So I just finished reading The Great Gatsby. Like, real reading. I mean, I read it in college for an English class, but that wasn’t real reading. I know this because I was absolutely blown away by the ending. Gatsby fucking dies at the end? What was I reading in college then because I’m pretty sure I got through two essays and test not having a clue that Gatsby bought it at the end.
Oh, yeah. Spoiler alert: Gatsby dies.
Maybe the bigger issue at hand is where the hell I’ve been lately. It’s true, you may have noticed I’ve been
a little a lot off the grid lately. No, it’s not another one of my Internet Fasting stunts. Well, I mean sort of–I’ve been without internet.
So let’s rewind a little bit. I found myself homeless, more or less. Things didn’t, um, pan out living with my cousin so I packed a bag and yada, yada, yada I just moved into a nice, little townhome type thing in the woods.
But there was a good two weeks where I was living out of my car. Special thanks to my grandma and my resort for providing me shelter when I needed it.
Let’s be honest: I wasn’t exactly living in the streets. However, it was pretty humbling. I ended up with a Grizzly Adams-caliber neckbeard, wore the same t-shirt, jeans, and faded pseudo-army jacket wherever I went, lived off scraps and handouts and ended up using whatever toothpaste was in the bathroom drawer I happened to be rummaging through. I got a promotion and signed a lease on a place I couldn’t previously afford–not necessarily in that order.
It all worked out, I think. Granted I’m not sure how I’m going to pay the rent due on the first and the surprise $500 of wear-and-tear on my car due roughly the same time. Shockingly, there are options that don’t require selling major organs.
But in the split seconds I had before leaving my cousin’s house for good, I tried to make an informed decision about what book to bring with me. And there, glaring at me from my bookshelf, was a former library copy of The Great Gatsby that I picked up for spare change. You know, just in case.
Let me explain something: I do not re-read books. Even when I say I’m going to. Even when it’s Star Wars. I just don’t do it. Maybe it was the cliche artsy writer in me or the fact that I knew I wouldn’t complete the homeless look without a dog-eared classic jutting from my coat pocket, but I nabbed Gatsby and took him on the road with me.
He made for good company, along with all the others: Nick Carraway (which is still the coolest fucking last name of all time), Daisy, and Jordan. It starts out a little droll–I haven’t read anything like this
in years. There’s no wizards, robots, swords, or powers. Just slices of Americana and some unassuming metaphor.
And I’m getting into it, man! I’m reading the voice of one of the greats, sleeping in a different bed or couch, but that’s my rock, you know? That’s my constant. That little penciled-in book. And I’m reading about Gatsby, about his whole life is about impressing a girl by
being rich not being poor. He throws these lavish parties just hoping to reel in his lost love. No interest in the parties themselves, just the girl. Just Daisy.
I love it. This is exactly the kind of story I can get behind. Why hadn’t I seen this before? When I thought back to the point of Gatsby, I just didn’t get it. Ironically, the story I’m always trying to tell was written back in the 20s and has been residing in the back of my head for years. Guiding my writing–guiding my choices!
Fitzgerald’s prose is so simple and elegant–it was like a splash of cold water right in my face. Tell the fucking story, man! I get so caught up in themes and metaphors and hidden meanings I forget I have a fucking story to tell! At the end of the day, it’s about a guy and a girl.
And don’t even get me started on the money stuff. Talked about an allegory for my life!
Long story short, it was good. Got me back on the right path. Seven years after I “read” it and Gatsby is still teaching me lessons.
And I see it popping up elsewhere. Shortly after moving into my new place, I pulled my gently-used freebie handout chair–the only furniture in my living room–right up to my TV. Why not, right? Cracked a beer and watched St. Elmo’s Fire. Another piece of fiction I claimed to love but didn’t really remember.
It really is the sequel to The Breakfast Club, I’m fucking convinced.
I remember when I first saw it that I really related to Andrew McCarthy’s character. He was a bitter, unsuccessful writer that everybody thought was gay.
Okay, so I still relate to Andrew McCarthy’s character. But re-watching it, I found out I have a lot of Rob Lowe’s character in me too. Afraid of commitment, afraid of success, afraid of growing up–wanting to do what’s right but always falling victim to his ingrained vices.
Kind of heavy shit for a couple beers and an empty living room.
So I was glad to see a little Gatsby show up in SEF. Good icebreaker. Emilio Estevez’s character is such a play off Jay Gatsby it’s not even funny. Okay, it’s a little funny, but really–it’s textbook Gatsby syndrome. He puts Andie MacDowell up on such a pedestal. Gets a job at a mansion just to throw her a lavish party. And, when she doesn’t show, he ditches everything and drives up into the mountains (in a yellow car, no less) and chases after the girl and her new husband and life.
Reading and watching these more down-to-earth pieces of fiction have been good for me. Brought me back to reality. So has this whole breaking out on my own, making something of my self, and stepping up to a plate that maybe nobody else sees but me.
So this little “Vision Quest Lite” of mine was nice for awhile. But now I’m glad to have a place to call my own and a relative degree of stability. It’s time to get back to work. Back on track. Write that great American novel. Tell the fucking story.