...

Whitehouse Press Corps?

St. George said...

Fitzgerald writes as well as a screwdriver cuts roast beef.

garage mahal said...

Too many people voting in Wisconsin, apparently.

You can guess which voters this would affect without looking, can't you?

Limiting in-person absentee voting "really would have a big effect on Madison and I think Milwaukee, where not everyone is very close to the clerk's office," she said. "The bigger the city, the longer the travel time to get to the city clerk's office."

Amartel said...

Thank God, a Gatsby post. This started out sounding like another Lena Dunham post.

Lem said...

The sentence reminds me of the "Hitler Finds Out" meme.

Tibore said...

"... my underwear kept climbing like a damp snake around my legs..."

Dear Penthouse...

traditionalguy said...

Sounds like the basic meme of the Global Warming myth came from the 1920s.

Can't you feel the CO2 snake climbing up while sweat runs down the back until...poof we are all toaster pop-ups.

Great Fiction requires poetic imagination.

traditionalguy said...

Alert: Hugo Chavez is dead.

Now his Comrade Obama can approve the Canadian oil sands pipeline since Socialist Heaven will not need Comrade Obama's anymore in killing off the capitalist economics and freedom in Venezuela.

edutcher said...

So much for Michael Moore's claim Cuban health care was better than ours.

Another one of those Jesse Owens moments.

edutcher said...

PS Is Blogger eating comments again?

I notice a little exchange between garage and myself is missing.

Crunchy Frog said...

This started out sounding like another Lena Dunham post.

She's a genius, dontcha know.

edutcher said...

Sounds almost like the memory was of Daisy scissoring his daisy.

Or he needs some Depends.

Leslie Graves said...

Last week there was a conversation about what words to use to describe situations of dysfunctional convergence.

I don't know that that conversation reached a conclusion, but what people could say to describe the feeling they have when there is a dysfunctional convergence is, "it felt like my underwear was climbing like a damp snake around my legs."

Lem said...

Althouse is not going to be happy with you guys/gals disparaging Lena Dunham... saying shes dumb as a post.

Lem said...

ot

Is it me, or did something funny happened to the font on this blog?

Don't it look a little funny to you?

Lem said...

The font appears to have shrunk...

Must be the sequester cuts Obama warned about.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Could this damp snake be the thrill Chris Matthews felt going up his leg in 2008?

Ann Althouse said...

The font change was just accidentally copied and pasted code that was in my Word document (where I keep sentences I'm thinking of using).

betamax3000 said...

So the last Gatsby post covered in detail the following:

• the Powers that Reside in Harvey Keietel's Balls

and

• Josephine Baker's Banana Skirt.

Now we have a Damp Underwear Snake.

I have invaded Althouse's subconscious and established a base camp.

betamax3000 said...

prolonged.

tumultuous.

snake.

sweat.

"...each word tipped out a little of Keitel's warm human magic upon the air."

Base Camp and preparing to climb.

betamax3000 said...

Ann herself probably thinks that this sentence was a coincidence, that it wasn't Preordained.

The seed of harvey Keitel was planted.

Ahem.

betamax3000 said...

"Harvey Keitel: the incomparable milk of wonder."

betamax3000 said...

Damp Underwear Snake Robot says:

"Intermittent beads of sweat raced cool across the Forbidden Fruit."

betamax3000 said...

Damp Underwear Snake Robot says:

I am a prolonged and tumultuous argument.

This is my Nature.

betamax3000 said...

Damp Underwear Snake Robot says:

I have a sharp physical memory of the room that eludes me.

betamax3000 said...

Damp Underwear Snake Robot says:

There was a ripe mystery about it, a hint of underwear more beautiful and cool than other underwear.

betamax3000 said...

"As my train emerged from the tunnel into sunlight, only the hot whistles of the National Biscuit Company broke the simmering hush at noon."

Damp Underwear Snake Robot says:

You know what I mean when I say "Biscuit."

betamax3000 said...

Damp Underwear Snake Robot says:

The Room That Eludes Me is my reason for being. I am eating my own damp tail.

betamax3000 said...

The Room That Eludes Me is the source of my prolonged and tumultuous argument. It is my frosted wedding-cake, it is my wine-colored rug.

betamax3000 said...

The Room That Eludes Me is an indefinite procession of shadows, rouged and powdered in glass underwear.

betamax3000 said...

The Room That Eludes Me is redolent of orchids and pleasant, cheerful snobbery.

betamax3000 said...

All Great Writers have wrestled the Damp Underwear Snake

betamax3000 said...

Fitzgerald.

Hemingway.

Sir Mix-a-Lot.

betamax3000 said...

