07 May 2013

that familiar conviction: thoughts on The Great Gatsby

I sat out on my balcony today, one side of me too hot from the sun beating down. It was only supposed to be a high of 72 today, which I once declared to be my perfect temperature, but there in the sun, it was too hot and I worried about burning.

It's funny: I've been listening to The Sun Also Rises by Hemingway, and it must be impossible to read him and not suddenly start writing like him. That's what I just did with those short declarations all strung together, even though I started this wanting to talk about another writer from that existentially trying time in Paris—another of that Lost Generation: F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Because the movie of The Great Gatsby is coming out this Friday, I pulled my copy of the book off the shelf: must be a good English major and read the book again before seeing the movie.

I hadn't gotten more than a page when I was struck with that very English major urge to underline.

Oh, the beauty of Fitzgerald's phrasing.

It's not that I had forgotten how you could lose yourself in his language; oh, no. When I was in high school, I had a quote book where I'd painstakingly copy in lines from books or poems or movies or songs that hit me. The kind of lines that may you want to read them over and over. The kind of lines that sent a hot line down your spine every time you say them aloud.

When I read Gatsby for the first time, I wanted to copy in the whole book.

And there I was, 15 years later, sitting on my balcony on a hot spring afternoon, twitching to find my old quote book. I wanted to see if I put in there this line:
And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.

Because that line is precisely how I feel right now, even though it is spring and not summer. The leaves have just, rather belatedly, burst forth from the trees, in that way that you barely notice. One day, they are bare twigs and the next day, the world is summer-like and green and leafy and you wonder how you could've missed all that growth.

So the trees have exploded and on this spring afternoon, I felt that life was beginning all over again. I felt it because I was hot from the sun and because I was lost in a book that had been a part of me since I was 15. Life is cyclical, and if it is truly cyclical, then you're always finding yourself in another new beginning, one that feels a little familiar but is fresh all the same.

My gosh, can you tell that I've been reading too much from the Lost Generation?

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