Re: Green

1

I noticed the same thing. Gatsby as... role model?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 4:35 PM
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I want to know why English is always the high school subject that gets sacrificed to make room for the Personal Reflections hour. Why not calculus or biology? Surely instead of learning about the Krebs Cycle and what it does, high school Bio students could take that fifty-minute period to think about how they also, metaphorically, convert energy into action.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 4:39 PM
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The author of this article should watch D'Angelo Barksdale's take on Gatsby in The Wire.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 4:56 PM
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"But it's a cautionary tale, too."

Just because Gatsby died young and didn't get the girl? He followed his dream, didn't he?

Teaching reality through literature seems impossible. School is a duty to be minimally met. The same year my son's class read Gatsby he and his friends would take walks through the richer neighborhood nearby and dream about the inaccessible babes in some of those houses.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 5:03 PM
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Hmmm. Been a long time since I've read Gatsby but wasn't one of the themes that no matter how much he had, he was still not one of Them, took Daisy one night because he had no real right to touch her hand, or somesuch? Not exactly Immigrant Boy Makes Good.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 5:05 PM
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2 is funny.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 5:05 PM
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The green light was Gatsby's downfall. Killed the dude, didn't it? I, immigrant child that I am, and former English major (though I could be misreading the book, IANAEnglishGradStudent), read this and thought "WTF."

Hooray for the myth of meritocracy! It is alive and well, and so is the American Dream! Check out one white dude's experience in Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the American Dream!


Posted by: Belle Lettre | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 5:06 PM
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Somewhere in Gatsby, probably the end, you see Jake Gatz's day-to-day self-improvement program, which I think is a parody of Ben Franklin's.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 5:09 PM
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It's more or less a parody of Franklin; Franklin though a 10 yr old's eyes, I think. His dad reveals it written on the inside of an old book of Jay's, at the latter's funeral. At the same time he reveals that his name was really Gatz. This article is so dumb can hardly stand it.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 5:18 PM
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That Bob Redford was quite the Gatsby. Mia Farrow as Daisy was just too old, though.


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 5:21 PM
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The NYT is full of stupid-ass "trend" articles lately. Catch the one where yuppies like their modern decor more than their children?

There's a Jack Shafer press criticism on NYT trend-spotting articles somewhere. Be wary of the use of "many" and "most" and other red flag sounds-like-a-statistic terms of generalization.


Posted by: Belle Lettre | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 5:27 PM
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I can see this: it teaches young immigrants that even if they change their name and acquire wealth, keen-eyed American bigots will be able to spot them for the interloping phonies they are and the world will exact justice upon them for the deception.

I mean, why not teach all these immigrants the importance of not fucking with whitey?


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 5:30 PM
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"the importance" s/b "the cosmic importance"


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 5:31 PM
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Jinzhao Wang, 14, who immigrated two years ago from China,
"My green light?" said Jinzhao, who has been studying "Gatsby" in her sophomore English class at the Boston Latin School. "My green light is Harvard."

Let me guess, at age 8, she applied to Harvard but was rejected. Determined to get back there she joined an organized crime family on whose dime she is currently attending school in the US. All that remains to be done is to change her name to Jennifer - Jen - Wangsby.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 5:33 PM
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Fancy seeing you here, SEK. I de-lurk (I go on and off the Unfogged wagon) and give you a hi-five.

My nephew is a junior in high school, and it shocks me how bad his English Honors classes are.

BTW, since when is The Joy Luck Club even good lit, much less required lit in the high school canon?

In my day, my English prof at my underperforming high school in a mixed-income/heavily minority neighborhood made us read Mrs. Dalloway and Tom Jones.


Posted by: Belle Lettre | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 5:34 PM
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Jennifer 8 Wangsby


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 5:39 PM
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2 reminded me instantly that I need to reread this, & finish the darn book sometime, & maybe have an argument about it.

Gatsby was the most fun I ever saw a roomful of (academically tracked, but still) 15-years-olds having simply in the discussion of a work of literature. One hopes one is not to infer that only white people like that.


Posted by: Rah | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 5:39 PM
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Wow. Belle, Rah, and others return. Welcome.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 5:41 PM
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Thanks, Will!

