Well Intended / I am Gatsby's Nick Carraway
Updated 1:07 pm, Thursday, January 3, 2013
It's cold outside. The holiday festivities have ended, and a new year has begun. I've swept most of the pine needles from the living room rug. My cocktail dress is still in a heap on the chaise in my bedroom. I have just finished the novel I was reading and am looking forward to spending some time again with an old favorite, "The Great Gastby."
It's likely you've already read it. And, maybe, you've seen a young Robert Redford playing Gatsby, in his now famous pink Ralph Lauren suit. If you have read it, I urge you to read it again. And if you haven't, you are in for a treat. I invite you to join the always relevant conversation about leisure, money and obsession in Westport this month.
I was first given a tattered paperback copy of Gatsby by my 10th-grade English teacher, Roger Gunderson. I signed my name on the inside of the front cover beneath those of a dozen (cooler) former sophomores not knowing I was about to fall in love.
I had bonded with protagonists before; but, never like this. I've always been a reader. In my imagination, I had lived in the Big Woods through a long winter with Laura Ingalls Wilder and had roamed the dunes of Prince Edward Island with the tenacious Anne of Green Gables. I had empathized with Juliet's forbidden love and had climbed with literary siblings through the back of a wardrobe into an enchanted land. I had lived among Hobbits and had known the anxiety of Madaline L'Engle's Meg Murry. By then, I had even discovered the poetry of the Romantics and the essays of Thoreau as well as the spare intensity of Hemingway. But, before I was introduced to The Great Gatsby's Nick Carraway, I had never known a character so well. In many ways, I am Nick.
I didn't grow up in the 1920s. I will never be a young man with a Yale education, moneyed cousins, a bit of ambition and a rented summer cottage. I am an observer. Before, I understood that this is what writers do -- we try to make sense of the people, situations and societies we encouter -- I thought there was something defective about me. I was spending as much energy processing life as living it. The big things in the book happen around Nick, not to him. Nick is a participant, and yet we know he'll come though it all. He will have seen the American dream rise and fall. And the the magic and nonsense of the season, will alter him in ways he couldn't have predicted.
This month, you will find me reading The Great Gatsby and thinking about illusions and intentions. I will be considering the ways we remake ourselves and the times we fail to change at all. And, that seems relevant for New Year's doesn't it?
The WestportReads committee at the library do a fabulous job of choosing books that children and adults can enjoy. I intend to read this novel (it's not very long) aloud to my children.
There are many opportunities to learn more about The Great Gatsby at the library. Look at their events page and learn to dance the Charleston or discuss the novel -- www.westportlibrary.org There is a Gatsby party Feb. 9. I'll keep my eyes open for a pretty flapper dress. There is so much more I can say about Gatsby, and I am grateful this month to have the opportunity to talk about F. Scott Fitzgerald's important novel with other Westporters.
Krista Richards Mann is a Westport writer, and her "Well Intended" column appears every other Friday. She can be reached at email@example.com.