A Thing That Bothers Me

As I wrote that headline, I thought, Gee, that could be the headline for the whole internet, couldn't it.

Anyway, we're going to have to talk about The Great Gatsby, at least a little bit. First of all, it's a beautiful book, as far as I'm concerned. A joy to read, those slippery sentences, its overwhelming and unembarrassed concern with beauty.

But that's not why I'm talking about it. I'm talking about it because the hoopla about the movie has led to a horrifying tidal wave of, "As Fitzgerald famously said, there are no second acts in American lives."


Here is what I would like: let's make a rule that says you can't attribute the words of a fictional character to that character's author, even if you really really want to and it gives you something to wrap your article around.

It's just wrong. And it always happens, especially with Great Pronouncements or Truisms. People ALWAYS do it with Salinger, "As Salinger said, sentimentality is loving something more than God loves it." But Salinger didn't walk up to someone and say that, his character said that. It's part of the profoundly frustrating (to me, anyway, can you tell?) de-contextualization of everything. It's particularly terrible to me when it comes to fiction, because it means taking something that someone else (albeit a fictional someone else) said—it seems to erase their very existence.

It drives me nuts.

OK. Phew. I feel better now. But before you go, can you tell me: I'm not alone in this, right? It drives everyone crazy?

4 thoughts on “A Thing That Bothers Me

  1. I completely agree! Context context context! A great writer can write in a way, with characters who say things, that do not exactly line up with their own actual beliefs.


  2. Yes. I agree. It’s nails on a chalkboard, it’s the feeling I get when a stand-up comedian is terrible, it’s awful.
    By the way, I just recently LISTENED to “The Great Gatsby” which was just a pleasure — hearing those “slippery sentences” was a wonderful experience.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.