So. . . I buy books on tape, whatever’s available at the time, at a local charity thrift store. (Fortunately for me, someone with literary tastes like mine donates regularly.) So I ran through the Grisham and the Sharon Ewell Foster and the Cornwell and the Hillerman. So all that was left was The Great Gatsby. So I began to listen to it because it was narrated by KJV Bible narrator Alexander Scourby.
When I read Fitzgerald in my twenties, I was newly and happily married. I couldn’t muster up sympathy for alcoholics who danced in Manhattan’s fountains, years before my mother was even born. I couldn’t relate to the angst of those people with their marital problems that bled over into their writing. After all, my life was wonderful – and not only that, I had a whole lifetime ahead of me.
But now I am myself a novelist, and writing about issues that destroy people’s souls, that wash hope beyond the most distant shores, issues that demand re-evaluation because they determine where people will spend a mobius loop of eternity. Issues which demand our attention because ignoring them can put us in a position in which it can be too late, irretrievably too late.
For the first time, the description at the end of The Great Gatsby made sense to my soul:
And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning——
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
I am a different person than when I first read that, years ago.
And now I think that I shall never recover from those words; the simplicity, the finality, the truthfulness of those words.