“I find Gatsby aesthetically overrated, psychologically vacant, and morally complacent,” sez — nay, thunders! — Kathryn Schulz. “I think we kid ourselves about the lessons it contains.” You hear that? Lessons! So rev yerself up for some good book-larnin', kiddo, and click on that link.
“The Great Gatsby has often been called 'a novel of yearning,' which for me has always meant a yearning for it to be a better book,” sez — nay, snarks! — The Globe & Mail's new Books editor, Jared Bland. “So why do we keep caring? . . . because for the most part we have it all wrong.” So get it right for once, you numbskull, and click on that link!
Some years back this guy did a “Reader's Manifesto,” which I thoroughly enjoyed (as I did these two pieces). He went one further than Schulz and excised large swaths of writer's prose, which he then excoriated. I giggled along with the man, for the most part, but every once in a while I thought, “Uh — sorry, dude, but this time the author's got me onside.”
Similarly with the passage Bland stabs at:
He must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky and frightening leaves and shivered as he found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how raw the sunlight was upon the scarcely created grass. A new world, material without being real, where poor ghosts, breathing dreams like air, drifting fortuitously about . . . etc.
Sitting on its own like that, the passage does indeed emanate a purple aura (this guy's sentences suffer similarly). But “poor ghosts, breathing dreams like air”? I can dig it.
You get to a certain age and you realize it doesn't matter what your youthful aspirations might have been: your dead ancestors are more present than ever, consuming your dreams and angling for the final word on your life. So by my reading, this metaphor works just fine — for me, and most certainly for Gatsby's larger themes of striving and deficiency (not that you'll ever hear me declare my reading to be The Right Reading. I kinda thought we were beyond all that).
Still, it's a bracing pleasure to catch a little acidity from The Gloat & Wail's Books editor. The previous editor, Martin Levin, was eminently fair-minded and even-tempered — traits that served him and his pages very well during the era of Carol Shields (surely the most fair-minded and even-tempered literary talent this country has laid claim to), but not-so-well in the age of digital decimation. A scrappier temperament might yet inject a little life into those pages — and links. So keep throwing down, Mr. Bland — our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.
|"Here's mud in yer eye!"|
*Although from the outset Luhrman has been dressed down by the usual scolds, a force of habit for some that shows no signs of stopping.