I was definitely at my most creative during college. Maybe because I was, ya know, learning, stimulating my brain, exercising my mind, all that stuff. But I think it had more to do with the downtime. To perpetuate a cliche, I spent a lot of time riding university buses with my journal open and pen in hand. The last four (wow, four?) years since have seemed like a literary desert. Making a living can do that to a person.
Recently, traveling more for work has given me a taste of that luxury again. (There really should be more situations in life where you have to turn of all electronic devices and just sit.)
A while back I heard that they were coming out with a remake of The Great Gatsby and since have had the urge to re-read the book to serve as a better mental comparison when sitting in the theater.
For my first business trip, I decided to put it to good use and actually do one of those things I tell myself I’m going to do. What surprised me most when I reached my goal (just three hours into my trip) was how incredibly different the book was from my memory of it in high school.
Gatsby Then: Opulent, beautiful, perfect world that reminds me of scenes from Meet Joe Black filled with people that drive too fast and a garden and pool area I want. Some metaphor about the optometrist billboard and the “all seeing” eyes on it judging the characters. Also will never forget the phrase “breast flapping” to describe Myrtle’s death scene. How does someone get hit by a car so their breast flaps open? Gross. Weird.
Gatsby Now: The scenery was hazy, much less vivid. Perhaps because I read it more quickly than in school (how they dragged that book out into a five week unit, I’ll never know) or because my mental picturing skills are completely out of shape. I found myself paying less attention to the scene than the storyline.
The storyline. Dear Lord, the whole book is about entangled love, cheating, guilt. As a sixteen year-old you kind of glaze through it, accept it. Actually being married makes a world of difference when reading it. As a teenager you feel bad for Gatsby because he’s alone. As an adult you grimace at the complexity. You really get the theme that no one can ever really have a happy ending in one of those situations, so it manifests physically in the book’s climax and ending.
The obvious conclusion? What other books have I read completely wrong, seen through the lens of an adolescent mind?
I might need to turn this into a series.