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Once upon a time in the Jazz Age…..

I finally finished reading The Great Gatsby and my first reaction is – why the hell did I wait so long to read this magnificent work??? Why the hell did I believe that this very stereotypical tale would be written in same trite manner set in an era and country that in itself continues to make people curious and on this lay the principal reasons for popularity of the book alone? I was so wrong!!

I think one of the main reasons which made me hesitant to pick up this book was the fact that at a very young and a very impressionable age, I had read Tender is the Night and really dislike it. Somewhere in my sub-conscience, I knew that as a connoisseur of literature, I should give this book a try and in fact had borrowed it from the library at least twice and bought a copy more than year ago…but until today, I just did not summon the courage to read it. But now that I have, I must own, I am blown away.  I am humbled and in complete awe of the immense talent of Scott Fitzgerald that he could take an oft-repeated tale and turn it into something beautiful, tragic and a cathartic experience.

the-great-gatsby-by-beckisaurusrexxI am sure almost everyone is familiar with the story of The Great Gatsby. The story is told from the point of view of Nick Carraway, an educated, wealthy and a sincere Mid-Western, and begins with his moving to East, New York to work for Bonds. He is soon re-acquaints himself with Buchanan’s, Daisy being his second cousin and Tom being his senior at college. The Buchanan’s are typical products of the Jazz Era, with loads of money and restlessness. They had travelled in Europe, lived in Chicago, before moving to New York. At the very onset of the novel, it is made clear that Tom Buchanan is a libertine and keeps a mistress, Myrtle Wilson, who is the wife of the garage owner, George Wilson, who services Tom Buchanan’s car. Nick also becomes friendly with the mysterious Jay Gatsby, his extremely wealthy neighbor, with a reputation of having killed a man and a host to lavish parties, through which he hardly appears and is rarely seen by the party attendees. Nick soon discovers a past between Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan and soon this past comes to become the present of the lives of the two, with tragic results ends with Nick moving back to the West, with the conclusion that Tom, Jay, Daisy and he himself, were all at the heart westerners and that’s why none of them could get completely comfortable under the skin of East.

What makes this book wonderful is the word portrayals and characterization. For instance when Nick first describes Gatsby “If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away. This responsiveness had nothing to do with that flabby impressionability which is dignified under the name of the “creative temperament”–it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again.”  Through the book, while Gatsby and Daisy are the principal figures, the author also subtly delineates the character of Nick Carraway, who is presented as a contrast to all the denizens of East, with his sincerity and true sophistication that comes through.  It is Nick Carraway’s own admission that comes as a proof of his honesty of character “I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life”. Fitzgerald is at his best as he masterfully creates verbal imageries and brings home to the reader the irony of the tale, with a gentle disapproval of his generation and their conduct. His description of George Wilson and Tom Buchanan making similar discoveries about their wives is presented with an illuminating insight “I realized that so far his suspicions hadn’t alighted on Tom. He had discovered that Myrtle had some sort of life apart from him in another world and the shock had made him physically sick. I stared at him and then at Tom, who had made a parallel discovery less than an hour before–and it occurred to me that there was no difference between men, in intelligence or race, so profound as the difference between the sick and the well. In fact the book is filled with such piercing observation – “Let us learn to show our friendship for a man when he is alive and not after he is dead”.

I know I have quoted practically the complete book, but the very beauty of the book lies in the words – used so subtly, yet so powerfully as to make one speechless and instead quote forth the book. In the end, all I can say is, this is a must read and I am only sorry that I made my acquaintance with this masterpiece, so many years later! The preface, (which I always read after reading the novel, since they create half-baked ideas that intrude into the tale) describes how on its first publication, the book was deemed a failure and only after it was distributed to the soldiers during World War II that it began to rise in popularity! I am once again amazed how a worthy work, gains all the value, when it is deemed completely value less.

The Classic Attempt…..

This blog is completely inspired by The Classics Club ….I am not sure why I venture into these challenges, considering I fail most of the time….I mean I am not a person who really thrives on short notices or deadlines! I felt really weird writing the last sentence, I mean the other me – you know the ‘Project Manager’ me – the Corporate wheeler-dealer me,  really thrives and succeeds on deadlines and pressure tactics; in fact the tighter the leash, the better I will succeed. But when it comes to this me – you know the blogging-reading round the clock-with clueless love live-talking endless nonsense me, well, I just so badly fail. I could not complete the NaNoWriMo; I could not complete any of reading challenges, though as God be my witness, I read enough, so this me – the one I consider the real me, does not come out gloriously in these  events. So why do it again – like knowingly set yourself for a fall? Well I guess, you cannot teach an old dog new tricks – if there is a cliff, I will climb to the very top of it, only to fall head long!! Yeah! Yeah!! I know I will live through this!

Anyway after all the procrastination, I amble back to the main subject. So The Classics Club has a Spin list – what one does is, list 20 classics in a random order. They could be a list of books you love reading or never finished or dread starting. On Monday, 18th February, The Classics Club will announce a number – whatever number is declared, you read the book that you have marked against this number by April 1st 2013.  The ideal list is of course a mix of all the above – books you love, books you have been planning to read forever, but never got down to it and naturally, books that you absolutely dread and so on and so forth.

