Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Great Gatsby

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past. 
F. Scott Fitzgerald

I was first introduced to The Great Gatsby as a junior in high school. A passionate lover of all things literary, I drank in the complex word pictures and sensuous imagery. Long after our study of the book was completed, I pored over its pages until phrases and descriptions were embedded in my memory. 

Soon I moved away to college, and then to Texas. All my belongings - including hundreds of well-loved books - were boxed and made various pilgrimages from bedroom to attic to moving van to three different apartments. In all the chaos I lost sight of my beloved Gatsby for awhile, until Baz Luhrmann's riveting preview of the film made its debut. I was spellbound by that preview. Thirty seconds of haunting, soul-beating music, accompanied by gold and glamour and heavy raindrops and Leonardo DiCaprio. As several other previews have leaked out over the past few weeks, I've grown even more excited about the film.

Luhrmann has some pretty big shoes to fill. Contemporary actors attempting to convey classic literary figures so vividly, perfectly painted in words can either impart the ultimate breath of life-giving air to complete the immortalization, or else fall despairingly short of portraying a character's psyche. That said, if I created a physical embodiment of Jay Gatsby out of thin air, I couldn't have painted a better portrait than Leonardo. He is Gatsby, in all his broken, extravagant yearnings. And Nick Carraway - dear, vague, introspective Nick - is given just the right touch of curious sincerity by Tobey Maguire.

This film has very nearly possessed me. The highlight of recent movies has been those glorious two minutes of Gatsby in the previews, a tantalizing appetizer for what is sure to be at least as exquisite as Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet and Moulin Rouge. I dug up my well-worn copy of Gatsby and elected to buy a brand-new one; I wanted to read it with new eyes, and the corpulent highlighting, underlining and marginal notes distracted me.

Then Nathan made the greatest of masculine sacrifices and allowed me to read Gatsby to him. Aloud. We breezed through the entire book in less than a week and he only fell asleep a few times. He then proceeded to top that and get us tickets to the premiere. Tonight. The night before he goes out of town. That, friends, is a selfless gesture worthy of the highest esteem - although I have a sneaking suspicion that he's nearly as enchanted with the mystery that is Jay Gatsby as I am. 

Here are some of my favorite quotes from this reading, as well as exquisite book covers from printings over the years. If you haven't yet been introduced to F. Scott Fitzgerald, I hope this whets your appetite.

"I was privy to the secret griefs of wild, unknown men."

"I wanted no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart."

"There was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life."

"It was the kind of voice that the ear follows up and down, as if each speech is an arrangement of notes that will never be played again...the exhilarating ripple of her voice was a wild tonic in the rain."

"The glow faded, each light deserting her with lingering regret, like children leaving a pleasant street at dusk."

"The wind had blown off, leaving a loud, bright night, with wings beating in the trees and a persistent organ sound as the full bellows of the earth blew the frogs full of life."

"High over the city our line of yellow windows must have contributed their share of human secrecy to the casual watcher in the darkening streets, and I was him too, looking up and wondering. I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life."

"There was music from my neighbor's house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars."

"I saw the skins of tigers flaming in his palace on the Grand Canal; I saw him opening a chest of rubies to ease, with their crimson-lighted depths, the gnawings of his broken heart."

"Her throat, full of aching, grieving beauty, told only of her unexpected joy."

"A universe of ineffable gaudiness spun itself out in his brain while the clock ticked on the washstand and the moon soaked with wet light his tangled clothes upon the floor."

"Daisy and Jordan lay upon an enormous couch, like silver idols weighing down their own white dresses against the singing breeze of the fans."

"Ahead lay the scalloped ocean and the abounding blessed isles."

"Her voice struggled on through the heat, beating against it, molding its senselessness into forms."

"They were careless people, Tom and Daisy - they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made..."

"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 - tomorrow 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."

Photos courtesy of The New York Times Style Magazine

Friday, May 3, 2013

Running the Race

Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
Hebrews 12:1

After 4 months and nearly 200 miles of training, Nate and I ran our very first half marathon in Irving, TX. All the carefully patterned sleeping and eating routines, the gallons of water faithfully consumed, the worn shoes and sweat and injuries consummated in this one goal: to finish, and to do it in under two hours.

I am not one of those enviable runners who adore running and live to pound the pavement. Before this spring I'd only run an occasional three miles because I had to. I view running as a necessary discipline that must be endured to improve overall health, fitness and mental endurance. My secret weapon is books on tape which distract me from the misery I'm putting my body through. Multiple times during that race - specifically on miles 7, 9 and 11 - I asked myself again why on earth I was doing this. But I finished. I ran every step of the way, spurred on by Agatha Christie and cheering spectators with cowbells, and I placed second in my age group.

Nate and I held hands as we crossed the finish line, and celebrated in a steaming jacuzzi as our screaming knees and hip flexors called us every name known to man. We hobbled around Irving for the rest of the weekend, enjoying wonderful food and movies and museums and sunning ourselves in parks while trying not to look too much like 80-year-olds with arthritis.

We love Jefferson Street Bed & Breakfast!

Farm-to-table restaurant with incredible food

Venison chili and wildflower honey cornbread (elk tacos for an appetizer)

Yeah, I married him.

Fluffy hair and pale skin just needs to come back in style.

An original Norman Rockwell exhibit at the Boy Scout Museum. So good!

Love this man.

Then we came home and did the unthinkable. We registered for the Disney Marathon on January 12, 2014. Yes, we are out of our minds. Yes, in a moment of extravagant confidence I forgot every painful step of that 13.1 miles and convinced myself that I could do it twice. I hit the "register" button, and then dissolved into a puddle of quaking disbelief.

But today I laced up my running shoes and pounded it out again. We have 8 months, after all. And who knows? Maybe in that 8 months I'll learn to love running. Maybe my body will cross a threshold where I can crank out mile after mile without my joints dying a miserable death. And maybe we will have the time of our lives, flying through all 26.2 miles of those glorious Disney parks. In any case, whether we set a new record or have to stop every 20 minutes and take pictures with Mickey, it feels good to set a goal - a challenging, impossible goal - and make steady progress towards attaining it.

If there's one thing running regularly has taught me, it's a deeper appreciation for all of the Apostle Paul's exercise analogies:

"Run in such a way as to get the prize. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever." - 1 Cor. 9:24-25

"Train yourself for godliness, for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way." - 1 Tim. 4:7-8

"Run with endurance." - Hebrews 12:1

Comparing physical training with training in godliness has shown me that becoming like Christ doesn't just happen. Just as I could never set off one day to run a marathon on a whim, I can't hope to have Christlike words, thoughts and actions without applying myself to His Word and example. This race, reaping imperishable rewards, is so worth my entire life's devotion. May I run here, and wherever God places me, with endurance and with joy.