Thursday, September 15, 2016

September 2016 Bookers Minutes & Musings, The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

The site of the garden party, although “broiling….certainly the warmest of the summer,” buzzed with Gatsby-garbed guests sipping champagne and munching on finger sandwiches in celebration of Bookers return from summer break and the beginning of our thirteenth year. 33 “old sports” lolled on the Magee’s patio enjoying the jazz refrains crooned by Louis and Ella. Bartender, Jane Freer, kept a tuxedoed John Magee supplied with glasses of bubbly to serve while Bonnie and co-host Rosemary Farmer offered sustenance. Daisy Buchanan (aka Cherry Fugitt) sprawled regally on a chaise, visited with everyone who passed by and Jordan Baker arrived straight from the links with a few of her golfing buddies. Many thanks to Bonnie and John, Rosemary, Jane, Melanie, Patty, Patsy, Rokhshie, Daryl, Sheri Green, and to Mike Cromer for authenticating our little party with his beautiful classic car. Talk about a village! We appreciate everyone enduring the heat and sun to support Bookers as we all seemed to adopt Daisy’s saying, “It’s too hot to fuss.”

We were delighted to see some old friends, members, and guests – Joyce Helberg, Charlotte Pechacek, Teresa Cromer, Linsey Garwacki, Aulsine DeLoach, Leslie Mullins, Sarah Yeager, and of course our guest reviewer, Penny Barshop – able to join us this time and hope they will make it a habit. And, we’ve acquired some new “sports” in Kathi Baublits, Paula Butcher, and Mary Wensel. Welcome to all. As a side note to our new members, generally our meetings are less elaborate with hostesses providing water, coffee and juice….no dressing up or imbibing unless we deem it an occasion. It’s all about the book!

Penny Barshop, guest reviewer extraordinaire, (We ALL agree), began the Gatsby journey with a brief background of the author, his wife Zelda, and the complex friendship and competition between Fitzgerald and Hemingway. More information is available in Z, a novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, by Therese Anne Fowler. The Great Gatsby, considered an American classic, embodies the elements that define that attribute – broadly speaking, by showing the culture of the nation, relevant then now, told in timeless rich prose defining complex characters and vibrant and unique settings, embracing a style that moves the story back and forth drawing the reader into each word of each page. We are privy to the theme of the novel with the epigraph, generally written by someone other than the author, which serves as an appetizer to the important aspects of the story, pointing the reader in the right direction. Fitzgerald chose to break the rules by fictionalizing its author and hinting of what was in store for Gatsby by suggesting someone use material deception in order to win a girl – bling yourself up to attract the attention of someone who would not otherwise notice you…..Jay is that you?

Penny assumed the role of narrator Nick’s alleged fiancée in Chicago – the one he described as “that tangle back home with a vague understanding” that he needed to break – reviewing the novel from letters he wrote to her and signed, Love, Nick. Each of the nine chapters of Gatsby reads like a short story with Penny leading us through the novel in the voice of the other woman from the Midwest. I’ve summarized the high points of each one in the following manner:

Chapter One: Nick, who is your cousin and her philandering (established rich East Egger) hulk of a husband? It’s lunch time with Daisy and Tom, best friend, Jordan Baker, and a fifth guest arriving in the form of a telephone call from Tom’s honey.

Chapter Two: Nick, meet Myrtle, Tom’s latest fling. Myrtle lives with her husband under the billboard eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg looking down on the morally bankrupt wasteland called the valley of ashes between West Egg and New York.

Chapter Three: Nick, invited to a party at his neighbor, West Egger Jay Gatsby, had watched him as he stared across the water at a green light mounted on the Buchanan’s dock. Rumors swirled as guests blathered about who was the “real” Gatsby.

Chapter Four: Gatsby seizes an opportunity to endear himself to Nick by squashing the stories about him and letting Nick in on his “real” story and Oh, by the way says Jay, invite your cousin to tea, covertly, at your place so we can rekindle the connection lost five years ago.

            Chapter Five: It worked.

Chapter Six: Tom meets his archenemy – Jay – and vows to find out his “real” story. Jay wants to return to his pipe dream with Daisy in Louisville, but insists she must tell Tom she never loved him.

Chapter Seven: This is where the you know what hits the fan. Gatsby’s career as Trimalchio (an arrogant former slave who became quite wealthy by tactics most would find distasteful) was over. Three year old, “Bles-sed pre-cious,” prances around briefly until scooped up by the nanny. The car caper develops. Push comes to shove on whom Daisy loves more and Tom’s honey dies.

Chapter Eight: The month long love affair between rich Daisy and poor Jay was love at first sight for both five years ago but doomed both from the start and at the end. Nick and Jordan had no conversation left in their casual relationship and Tom showed his true colors by confessing to his honey’s husband, the name of the driver that ran down his Myrtle. Jay floated in a pool of blood in his own pool and George ended his grief with the same gun.