Daisy feared the Damp Underwear Snake.

It was certain to stir the gray haze of her fur collar.

betamax3000 said...

Perhaps all of Gatsby can be reduced to the Damp Underwear Snake and the Room That Eludes Him.

Each sentence can be identified as a Damp Underwear Snake sentence or a Room That Eludes Me sentence.

Room That Eludes Me sentences can often be identified by descriptions of items fluttering,rippling, glistening, etc.

Damp Underwear Snake sentences often contain references to a snake. Or hot whips.

betamax3000 said...

Here is an interesting example:

""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."

At first one might think that a sentence involving a train in motion would inevitably be a Damp Underwear Snake sentence.

However, Damp Underwear Snake sentences don't "twinkle" - thus: Room That Eludes Me sentence.

betamax3000 said...

""He lit Daisy’s cigarette from a trembling match, and sat down with her on a couch far across the room where there was no light save what the gleaming floor bounced in from the hall."

This, on the surface, could seem to be a Room That Eludes Me sentence: 'gleaming floors,' overall sense of nebulousness ,etc.

However, the act of holding the "trembling match" marks it as a Damp Underwear Snake sentence: it is a forward action, with the word 'trembling' functioning as the requisite Dampness.

betamax3000 said...

It is not as easy as it appears.

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."

Trick sentence: even though it refers to 'suck' and 'gulp' it is NOT a Damp Underwear Snake sentence.

Instead:

"A secret place above the trees,he could climb to it, if he climbed alone": yep. THESE are the marks of the Room That Eludes Me sentence.

betamax3000 said...

""Sometimes, in my mind, I followed them to their apartments on the corners of hidden streets and they turned and smiled back at me before they faded through a door into warm darkness."

"Hidden streets' and 'Fading into warm darkness' would at first imply a Room That Eludes Me sentence.

However,

A) the act of 'following them'

and

B) the concurrent overall Creepy Stalker vibe

render this a Damp Underwear Snake sentence.

betamax3000 said...

""For Daisy was young and her artificial world was redolent of orchids and pleasant, cheerful snobbery and orchestras which set the rhythm of the year, summing up the sadness and suggestiveness of life in new tunes."

Fish in a barrel.

The use of 'Redolent' automatically renders this a Room That Eludes Me sentence.

ALL usages of 'redolent' would render a sentence a Room That Eludes Me sentence, with the following exception:

"Redolent Damp Underwear Snake."

betamax3000 said...

Recess.

traditionalguy said...

Hey Betamax, are you a descendant of Walt Whitman?

Chip Ahoy said...

The argument was about herding cattle into the room. They always make a mess of the carpets.

betamax3000 said...

Re: traditionalguy said...

"Hey Betamax, are you a descendant of Walt Whitman?"

I do contradict myself, but do not contain multitudes. Multiples, I got.

betamax3000 said...

"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."

While a Damp Underwear Snake could conceivably be seen as a metaphorical 'Mr. Mumble' a Damp Underwear Snake Sentence does not 'float' through 'twilight'.

Thus: The Room That Eludes Me Sentence. It even has a table.

betamax3000 said...

"They knew that presently dinner would be over and a little later the evening, too, would be over and casually put away."

1) Damp Underwear Snakes do not eat dinner;

2) Damp Underwear Snakes are never 'casually put away'.

Room That Eludes Me Sentence.

betamax3000 said...

"On buffet tables, garnished with glistening hors d’Ĺ“uvre, spiced baked hams crowded against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold."

This sentence is the quintessential meal served in The Room That Eludes Me Sentence.

Also: Damp Underwear Snakes do not 'bewitch'.

Lem said...

my underwear kept climbing like a damp snake around my legs...

betamax3000 said...

I will argue that Fitzgerald built 'The Great Gatsby' as the Winchester Mystery House of 'The Room That Eludes Me' Sentences.

betamax3000 said...

Speaking of Winchester Mystery House -- from Wikipedia: "A second famed window was designed by Tiffany himself for Mrs Winchester. This window was carefully designed so that when the light hits the crystals just so, the room will be filled with thousands of rainbow prisms. However, due to the poor placement of the piece, this will never be seen. It is located in a room with no direct light, as well as being built facing a wall."

Fitzgerald would've tied himself in knots describing this in a sentence.

wyo sis said...

Excellent Chip, thanks for keeping it tasteful. That required supreme self-control.

betamax3000 said...

My guess is that today's sentence will be a Room That Eludes Me Sentence.

1) Ann likes to shake things up

and

2) I don't think Fitzgerald wrote enough Damp Underwear Snake Sentences to risk using two in a row.