Monday, December 15, 2008

Gatsby's Music

I'm glad I never read "The Great Gatsby" in school. It would have become another homework assignment instead of a love affair. In high school and college I focused on world literature and somehow managed to avoid a lot of American and British writers. It's wonderful to discover some of these authors later in life, and even more wonderful to fall in love with the writing now that I have more appreciation for the work. Gatsby has done that for me.

I might not have read it recently had it not been required for a writing workshop, and although the assignment started out as homework, it instantly went beyond that. The voice in that work, the poetry, the lyricism, the imagery are music that struck some chord not only within me, but out in the distance somewhere beyond writing and, strangely, somewhere beyond words — the true quality of the language to get beyond itself. It's being transported, not in the sense of being taken to another world, but to a place beyond worlds to a sense of the infinite.

In a way, it wasn't the story of Gatsby that impressed me, tragic and indicative of those times and our times as it might be. It was the sense of something more than the tragedy unfolding on the page that was compelling, that kept me reading and made me sad when the book ended, despite a certain sense of relief that the sorrow that was coming all along had finally arrived. In the life of Gatsby and the Buchanans was humanity in all its brokenness, but in the language that told their story, there was everything beyond that, a strange sense of hope because the music of the language elevated the work beyond the melodrama it might have been otherwise. It makes me want to read the story again, just for the sheer enjoyment of it, to hear that music one more time.

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