Sunday, August 08, 2004

My Bible, or I Love F. Scott Fitzgerald

When I was younger, I was pretty consumed with proving that there was no such thing as a God, and that it was foolish that the Bible was interpreted as the text of God's will. Why, I wondered, can't we deign the complete works of, say William Shakespeare as a work of God. After all, Shakespeare's works express the human condition brilliantly, better than the Bible, one could argue; why can't we just assume that God "wrote" Shakesepare if we assume he "wrote" the Bible.

Anyway, I have since ended my preoccupation with proving the existence or non-existence of a God, but after my recent post comparing F. Scott Fitzgerald to Barack Obama, I realized that The Great Gatsby may be as close to a holy text as any individual will ever come to producing. I know, I just made a statement worthy of the James Lipton Award for Exaggerated and Profuse Praise, but I stick to it nonetheless. The following quotes will indicate to all why Gatsby is indeed as close to the Bible as a text may ever come.

The intimate revelations of young men, or at least the terms in which they express them, are usually plagiaristic and marred by obvious suppressions.
  • This needs little explanation except to say that even when one shares his life's burdens, fears, etc. with another, those private thoughts are often colored by the vocabulary of cliche when expressed aloud, or they are simply twisted by the "young men" for self-affirmation. Furthermore, so often even the talks of "intimate revelations" occur out of a need for the individual to assert his complexity and to indicate his great skills at introspection. That is, it's as much a social convention at a later stage in a relationship as shaking hands is at the earliest stage.

Every one suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues.

  • This quote sums up perfectly the deluded faith that man has in his own morals. We all know a person or two in particular so sure that the moral code that he lives by--or lack thereof--is quite ideal, when in fact this person doesn't even understand the "cardinal virtue" that he claims to adhere to. Oh well, such is the complexity of the human being, and such is F. Scott's brilliance for pointing this out with one of the most concisely lucid sentences that I have ever read. (Again, I channel James Lipton).

One of those men who reach such an acute limited excellence at twenty-one that everything afterward savors of anti-climax.

  • I love the diction with "savors" and "anti-climax." I think this line is both easily relateable for the reader but also set apart from the reader. Somehow I feel that the men that Fitzgerald and narrator Nick Carraway knew to have anti-climaxed are much more exciting to watch fizzle than the men that you and I know who have anti-climaxed. (What a great word, by the way).

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