February 21, 2013

"It was sharply different from the West, where an evening was hurried from phase to phase toward its close..."

"... in a continually disappointed anticipation or else in sheer nervous dread of the moment itself."

And by "West," F. Scott Fitzgerald meant the Midwest. He meant Wisconsin, and I'm here in Wisconsin, hammering out the latest post in the "Gatsby" project (wherein we isolate and chew over one sentence from "The Great Gatsby" every day... more or less). And I'm feeling hurried and disappointed and sheer nervous dread. Should I be here, in this post, or off onto the next post, or am I already sorry about that one, but — yeesh — this thing right here is so... horrible?


kentuckyliz said...

he is describing his own uncomfortable self....the environment is at peace with itself

edutcher said...

A lot of novels of that period were about the death of towns in them in the Midwest and the culture - "Main Street", for instance.

ricpic said...

James Jones, a son of the midwest if there ever was one, in Some Came Running wrote a devastating putdown of a standard midwest evening meal served to guests by a local babbitt (can't remember the details but it was essentially heavy on roast meat, gravy, mashed potatoes, iceberg lettuce smothered under blue cheese dressing and for dessert ice cream) versus a much cleaner or lighter version of the same foods (heart shaped filet mignon with mushrooms, baked potatoes, salad with oil and vinegar dressing, grapes, nuts and cheese for dessert) served by the local bohemian maiden lady professor to Dave Hirsch, the book's "hero" writer who never gets to bed her.

Basta! said...

"an evening was hurried"

This is an odd phrasing, at least out of context like this. Who or what was making time hurry?

m stone said...

Midwesterners traditionally rise early, hence the pace of the evening Fitz refers to.

The source of anticipation or dread is something else.

Ann Althouse said...

"Who or what was making time hurry?"

Hurried from phase to phase. So: here's dinner, take away the plates, wash up, put things away.

No lingering. No clinging to the last of the day. Get stuff done and put it away, go to bed, there's work in the morning.

Ann Althouse said...

The dread is of simply being alive in the now. Have to keep moving on to the next useful thing. It's all so practical. Must keep busy. Stop and you feel there's something wrong with what you are doing.

I've known people like that.

It's sad.

I think of Mary and Martha in the Bible story.

Lem said...

If we hurry, we keep from figuring something out... something behind a curtain we are not supposed to look... give the trick away.

So, we say, we save the moments, because they are precious and few... we have a bank of moments... printing them out like crazy devalues them... so we go and trade them... when we are supposed to share them as we are told... but they are so precious and few... that we pull them off the wall... to sell to the highest bidder... and hopefully it pops up at a big museum... where we can go and share them once more... snap it up... at this pace we are not going to see anything.

Dante said...

Midwest, it reminds me of "The Jungle." Exactly, move from moment to moment, to not focus on the present and what it means. Same thought I had.

However, from your sentences, what does Gatsby have? Hams ready to eat perfect salads. People with no connection in dark lit rooms. The inability to live life, as Mr. Mumble tries to get laid. The only solace is you know there is no meaning to this superior life.

Give me the Little House on the Prairie, where life is tough but love is all binding. Cuddle in the cold winter, and violin music in the summer. Ma and Pa doing together, and doing their best.