I read threads, but participating in them severely reduces my productivity. I am one of those constant refreshers. I can get obsessive about one thread. I get so caught up in one thread I forget to read others. I then forget to read my homework. But I like to pop back in every once in a while.

Why the absence? Grad-level statistics class and weekly problem sets. I am one of those few Asians who can't do math, and yet still I keep at the American Dream.


Posted by: Belle Lettre | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 5:54 PM
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Why are you taking statistics?


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 5:56 PM
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I am one of those few Asians who can't do math

Shhhh! That's not something white people are supposed to know.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 5:58 PM
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Wait -- have Asians been eavesdropping on us honkies?

That's the sinister side of the internet right there. Our trust has been abused by outlanders.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 6:29 PM
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16 is great.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 6:38 PM
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Mia Farrow as Daisy was just too

... blonde. They missed the entire point of the Tom-Daisy tension. She has inky hair, people. And is from Louisville. Sheesh.

And yes, o immigrant children: if you strive just hard enough, you too can end up destroyed by the vast carelessness of America's hereditary rich! Just follow the will-o-the-wisp....


Posted by: Eric | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 7:06 PM
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"My green light is Harvard."

As a student at that institution I think there may be more truth to that statement than the unfortunate girl realizes. Ad when did the New York Times start hiring writers who misunderstood Gatsby anyway? It's not really that subtle, he dies at the end...


Posted by: Pistol Pete | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 7:25 PM
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But think of all the beautiful shirts he has. Doesn't that make his eventual death worthwhile?

Oh. Yeah, come to think I suppose it doesn't.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 7:30 PM
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The funny thing about Gatsby is that its central thesis is completely wrong. I'm sure that the East Coast old rich view Bill Gates as a vulgar arriviste, but I'm sure it doesn't bother Gates much.


Posted by: Walt | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 7:38 PM
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I'm sure that the East Coast old rich view Bill Gates as a vulgar arriviste, but I'm sure it doesn't bother Gates much.

Not anymore, no. But in the '20s? Certainly so. It's the reason Edith Wharton wrote novels.


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 7:40 PM
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Speaking of whom, they should replace "Ethan Frome" with The House of Mirth on the reading list given in that article.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 7:50 PM
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Gates isn't an arriviste. Wiki:

His family was wealthy; his father was a prominent lawyer, his mother served on the board of directors for First Interstate Bank and the United Way, and her father, J. W. Maxwell, was a national bank president. [In the modern U.S. the term "national bank" has a precise meaning: a banking institution chartered by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency ("OCC"), an agency in the U.S. Treasury Department, pursuant to the National Bank Act.]

Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 7:53 PM
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Don't these kids have english teachers? Shouldn't they be guiding the interpretations at least a little?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 7:55 PM
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I know that Gates is not truly self-made, but I think old money would consider anyone from Seattle to be an arriviste. Maybe Sam Walton would be a better example, but I have zero sense of what he was like as a person.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 7:57 PM
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It's been awhile, but my memory is that Daisy and Tom were just toxic people with their own little schtick, which Gatsby couldn't break up. In other circumstances Daisy might have dumped Tom and screwed Gatsby's brains out, though he probably would ultimately have gotten burned that way too. I don't think that the "arriviste" thing explains it. (In Tom's case, just hanging on to Daisy bey fair means or foul was the motive).

I've just recently found out that the counties next to mine (Stearns and Todd) were major moonshine centers. I've talked myself to two people in their 80s whose parents were moonshiners. According to report almost everyone there had some involvement.



Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 8:03 PM
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How did this happen, anyway? If sonething did happen. When & how did the American Dream change from Booth Tarkington & Andy Hardy to Gatsby and Park Avenue?

(dammit, I can't cut & paste from SoL, neither Adobe or Foxit, so some of this is E Wilson, read just today)

But Fitzgerald like Hemingway, was a Midwesterner, and neither Gatsby or Daisy represented FSF's true values. FSF probably thought he wanted to be Nick, but FSF was fucked up. There is always a Sunrise subtext to FSF, a self-concious and amused bewitchment by the glittering panoply. Pandaemonium.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 8:09 PM
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Daisy et al remind me of Andy Warhol and that scene, where ultra cool rich people spectated talented, non-elite junkies ruining their lives, etc. I saw some of that myself back in the day.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 8:11 PM
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Emerson and mcmanus threaten to turn this into the strangest conversation about Gatsby ever.

