This week, Natalie Kaas-Pontoppidan reads from F Scott Fitzgerald's classic The Great Gatsby.
Throughout lockdown, I have been missing places that have a special atmosphere simply because of the many people in them and how they interact with each other. A pub would be a good example of this. It also brought me to revisiting the parties in The Great Gatsby. However, as I started rereading certain passages, I was reminded that although these parties are amazing with their orchestras and long buffet tables, there is at the same time a certain uneasiness to them which comes with the people attending them. There seems to be so much human mess and insecurity hidden behind the glorious outfits and shallow conversations. So rather than sticking with those parts of the book, I have decided to go to the heart of the matter, which I think is to be found towards the end of chapter 6.
Here, we are entering Gatsby's world after he has thrown his one big love, Daisy, a grand party, and he is clearly frustrated about the fact that she didn't seem to enjoy it. As a contrast, it is interesting how we are brought back to that 'One autumn night, five years before' where Daisy and Gatsby had their first kiss. In the midst of his frustration, Gatsby says: 'She used to be able to understand. We'd sit for hours -'. I wonder how he would have wanted to finish that sentence? And why he chooses not to? I find his frustration quite relatable really. It can be awful to realise that it is not possible to return to a once shared 'emotional place'. In relation to this, I am really interested in the lines that read,
'He talked a lot about the past, and I gathered that he wanted to recover something, some idea of himself perhaps, that had gone into loving Daisy. His life had been confused and disordered since then, but if he could once return to a certain starting place and go over it all slowly, he could find out what that thing was.'
What do we make of this bit? I am curious about how going back to a certain starting place feels like a way forward for Gatsby. Is it possible to do? Does it seem true to life for us? It's interesting too that parts of ourselves can go into loving another person, and that it's therefore not just the lost love we wish to recover but also the part of us that feels lost within that love.
All of this comes after the swimming party has run up and the lights are extinguished. It makes me think about all of those aftermath-moments in life, where we clearly feel the distinction between the place we were once fully in and the place we are in now, and the difficulty in bridging the two. I'd love to hear from other readers what they do in these moments and how we might live on with lost emotional places without, as in Gatsby's case, letting them prevent us from moving forward.