January 12, 2013

"When the melody rose, her voice broke up sweetly, following it, in a way contralto voices have, and each change tipped out a little of her warm human magic upon the air."

Today's Gatsby sentence, describing singing, has us picturing the woman as a vessel containing warm human magic. Because she's a contralto, her voice needs to break as it reaches for the high notes, and in these breaks, there's a tipping that spills out a little of her contents — warm human magic. The magic spills upon the air. There's rising and falling: The melody rises and the voice along with it, and the magic falls out, upon the air. It's very light, this human magic, to be on top of air. It is the sweet, warm liquid of the woman tipping out.


Unknown said...

The listener is besotted. She's a bad singer and he finds it lovely anyway.

Carl said...

Some women, yes. The voice of others is not unlike the long hearty toot of a ruminant contributing its share of methane to the rural fug, and we'd just as soon she doesn't pour any of her self out anywhere there isn't a ready mop and bucket.

One of the curious vanities of women is that they often seem to think that when men speak of women they necessarily mean every woman. Not even close. Speaking ex cathedra out my arse I'd say when the generic man speaks admiringly of "women" he has in mind at most one or two of the species, not including his mother, and could very easily be speaking of some Platonic ideal to which he can only hope some future actual woman he meets might approach.

Oddly, men don't seem to suffer from this same vanity. A woman can speak contemptuously of "men" to her boyfriend, who will readily sympathize -- since he has as a matter of course excepted himself from the category.

traditionalguy said...

Sounds like Patsy Cline.

traditionalguy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Yesterday was "gulp down the incomparable milk of wonder," today is "tipped out a little of her warm human magic". Is it getting hot in here or is it just me?

I mean, I get it, he's a sly one, but still: Fitz should stop beating around the bush.

Anonymous said...

My God: if we get to the sentence involving Daisy, the potato and the gardener I just don't know what is going to happen.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I can't help but feel that I'm like Charlie Manson and Ann is the Beatles, and she keeps blogging the White Album.

I get the secret messages,

When she writes about Daisy she really means "Dear Prudence." The real Prudence was Mia Farrow's sister; Mia Farrow was in Rosemary's Baby. Gatsby would no doubt be eating the Savoy truffle. It is the friction between two worlds, and you can count her out/in -- its all so obvious if you know how to respond to the frequencies.

Gatsby gets shot, John Lennon gets shot, dreams die, Honey Pie. Helter Skelter, indeed.

Anonymous said...

The Great Gatsby was Gatz; the Walrus was Paul. What is the internet if not a giant Glass Onion? And in this glass onion what number post is this today?


Ann is telling me to listen to Revolution #9, twice.

Anonymous said...

The frequencies are within you, without you.

Why don't we do it in the road? After all, the Road is The Path We Are On. We should not leave the Path: the path is correct.

Anonymous said...

Mia Farrow was in the film "The Great Gatsby". Can it not be clearer?

Anonymous said...

Ann often references Bob Dylan to try and throw me off the trail, but I know better. You cannot see Helter Skelter from the Watchtower, wherever you are along it.

Anonymous said...

Like Gatsby, Ringo Starr's real name was not Ringo. This is certainly a clue.

Anonymous said...

Was Gatsby's self-contained world really just a Yellow Submarine? Like Nick, wouldn't we all love to live there?

Anonymous said...

In the end this Yellow Submarine cannot protect us from the reality of human nature. The more I think about it the more I am certain that Ringo is a central figure in all of this.

"A Little Help From His Friends": solved. His friends are the frequencies. He is telling us to listen, and as such, Ann is using these same frequencies to tell us something, something more than stray sentences from Fitzgerald.

There are four thousand holes, and at this point only she knows which is The One.

But I am getting closer, I believe.

Anonymous said...

Don't get me wrong: I'm not like one of those crackpots he believed Paul McCartney was dead and replaced with an Imposter. That's just silly.

Remember: when you have an Octopus' Garden you watch the Octopus.


Dante said...

My good sister sez: This is one sentence in a Novel, where every word is chosen to portray a sensation. Each sentence is like poetry: each word is put in for a reason, carefully.

She Loves the Great Gatsby, as I recall from over 30 years ago, and, I'm fortunate to have my beautiful (yes she is) sister visiting me to express her thoughts on this novel right now.

Anonymous said...

The octopus has eight tentacles. What was today's eighth post?

"Reddit, Creative Commons and Demand Progress co-founder Aaron Swartz committed suicide in New York City on Friday, Jan. 11."

What was his offense? Stealing academic papers.

Getting closer, Getting closer.

Anonymous said...

And today's first post?

"You say it's your birthday / it's my birthday too (yeah).

White Album.

Tell me this is all coincidence.

Anonymous said...

The frequencies exhibit cruel neutrality on those who choose not to listen.

Anonymous said...

It was Ringo who held the Beatles together. It is Ann who holds this online community together, typing, typing.

Does she have blisters on her fingers?

Dante said...

I wonder, of 10,000 people, how many know what "Contralto" means. For those who wonder, it is, naturally, the lowest frequency of the female voice.

Of course, everyone knows that.

Or, maybe they don't. What does the tree look like for those who do not, and have no idea:

1) Look it up in the dictionary, understand a new word, and feel the power of a new word.

2) Skip over it, and obtain the meaning of the sentence by removing this esoteric word.

