Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Great Gatsby

I just finished reading F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. I didn't think I would like this book so much, or that it would affect me as it has. It's such a wonderful, romantic, tragic story. And even though the world of Jay, Nick, Daisy, et al. is so far away from mine, the characters are not. At some point, I think, everyone has been each of these characters, from Gatsby, with his impossible fantasy of a future; to Daisy, torn between two choices, neither of which is Wrong or Right; to Nick, who sees a train wreck coming but seemingly can't do anything to stop it.

This really is a wonderful book. I also think this would be a great novel to read aloud to people — maybe a high school English class. Fitzgerald has n ow been added to my list of authors whose prose is simply poetry. I found this excerpt on p. 133; it was so outstanding that I had to read it twice, just to savor the language:

The track curved and now it was going away from the sun which, as it sank lower, seemed to spread itself in benediction over the vanishing city where she had drawn her breath. He stretched out his hand desperately as if to snatch only a wisp of air, to save a fragment of the spot that she had made lovely for him. But it was all going by too fast now for his blurred eyes and he knew that he had lost that part of it, the freshest and the best, forever.

The women that we fall in love with from afar can rarely measure up to the goddesses we've imagined them to be.

Or this, from p.60:

Again at eight o'clock, when the dark lanes of the Forties were five deep with throbbing taxi cabs, bound for the theatre district, I felt a sinking in my heart. Forms leaned together in the taxis as they waited, and voices sang, and there was laughter from unheard jokes, and lighted cigarettes outlined unintelligible gestures inside. Imagining that I, too, was hurrying toward gayety [sic] and sharing their intimate excitement, I wished them well.

I know I've felt just like that before, most every weekend in college. That feeling of absorbing and enjoying the gaiety of partygoers, the intimacy of a young couple walking hand-in-hand to destinations unknown, the warmth of friends' smiles around a restaurant table, even while you journey alone to nowhere in particular, your heart sinking, still cold yet surrounded by the vicarious joy of strangers, and wishing they weren't strangers at all. (sigh) I spent too many of those nights wishing, wandering, looking for something, anything, that could let that joy into my heart.

But I digress. The long and short of it is that I enjoyed The Great Gatsby a thousandfold more than I expected I would. It's simply a good story well-written. I may just have to read it again sometime.

Friday, November 21, 2008

That Poor Baby from the American Jungle

Why do they do this?!

Ashlee Simpson gave birth to a son recently. They named it

Bronx Mowgli Wentz

I don't know why people want to saddle their children with oddball names like this. Do they think it's cute?

The Bronx, of course, is a part of New York City that is famous for its accent, its cheer, and its Son of Sam murders. Mowgli is the main human character in Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. This kid is destined for an identity crisis.

Throw Mowgli and the Bronx together, and what do you get? Apparently they thought that "Tarzan Wentz" and "Crocodile Dundee Wentz" were just too weird. Plus, they wouldn't give the added "bonus" of having the initials BMW.

Makes you wonder what they would have named a girl, though. Yonkers Offred Wentz, perhaps?

Today's Word: juvenescent

juvenescent: becoming younger; growing more youthful. Or, as the noun juvenescence, the act of growing younger. I recently turned 34, but I wish I had turned 40; because of pop-culture juvenescence, I would have been 4 years younger. See my birthday post for more.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Today's Word: meh

meh: An expression of indifference or boredom, or an adjective meaning mediocre or boring. Meh recently made it into a British dictionary — you can read the story here.

Bob: "You wanna go out tonight?"
Jill: "Meh."
Bob: "How about we stay in and order a pizza?"
Jill: "Meh."
Bob: "How about we drop our pants and run around the house singing songs from Wicked?"
Jill: "Hey, let's go out to eat!"


"On a scale of ugh! to oooooh!, wedding receptions are meh."

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Today's Word: atrabilious

atrabilious: sad, melancholy, morose. (Also atrabiliar.) There are plenty of words, both great and impotent, for a negative emotional state. This one jumps out at me because a) I've never heard or seen it used, b) it derives from Latin and ultimately means "black bile," and c) I'm feeling particularly atrabilious today. Keen yet depressed word lovers will know that melancholy also means "black bile," but it stems from Greek, not Latin. According to my dictionary, atrabilious appeared after melancholy. I'm sure there's a great story there, but I don't have the time or inclination to hunt it down.

But what's all this about bile? In medieval times, people thought that the body was composed of four humors: black bile (melancholy), yellow bile (choler), phlegm, and blood. Diseases and disorders were caused when the four humors were not in balance.

  • Too much black bile made you melancholic — you had a thoughtful temperament, but you likely were preoccupied with tragedy and cruelty and were therefore depressed.
  • An abundance of yellow bile (choler) made you choleric — ambitious, energetic, but also easily angered.
  • A wealth of phlegm made you phlegmatic — unemotional, apathetic, or dull or calm, cool, and controlled.
  • Having a lot of blood made you sanguine — cheerful, confident, and healthy, good things to be.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Word of the Day: auto-da-fé

auto-da-fé: The burning of a heretic under the Inquisition. The plural is autos-da-fé. Thankfully, this is a historic term that is only used metaphorically today — perhaps to describe the roasting of (heretical?) cattle (in the form of steak) at a backyard barbecue. Joan of Arc is perhaps the most well-known historical figure to undergo the auto-da-fé, but according to historian Henry Charles Lea, between 1540 and 1794, the Spanish Inquisition burned at least 1,175 people at the stake.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Quote of the Day: John Hay

"Who would succeed in the world should be wise in the use of his pronouns.
Utter the You twenty times, where you once utter the I."

This reminds me of so many political campaign speeches and commericials. Nice to know (or is it?) that the idea isn't so new.