The Gatsby Effect

I couldn’t find a daisy.
My dad took this photo at Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

Miles run today: 4.5

Words written in my novel so far: 29,134

Live rats found under a lounge chair at the neighborhood pool: 1

Copperheads pulled out of pool the same day: 2

Thank goodness I’m not Gatsby, and I don’t have a Daisy. The yearning and pining and years of build-up are very draining, and I’ve got toilets to clean, darnit.

Our book club read The Great Gatsby this past month. For most of us, it was the second time, the first being in high school: the time of Romeo and Juliet and the Red Badge of Courage, Jane Eyre and The Scarlet Letter.

There is a reason teenagers read the classics.

I didn’t like Gatsby much the first time; the decadence of the era andย superficial characters irritated me whether they were meant to or not. I didn’t have much hope for it the second time around.

This time, I ended up thinking Fitzgerald really knew how to write; who knew?

But I still didn’t like Gatsby much.

One of our book club members said, “I loved Gatsby as a teenager; this time around, I just thought he was sleazy.”

I think I might have had Gatsby tendencies as a young person and didn’t like the comparison my subconscious drew between the two of us.

1. I was big on yearning. Yearning without ever getting was kind of interesting. And funny.

When I was 14, another friend and I bought M&Ms (for charity!) and ate them as our lunch at high school. We made wishes on the green M&Ms and hoped for dreamy guys in letter jackets to come over and talk to us. They never did.

In retrospect, I was okay with it. We laughed and had more fun than if the guy had come over and sat with us. I mean, what would we have talked about? Letter jackets? Golf? The benefits of chocolate?

2. I coveted glamour. I know. You’re not supposed to covet. Give me a break. I was 16.

Gatsby had a sleek, covetable vehicle.

One of the girls at our high school had a red BMW with red painted wheels. A guy I thought was amazingly cute had a Jeep that he rode all open even when it was freezing outside.

I had a very large white Oldsmobile with a maroon top and plaid interior. Not many people rushed up to me to ask for a ride home.

“Tomorrow is another day,” I repeated to myself as I walked up from the junior parking lot.

I had visions of a future husband leading me out to the driveway, blindfolded. When I opened my eyes, there would be a beautiful, luxury automobile with a large red bow tied around it.

It may not surprise you too much that I drive a minivan today. Both sliding doors are currently low-functioning with non-existent outside handles.

3. People liked to be around me, and I didn’t even notice. The problem with coveting and acquiring glamorous goods is that you miss out on the opportunities all around you.

There was Gatsby in that great big house with the swanky clothes, yummy food and limitless party-giving capabilities. All these people showed up who he could have gotten to know. The only person he really wanted to know was Daisy.

I had all this great stuff: a quirky car, great ’80s hair, dinner with friends at Applebee’s and a family who loved me. Why did I bother looking across rows of cafeteria tables at boys who didn’t know I existed?

Enough with the yearning.

Life lesson: all you have to do is look at what happened to Gatsby.

And be grateful that you have toilets to clean, I guess.


33 thoughts on “The Gatsby Effect

  1. Bernie Brown says:

    Are you still yearning? I’ll remember the effect that green M & Ms have on you.

    Your high school car sounds like fun. I liked Gatsby, even if I agree with all you said about it. Nick Carroway was kind of likeable. (I think that was his name.) I think there is a new Gatsby movie coming out, isn’t there?

    Yeah, you can bet Gatsby never gave a thought to cleaning toilets! Do you still love the pool after the rats and the copperheads? Ick!

    • annewoodman says:

      Ha! Yes, there’s still a little bit of yearning left in me. Thankfully, not the Gatsby-esque type. That’s too tiring.

      I liked the book, too. And yes, our book club is planning to go see the movie together.

      I actually lodged a complaint about the vermin at the pool, and I was the only one! Can you imagine?

  2. jmmcdowell says:

    I have a confession to make: I’ve never read the Great Gatsby. It wasn’t on our high school reading list. Red Badge of Courage? Check. Jane Eyre? Check. Romeo and Juliet and the Scarlet Letter? Check. And I’ve never picked it up as an adult, either. Maybe someday ๐Ÿ™‚

    Yes, I think the rat and poisonous snakes would put me off the neighborhood swimming pool! I haven’t heard of anything like that around ours, thank heaven!

    Is it bad to yearn that someone else could clean the toilets? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • annewoodman says:

      I join you in your yearning for a toilet scrubber. I should probably spend more time yearning for Daniel Craig; he might be more likely to stop by my house than someone start cleaning the toilets for me. ; )

      There are plenty of classics I haven’t read either… but I try to pick one up every now and then. We read Lolita for book club within the last couple of years; I’d never read it, and it wasn’t like I thought it would be!

  3. vanster101 says:

    i still would not want to clean toliets, it just doesn’t seem very fun when you put music on, i do that with some stuff, but it seems annoying. I am glad I do not do that work.

    And I still don’t believe that no one else complained about the animal-infested pool! :0

    Great post~I can’t wait for the next one!

  4. David Gentry says:

    Never liked The Great Gatsby. Can’t remember when I read it, but, based on your interpretation, I think I missed the whole point. What I remember is that I could not discern a plot.

    I am trying to put the name of the novel in italics. If this works, I will tell everyone how I did it. If it does not work, it will just look weird.