3) Give up on the meaning, and assign yourself to the illiterate masses, forever never being able to understand the nuance, beauty, and subtlety of an American Literary Masterpiece (tm: Chip Ahoy).

Anonymous said...

Yoko Ono has a contralto voice at times. Another connection.

Anonymous said...

By all these connections it is obvious that when Ann talks about "The Great Gatsby" she wants us to subliminally think of "Catcher in the Rye".

Perhaps if one reads "Catcher in the Rye" while listening to the White Album more truth will come out.

Anonymous said...

Like the White Album perhaps Althouse is telling us there are secret messages to be found, backwards.

"Sweetly up broke voice, her rose melody."

"Upon magic human warm her of little."

"Out tipped change."

It might even make MORE sense this way.

rcommal said...


You just hit upon one of my least favorite sentences in the entirety of "The Great Gatsby." Blecch.


[Side note: Unsurprisingly, I've known what "contralto" refers to/means since earliest childhood.]

Anonymous said...

salam kenal ajah.. grretings..

Chip Ahoy said...

I thought contralto was where you go


sustainiendo but with breaks in so that it fades out and tips over because

Melody and Rose broke up the Sweedish contractors and threw change in then tip jar and put on her warm magic apron

and also because this is fiction.

yashu said...

List of contraltos according to Wikipedia here.

Some missing from that list (I think but am not sure could at least sometimes be described as contraltos?): Nico, Wanda Jackson, Dusty Springfield, Peggy Lee, Ann Wilson, Kristin Hersh, Hope Sandoval, PJ Harvey, etc.).

I like tradguy's invocation of Patsy Cline. When I think of beautifully breaking waves of warm human magic, Cline is one of the first that comes to mind.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Mother Theresa of Calcutta (or maybe it was Mother Angelica...oh, well, one of those feisty nuns anyway) said "whatever you're full of spills out when bumped." So let us be full of mercy and holiness.

Although warm human magic ain't bad, either.


R,L: Insomnia?

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

Sounds like it dries a little and gets sticky.

edutcher said...

Sounds like Gatz wants to tip her over so he can have a little of her warm human magic.

PS A lot of guys 50 years ago thought all the angels were in Heaven until they heard Patsy Cline.

Then she became an angel, too.

Robert Cook said...

As I stated in one of the earlier blogs about Fitzgerald, I've never read him.

In reading these various sentences in isolation from their context, to be regarded merely as sentences, I have yet to find one of them that I think is a good sentence.

They're baroque and they lack euphony.

Here's a good sentence:

"Some years ago--never mind how long precisely--having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world."

It doesn't try to be pretty or poetic, as Fitzgerald's sentences do, (at least, each one quoted so far). It is plain and sturdy, yet has music, and it compels one's interest in reading the next sentence, (which none of Fitzgerald's sentences do...for me).

This is also from a writer I have never read, although I may tackle him soon.

Mid-Life Lawyer said...

He used "rose" in the rise/risen sense but it does evoke the flower in the context of the tone of the sentence. "Broke Up Sweetly" adds more feminine vulnerability.

At each "change" or transition she "breaks up sweetly" and tips out a "little of her warm human magic" upon the air - A vulnerable but ever gracious and gentle damsel riding the melody of life.

Darrell said...

This is what he means--



Anonymous said...

Ringo; Zelda.

Zelda; Ringo.

Darrell said...

This is what Fitzgerald meant-

(If you are impatient, go to 1:20, but you miss that amount of Yehudi)

Anonymous said...

"When the melody rose, her voice broke up sweetly, and the gray haze of goose-bumps followed upon his arms. The goose-bumps spread about by the hundreds like ants, isolated and unpunctual. His arms felt contiguous to absolutely nothing, a ripe mystery, as the ants formed a ladder and mounted to a secret place above his elbows. He waved his hands, and each wave tipped out a little of their warm ant magic upon the air. Mouth ajar, his face flushed slightly: he realized he was but a small block of human brick on the edge of the wasteland, and the ants were turning on him. Through this twilight universe the ants began to move again with the season, and despite how he scratched and clawed he could not get them off. He gasped: they would not stop until they ate him alive..."

-- from "The Great Antsby"

Ann Althouse said...

@betamax3000 There is only one appearance of potato in "The Great Gatsby":

"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."

Maybe we can chow down on that as our Sunday sentence.

Ann Althouse said...

And the gardener is Meade and the gamekeeper is Oliver Mellors.

Anonymous said...

I knew I was on to something!

kentuckyliz said...

+tipping warm human magic upon the air

= the steam of human breath.

Stick a mirror in front of her mouth and she'll fog it.

kentuckyliz said...

I am a contralto. Before my voice tightened with age, I could also sing coloratura soprano. I had a vast range that my voice coach and an opera singer friend envied.

But I didn't keep up the vocal exercises and my vocal cords tightened and I've had surgeries in my neck and chemo really sacked my voice.

No more coloratura soprano.

Ah well. I think in harmony and can still do high lonesome.

Sydney said...


That was beautiful. I once heard a violinist say she chose to study the violin because she could not sing, and it was the closest she could get to singing.

Meade said...

"Ah well. I think in harmony and can still do high lonesome."

Never stop thinking in harmony and dreaming in high lonesome, liz. It is truly where the soul of man never dies.