Chapter Nine: Gatsby’s funeral consisted of his “real” father, Henry Gatz, a minister, Nick, four or five servants, the local postman, and the owl-eyed glasses man who admired Jay’s library. All his other “friends” seemed “occupied.” You know when it’s time to go home “when the blue smoke of brittle leaves was in the air and the wind blew the wet laundry stiff on the line.” Rest in Peace Jimmy Gatz.

A few words to describe Fitzgerald’s creations might read something like this: Jay – hollow, used by everyone; Daisy – “voice full of money;” Tom – adulterer, bigot, moron; Nick – honest, loyal; Jordan – “incurably dishonest;” Myrtle – shallow opportunist; George – blindfolded by love.

Our discussion centered on the characters, some feeling Daisy got a bad rap as she was “measured by her time,” and how interesting it would be to read this same novel through her point of view, while others said she showed no remorse for killing Myrtle. We marveled on Fitzgerald’s lyrical prose and unique phrasings. The question of who fathered Daisy’s child, some thinking it was Jay, surfaced. Rereading that portion today, I discovered Daisy and Tom were married in June, enjoyed a three month honeymoon and the little girl was born the following April – 10 months from the wedding and on page ten Daisy tells Jay she is three years old. Jay would have to have been a time traveler to be the father. Fitzgerald, with his style of writing and ability to transport readers to whatever world in which he resided, ranks as a great author today. He developed his talents among the modernist writers of the time believing the Great American dream had diminished corrupting American society in the 1920’s. This novel represented views in the line with the modernist writers of the time experimenting with literary form and expression – incorporating interior monologue and various points of view, and unreliable narrators. The green light at the end of Daisy and Tom’s dock represents Gatsby’s dream – the ultimate satisfaction that eluded him but tomorrow he will run faster and one fine morning, he will achieve it. We all recognized the continuing saga that wealth and consequence are not bedmates.

                               Thank You Bernie Crudden for recommending Gatsby

                                         On the business side:
Some of you will remember last December, MN and I took on the roles of two main characters, Addie and Louis, from Our Souls at Night. Netflix is now producing the screen version starring Jane Fonda and Robert Redford…and to think we were available.

Our October meeting is a week early this year as not to conflict with the garage sale. In order for Rebecca to calculate how much seating will be necessary, I’ll send out a note asking that you RSVP if you will be joining us and we urge everyone to read this wonderful book before the movie.

As you know, we pulled the December book selection, Too Bright to Hear, Too Loud to See, although it meets the criteria of a Bookers’ book – well written, fosters conversation, expands our minds beyond our comfort zone, and enables us to walk in other’s shoes. Although the writer gives a raw look at bipolar disorder, (one she suffers with as well), the vivid language and the protagonist’s escapades overshadows the disease. It is a very challenging read, but worthwhile if you can focus on the story and are interested in learning the depths one goes to in order to hide the disease, while dying on the inside. 

We’ve been busy searching for special reads for the rest of the year and have suffered through some not so inspiring selections and several set in the “war eras.” We have two or three on the radar, and will keep you posted as soon as we have the final analysis.

You’ve all heard of the Little Free Libraries all over the country. Chris Batt suggested one for our community and her husband agreed to build it for us. Melanie checked with the HOA, and since we have a library downstairs in the Clubhouse, they didn’t feel it necessary to add another venue.

Melba brought to our attention on the back of some cereal boxes is a promotion for local libraries focusing on on-line book clubs for residents. They choose a book a month and send the first chapter to the members followed by a new chapter for several more days, giving you a taste of the book before either purchasing it or checking it out at the library. If you’re interested, check with our local libraries to see if they have this incorporated into their services.

                                    COLOR CODING SYSTEM
                                    WHITE:         LIGHT READ
                                    PINK:             MODERATELY CHALLENGING
                                    RED:              CHALLENGING
October 4th:                             Early date due to Garage Sale
Me Before You, by Jo Jo Moyes features two people who couldn’t have less in common until love gave them everything to lose.
                                                DEEP PINK
At the movies – Rebecca Robinson’s theater. Chat time 9:30 A.M. We must be seated and ready for the curtain to rise promptly at 10:00 A.M due to the length of the movie and our bridge gals.
November 8th:                         Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave, author of Little Bee. The setting, the ever-changing landscape of World War II London, 1939.
                                                PINKISH RED
                                                Reviewer: Patsy Dehn
*** Note change:                    Home: Sheri Green
December 7th:                         WEDNESDAY NIGHT @ The Pinnacle Club. We’ll celebrate the holidays in our decorated clubhouse with a plated dinner. Details to follow.
                                                Seven Women by Eric Metaxas, inspirational biographies of what makes women great dwelling on a common thread of how these incredible women accomplished greatness because they are women, not in spite of being a woman.
                                                Reviewer: Rebecca Brisendine
January 10th:                           Home of Donna Walter – note change of host home
February 14th:                         Reviewer: Jean Alexander – book & host home TBD      
March 14th:                             Reviewer: Patty Evans – book TBD
                                                Home of Jean Alexander
April 11th:                               Reviewer: Barbara Creach- book TBD (Rokhshie Malone’s home)
May 9th                                   Tentative date – evening event – book & host home TBD
                                                Reviewer: Pat Faherty

Happy Reading, 

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