Therefore without any more ado, I present my list –

  1. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  2. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  3. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  4. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
  5. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
  6. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  7. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  8. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  9. Great Expectation by Charles Dickens
  10. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
  11. The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
  12. To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  13. Middlemarch by George Eliot
  14. Madam Bovary by Gustav Flaubert
  15. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
  16. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez
  17. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  18. The Moonstone by Willkie Collins
  19. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
  20. Wives and Daughter by Elizabeth Gaskell

I love Austen, Swift and really want to read Gaskell, Burgess and Collins. I shudder at the thought of Woolf or Eliot – never quite developed a taste for them. I have been planning to go back to Flaubert for some time – especially since my sister told me to read closely in the details, because apparently, the beauty of the book lies in those minute details. The same holds true of Anna Karenina – did not like it the first couple of times I read it, but since reading Stefanie’s thoughts on the book, I have been curious to give it another try, though War and Peace remains my favorite Tolstoy book and would love to go over it again!

To end, I am waiting with bated breath for the number draw – again, I wonder why I am doing this? But maybe this time because of the contest, I will have the patience to finish The Awakening and in my mind list, it would be one down! 😉

The one year old….

Happy blogoversary to me!!!!!

Celebrations

I did it…I scrapped and grind my teeth and grumbled many a times, but I managed to complete one year of blogging!

I know I was not always regular and I know my initial resolution of blogging every day came down to blogging only on the weekends, but somehow I managed to survive and get here!

A big yay to me…..but more importantly to all my readers who not only took the time out to read my nonsense, but also comment, like and in some cases follow. You have no idea how encouraging it was to see the star/comment icon highlighted on the stats page every time I accessed the site. Thank you for helping me get on, especially during the very low phases of my writing adventures. (Like when your work has been rejected by the 1845th publisher!)  It an honor and privilege to be read by all of you.

And while I am at it – I would also like to take a moment and thank three absolutely brilliant, talented and inspirational bloggers whose writing/reading/cooking adventures have entertained me, made me read more and basically put me in complete awe of them…..I write relatively diligently, because, they stand out like shining examples!

A huge round of thank you to –

Eggton

Stefanie

12kilroy

And because this is a time to celebrate and be thankful and feel victorious (Yes! I know I am being vain!), I for once take a back seat (which means I shut up!) and let one of the most brilliant poets of all time, describe what I feel…..

‘Tis so much joy! ‘Tis so much joy! by Emily Dickinson

‘Tis so much joy! ‘Tis so much joy!
If I should fail, what poverty!
And yet, as poor as I,
Have ventured all upon a throw!
Have gained! Yes! Hesitated so —
This side the Victory!

Life is but Life! And Death, but Death!
Bliss is, but Bliss, and Breath but Breath!
And if indeed I fail,
At least, to know the worst, is sweet!
Defeat means nothing but Defeat,
No drearier, can befall!

And if I gain! Oh Gun at Sea!
Oh Bells, that in the Steeples be!
At first, repeat it slow!
For Heaven is a different thing,
Conjectured, and waked sudden in —
And might extinguish me!

All those Legacies…..

There are many things that comes to us a legacies – a house, jewelry, money, an old piano…..the list I guess could go on.  At any case, legacies are of great importance, for they bind us to a past that is inherently our own and through which, in many cases, our identity derives from. The legacy might be part of the very answer, if not the answer of who am I?

So what am I trying to say here????

I am talking about legacies (Duh!), but intangible ones.  I know many families have intangible legacies – legacies on which prices cannot be placed because, they are feelings, stories, tales of a house, handed from one generation to other, in forms of memories and wisdom. I too have a similar legacy – not tangible. (My grandparents came over as refugees, leaving all their possessions behind to escape religious tyranny, so really not much in terms of material wealth!) My legacy is therefore of – books! Not books that are handed down from one generation to another; how could my grandparents carry books when they could barely get out with their life and limb intact? It’s rather about tales and authors that have been favorites of the past and have been passed down to posterity.

Let me get to specifics –

the_inheritance_1358395My granddad, i.e. my mum’s dad, was an avid reader. One of his all-time favorite author was A.J.Cronin and his all-time favorite novel was The Citadel by the same author. Many years later, when my mum wrote her graduation paper at the University, she wrote about The Citadel.  Fast forward another twenty years down the line, as I graduated from Nancy Drew and Ann of Green Gables (not that one ever gets over their love of these books) and hesitantly stepped into the adult literature, my mum told me to read The Citadel. Browsing through the school library, finally stumbling into a dusty corner, I found a copy of the book and reading it in the sunlit library, overlooking the lush gardens of my school yard, I knew I was linked to my grandfather, who has died so many years before my birth, in some indelible way. Till date, whenever I read The Citadel or any other works of A J Cronin, I feel that in some way I am reaching out to touch my inheritance – my literary inheritance.

Similarly, in 1930s England, my other grandfather, my dad’s dad was greatly inspired by the Fabian movement. A young impressionable student, he was convinced that Fabianisim was the way for a better future for one and all. He devoured works of Harold Laski and was completely in awe of this academic, from whom he claimed to have understood the very ethos of socialism, in his early years in England. My father however completed his education in Business Administration; however, he was a very active member of university politics and his speech during his University’s student body elections in 1964, is still remembered and borrowed heavily from Harold Laski’s essays from The New Republic. In 2005, I wrote my Master’s thesis critiquing Fabian Society and its politics, arguing against the very theory of Harold Laski. This too was and is part of my inheritance and like all inheritance, which consists of thing both likable and not so likable, my political beliefs and studies were in complete antithesis of my grandpa’s and dad’s political stand. But there is absolutely no way of denying that this too shaped my identity and my belief system and made me what I am – a very political creature. (Yes! I know this may come as a surprise, since in my gift of gabbing all over the blog over all these months, this relative “serious’ side of me never came out….but there is a time and place for everything!)

Not to procrastinate, the point that I was trying to make earlier is that all families have legacies. Some of these are simple and tangible and some much more ingrained and imperceptible. However the latter are very much part of the identity that one derives for oneself – consciously or unconsciously!

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