I welcome our bitter and cynical new overlords.

(And eb, you're right. Of course you're right. It's just we have to be able to promise students ACTION! in their assigned reading, and while both Frome and HOM are 99 percent dull and dreary, only one of them is 1 percent ACTION! We do what we can.)


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 8:14 PM
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I know I read Gatsby because I recall a friend in college made me read it. But other than that it has left no impression on me whatsoever. I think I remember something about them driving around in a car.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 8:20 PM
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7: I heard that guy on NPR yesterday. Unspeakable prick. Apparently he read Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed in college and "wasn't terribly impressed," so he decided to refute her after he graduated by pulling himself up by his bootstraps.

When the host tried to suggest that maybe his middle-class upbringing and college education makes it tendentious to compare his story to that of everyone out there struggling to get by, he actually suggested that, e.g, his lack of criminal record was a hindrance, because it made it harder for him to get accepted in that "whole new culture", where everybody's a convicted felon! Also, something about how you don't really need a college education to know better than to waste your money on beer, cigarettes, and lottery tickets.


Posted by: potchkeh | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 8:20 PM
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I think I remember something about them driving around in a car.

They did. It ended well. Commence emulation!


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 8:21 PM
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FSF was conflicted, as Hemingway pointed out.

I'll point out again that the part about Jake Gatz gathering oysters on Lake Superior was bullshit. No oysters there.

Also, gatz never lived in Elgin.

FSF's father was from the South. Sinclair Lewis wasn't as good a writer, but he was resistant to the glitz. Thorstein Veblen wrote the defining book on it, not that it did any good.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 8:21 PM
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HOM are 99 percent dull and dreary

I'm going to guess we have very different opinions about that book, at least as related to enjoyment. You want 99 - actually 100 - percent dull and dreary from Wharton? Read the Bunner Sisters (which, given your interests, you've probably read already). House of Mirth, which I enjoyed but certainly did not find, um, uplifting - is cheerful by comparison.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 8:21 PM
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7: I heard that guy on NPR yesterday. Unspeakable prick. Apparently he read Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed in college and "wasn't terribly impressed," so he decided to refute her after he graduated by pulling himself up by his bootstraps.

Oh Jesus, yeah. What an asshole that guy was.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 8:22 PM
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From 7:

No matter your reading interest, Shepard's facile writing style is sure to keep you turning the pages.

Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 8:31 PM
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What an asshole that guy was.

Incredibly bizarre interview: at some point he explained that it's really not that hard to take the bus, brown-bag it or buy microwaveable lunches, and even if you're homeless, you must just explain to your potential employer that you're the best goddamned mover in the universe -- then he'll hire you.

All I remember about Gatsby is, yeah, driving around and general dissolution; but I confuse it with Fitzgerald's life in general. It's been too long since I've read it.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 8:32 PM
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I'm going to guess we have very different opinions about that book, at least as related to enjoyment. You want 99 - actually 100 - percent dull and dreary from Wharton? Read the Bunner Sisters (which, given your interests, you've probably read already). House of Mirth, which I enjoyed but certainly did not find, um, uplifting - is cheerful by comparison.

We're not talking about me here, eb. We're talking about the "compressed perspective" of an easily bored high schooler in desperate need of inspiring role models. Me? I love me the Wharton.


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 8:35 PM
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Rah's link in 17 is interesting. I can't attend since I'm off here shortly, but it's worth looking at.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 8:37 PM
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Ethan Frome blew. It's true.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 8:41 PM
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So the moral of the story in 7 is that if you've got a college education and were raised upper-middle-class and white, you can make your way in life on your own two feet, as long as nothing bad happens to you and you don't, say, have any kids to feed? What a fucking asshole. He needs to consider the metaphor of the "safety net" and what it might imply.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 8:42 PM
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I'm wondering if the name in 14 should be google-proofed. I don't think I'd want what I said about high school english class reported on in the NYT, and I'm sure I wouldn't want to find people joking about it on some blog.

I think this is a case of commenter's remorse. It's really the reporter and the teachers who should know better.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 8:53 PM
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Don't blame yourself, eb. Society is to blame for your crimes.