  5. L.S. Engler says:

    I actually didn’t read The Great Gatsby until just a few years ago. I liked it; wouldn’t mark it as a favorite, but I’m fascinated with the era and the glamour and the superficiality of the characters. It also wasn’t too long after a trip that included a visit to Newport, CT, where we did a Big Ass Glamourous house tour, so maybe I was just in the mood…

    I know it’s buried somewhere in the library and I plan to read through it again once I find it. I read The Sun Also Rises soon after it, so those two are weirdly connected in my brain, and I like Gatsby as the better of the two.

    This is really just a lot of rambling in this comment, lol.

    • annewoodman says:

      That’s so funny; I think someone in my book club had been on the same house tour! They said it was amazing.

      I haven’t read The Sun Also Rises–I actually can see how they would be linked in your mind, though. I remember touring Hemingway’s house in Key West. It was cool being in his home and seeing his six-toed cats.

  6. David Gentry says:

    Sorry. Let’s try that again.

    Before a word or phrase to be italicized: <i>
    After the word or phrase: </i>

    To bold a word or phrase, use a “b” instead of an “i.”

  7. Subtlekate says:

    I admit, I am quite the yearner. Off to clean toilets now.

  8. 4amWriter says:

    I read The Great Gatsby and I remember liking it enough to wish I could write like Fitzgerald.

    Snakes? Where? Lemme see, lemme see! I would have been all over those copperheads, how thrilling! Rats, well, not as exciting as snakes!

    I don’t know about yearning, I think it has its good points. I mean, wihout yearning to be a writer I probably wouldn’t have tried as hard as I have to get better at it.

    But I think also that yearning can lead to complacency–where we just sit and drool over the boys in the letter jackets, yearning for their attention, instead of deciding to act on it. Like dumping our lunch trays in front of them or something silly like that. Nothing that I have ever done, of course, but I have heard about such immature, ridiculous, desperate stunts. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Girls. Yeesh.

    • annewoodman says:

      Amen. My yearning never led to any desperate stunts, unfortunately. Ours smacked more of stalking. And giggling. Lots of giggling. Geez.

      You are welcome to come touch lots of copperheads at our pool. And take them back to your neighborhood pool. There are plenty of creatures here, thank you very much. ; ) I think rats freak me out more than snakes. And that’s saying a lot.

    • jmmcdowell says:

      I think Animal Planet could use your help on some programs!

      • 4amWriter says:

        Haha, don’t think you’re kidding either. How many times have I thought it would be so cool to dive into a lagoon and wrestle an alligator! Yeah! ๐Ÿ™‚

      • annewoodman says:

        Wow. You are my critter hero! (All I keep hearing in my head after reading that is, “Crikey! It’s a croc!” from The Wiggles DVD that featured Steve Irwin. My kids loved that one when they were tiny.)

  9. Amy Mak says:

    I reread Gatsby last summer as we traveled across the country in our low-functioning sliding doors. I was surprised at how much I liked it the second time around. I started a list of vocabulary words and had to write a word down every five seconds! Again, surprised. I was also struck by the contrasts of today’s literature. You talked about your first novel being “slow.” Elizabeth Berg is slow and I love her. Gatsby isn’t all action and I wondered if it would even be published today…?

    Good post. I coveted glamour too, wanting to be an actress my whole childhood. I know live in the country surrounded by chickens and donkeys!

    • annewoodman says:

      I love Elizabeth Berg! She’s amazing.

      Yes, I always wonder that about great literature… so much of it starts out slowly, and so much is made these days about the action starting, like, yesterday. ; )

      Glad to know I’m not the only one with imperfect sliding doors.

  10. Ravena Guron says:

    I haven’t actually read it (I should give it a go, shouldn’t I?) Wow, that car you had in high school sounded cool… I don’t even have my license yet, and when I get it, I won’t buy a car… It took me years to buy the bike I have ๐Ÿ˜€

    • annewoodman says:

      What were you asked to read at school? I’m guessing the literature choices would be different depending on which side of the Atlantic you go to school in.

      You will be much healthier riding a bike anyway. ; )

  11. Daryl says:

    I would have asked you for a ride home ๐Ÿ˜‰

  12. Melissa says:

    Oh, but if you go back to your High School Reunion, I’m sure those boys in the letter jackets would notice you now….and they’d be the ones yearning. And you wouldn’t notice, because you appreciate what you have now. So maybe Gatsby was sleazy (I have to agree) and a bit of an idiot, but you aren’t because you got what Fitzgerald was trying to tell you. Now go give Daryl a ride home ๐Ÿ˜‰

  13. robincoyle says:

    I drove my parents pick-up truck in high school. How bad is that?

    Never read “The Great Gatsby,” but because I was in love with Robert Redford, I watched the movie. I can’t remember if I liked it or not because I was yearning for ol’ Bob.

    Copperheads in the pool!? Now I need to worry about you and the kids.

    • annewoodman says:

      Wow. A pick-up truck sounds cool. I bet the boys loved it.

      Yes, and there’s a new movie coming out later this year… not that I’m saying anyone could match a young Robert Redford, but I’ll have to check it out.

      Yeah. Copperheads in the pool. Yuck. (But we still go everyday.)

  14. I think it is a teenager’s job to yearn, isn’t it?

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