The bar is in full swing, and floating rounds of cocktails permeate the garden outside, until the air is alive with chatter and laughter, and casual innuendo and introductions forgotten on the spot, and enthusiastic meetings between women who never knew each other’s names.
Now that is a sentence. Especially the bit about “casual innuendo and introductions forgotten on the spot.” I’ve been to that party. I’ve slung the innuendo. I’ve forgotten introductions on the spot. But I wouldn’t have dreamed of capturing all that in ten words or less. Fitzgerald did it in eight.
I’m re-reading The Great Gatsby. This is not something I expected to be doing. Not this week. Not anytime soon. Maybe not ever. But I listened last night to this 2006 appearance by Ian Frazier. Frazier reads some funny writing — most of which I’d never heard. He talks about craft, about his admiration for Hemingway and E.B. White. He also reveals himself to be a member of the surprisingly robust group of people who re-read Gatsby every year or two. I say “suprisingly” without any malice toward Gatsby. Rather, I don’t relate to the impulse to read and re-read and re-read a book over the course of a lifetime.
The novel I’ve read more times than any other is Lolita. But almost all of those re-readings happened one after the other — not systematically at regular annual or biennial intervals. Furthermore, most of those “re-readings” were actually “re-listenings.” There was a time in the late 1990s when Jeremy Irons’ audiobook narration of Lolita was my companion on virtually every commute. That’s how great Irons’ performance is — subpar French pronunciation and all. I’d recommend repeated listenings to two categories of people: 1) those who, like me, cannot get enough of Nabokov’s language; 2) those who need to be disabused of the notion that this bleak saga is about titillation.
All of this is an extraordinarily long way of saying that I’m re-reading Gatsby because of Ian Frazier. While we’re on the subject, Frazier’s “Coyote v. Acme” is one of two stories featured on the latest New Yorker fiction podcast. More episodes from this gem of a podcast can be heard here.
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