Of course, the reverse is also true.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 8:54 PM
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Transforming it into an individual-competition thing destroys the social point. Even in the depression some talented, hard-driving individuals did well. That doesn't mean that there was no depression.

Ehrenreich was also an older woman, and I suspect that she played her game by stricter rules than he did.

I knew an attractive, educated couple long ago who played that game, and when they found that it was easy for them they figured that it should be easy for everyone. I also suspect that they cheated a bit here and there and had no concept of "cultural capital" )which hadn't been discovered yet, actually.)


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 8:54 PM
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20: I am a sociology of law scholar, or whatever.


Posted by: Belle Lettre | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 9:05 PM
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Ethan Frome blew. It's true.

Did it? It's been (gasp) a quarter-century since I read it, but I remember it pretty well, and remember liking it. Attempted double suicide by sled! Whoa, dude.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 9:13 PM
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Ethan Frome blew. It's true.

No, that's a value judgement.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 9:18 PM
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Value judgments can't be true now?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 9:25 PM
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No, they're all just boo-hurrah. This has been known for more than fifty years. And I thought you were a philosopher!

Also, "sucks" is not a term accepted by mainstream critics.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 9:36 PM
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"Blew", on the other hand, is the latest jargon.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 10:05 PM
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Ethan Frome bit the big one. That's all I have to say on this matter.


Posted by: Harold Bloom | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 10:17 PM
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Oh, you must pardon me for not using italics. Sometimes I try too hard to fit in with the blog community's little folkways, and I don't realize that I am actually adding ambiguity to my message. Why is this so hard?!?


Posted by: Harold Bloom | Link to this comment | 02-17-08 10:19 PM
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i remember i read the night is tender and was deeply unsympathetic to the poor mentally ill wife
for being that indifferent and that she recovers and marries another or what, forgot
about the great gatsby i recall also that they drove around in the car and my disapproval how one would long this much for things material
i remember i was crying after reading martin iden
mostly because i imagined the pain of drowning itself
i never read ethan frome


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 02-18-08 6:47 AM
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Gatsby is one of those books that stuck in my head. Gorgeous pink rag of a suit, the girls sitting as though they had teacups balanced on their foreheads, Jordan's golfing, the green light, old sport. I have no idea why I remember it.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 02-18-08 6:54 AM
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60: My attempt at reading Tender Is the Night was among the most disturbing literary experiences I can recall. The novel appears (based on the 100+ pages I got through) to chronicle the dissipation of the protagonist's talent through alcohol, depression, & an inability to handle the mental illness of his partner. And, creepily, exactly such a decline seemed to me evident in the construction of the novel itself, which gets windier & less interesting pretty much chapter by chapter.


Posted by: Rah | Link to this comment | 02-18-08 10:28 AM
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i remember i was crying after reading martin iden

SEK should see this -- he's writing his dissertation on Jack London, isn't he?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-18-08 10:40 AM
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I should admit that I only read the first and last few chapters of Gatsby when I was in high school because I found the prose intolerable. Apparently, it's a wildly popular book in Japan, in part because the cross-class friendships are totally unimaginable to them, especially ten or twenty years ago. So the plot is practically magical.

I didn't like much of what we read in high school. It seemed obvious that the books we were reading were not actually good books; they were the kinds of books that only high schoolers ever read or talk about. If you brought any of them up outside the context of a high school classroom, it would be laughable. My reaction along those lines is so naturalized at this point that I saw a guy reading Gatsby on the train the other day, and part of me was like, "Really?" I'm not actually a huge snob, normally.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 02-18-08 11:02 AM
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62 is exactly right, tho seems to miss the roman de clef(?) nature of Tender that makes the process described even more interesting. Toward the end, Tender shows a kind of self-pitying martyrdom that is almost, and perhaps intentionally, funny. Look, FSF as early as TSoP and BotD shows this autobiography as self-mocking bathos

63:SEK, IIRC, is attempting to refute refuting Hofstadter's thesis on American Social Darwinism.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-18-08 11:12 AM
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63, 65: You're both correct. I'm refuting Hofstadter by examining turn-of-the-last-century popular culture and demonstrating that "social Darwinism" had no currency.

I found read's reaction to ME perplexing, at least until I read the next sentence. The final scene does document the horrors of drowning, and London would know -- he had nightmares about drowning his entire adult life, based on an incident that happened when he was on the sea patrol. (Or maybe stealing other people's clams. Can't remember right now.)


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 02-18-08 11:17 AM
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It's the fucking great american novel!

I think everyone has that reaction to the standard HS curricular choices, though.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-18-08 11:19 AM
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Isn't a lot of that just due to reading them in high school, rather than anything wrong with the books themselves? I can't read Crime and Punishment, and I'm sure that's not Dostoyevsky's fault, it's Mr. Feigelson's.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-18-08 11:21 AM
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I read C&P for HS, and I still love it. I think I might already have read it, though.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-18-08 11:23 AM
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Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is the great American novel.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-18-08 11:25 AM
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Maurice is the great American novel.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-18-08 11:29 AM
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Morris is the great American orange tabby. Or was. He's probably dead by now.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-18-08 11:30 AM
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I'm sorry to have reminded you of your loss, LB.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 02-18-08 11:31 AM
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Carhenge is the great American novel in monumental form.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-18-08 11:32 AM
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Roth's The Great American Novel is in fact the great American novel. It's about baseball!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-18-08 11:35 AM
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72,73: Yeah, what was it like three weeks ago that you locked him in that closet?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 02-18-08 11:37 AM
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I don't know what our high school book list would have looked like, but we had a middle school teacher who liked to just throw out the list and have us read stuff like Johnny got his gun instead. Interesting guy.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 02-18-08 11:38 AM
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Planet of the Apes would be the great American novel, if it weren't French.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-18-08 11:40 AM
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Since America is a nation of immigrants, by definition The Great Indian Novel is the great American novel.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-18-08 11:41 AM
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Toward the end, Tender shows a kind of self-pitying martyrdom that is almost, and perhaps intentionally, funny.

This is true (except for the "intentionally" part, I'm afraid), and makes the fact that Tender is the Night was my favorite novel for a period of time in my late teens even more embarrassing. To be sure, I was pretty crazy about everything Fitzgerald wrote back then, but that was number one.

In just about a week, as chance would have it, Yale University Art Gallery will open an exhibit about Gerald and Sara Murphy, who provided in part the models for Dick and Nicole Diver, and their involvement with the 1920s avant-garde. This .pdf has some more details. Hoping to catch it.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 02-18-08 11:47 AM
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The great American novel was written by a buffalo, but has been lost in the shifting sands of time.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 02-18-08 11:51 AM
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81: This would be the now extinct desert bison.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 02-18-08 11:54 AM
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i got all wrong should have checked the english titles
and why people say things as if they are ashamed of reading those novels
i read those when i was 12-13-14 may be and liked it, i recall i better liked white fang than martin eden though
read a lot of stuff at the time which i forgot east of eden i remember
but i read moby dick last yr only, in english


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 02-18-08 12:01 PM
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The desert bison went extinct when the savage natives stampeded them off cliffs, thus proving that whites are blameless for destroying the Great American Novel.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 02-18-08 12:01 PM
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FSF was a commercial writer who rarely took himself seriously and I think his books were in-jokes among a tight circle of friends. Very dark in-jokes.

Maybe I need to do a close reading of Gatsby again. The 1st movie Gatsby was Alan Ladd, shorter & more thuggish than Redford. I keep thinking about the Hoffman-Kidman relationship in the movie of Doctorow's novel, and wondering if the intent of Gatsby would be better captured by casting Bob Hoskins and Gwyneth Paltrow.

IOW, right now I am wondering if the book wasn't meant to be more maliciously funny than we remember it, Gatsby more obviously pathetic and Daisy more contemptible, while noble Nick ridiculously reflects on the tragedy of it all.

The tragedy, of course, was left laying in the road.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 02-18-08 12:19 PM
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Someone's already written The Great American Indian Novel.


Posted by: SEK | Link to this comment | 02-18-08 2:46 PM
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65: The relation of the novel to FSF's own life only made it more horrifying--I felt like the author thought the book was getting more & more insightful & cutting while it was in fact becoming more & more superficial & aimless.


Posted by: Rah | Link to this comment | 02-18-08 4:02 PM
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