Monthly Archives: July 2014

The Great Gatsby Vs Modern Society

What if anything can Gatsby say about modern society?

It’s a question that’s been going through my mind as I’ve been reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, The Great Gatsby. It’s very natural to take a novel, and whatever its themes are, and apply it to the times we live in, but in the case of a novel like Gatsby, that is almost a hundred years old, it is different, making it even more challenging and perhaps more alluring.

Gatsby is set in the early twenties. It is that quintessential romantic period of America and of the world. When the “great war” had ended. But also the great panic. That was pre-war. So there is much anticipation in it, it’s filled with this energy. And it is the early scene of New York City, it isn’t a tribute really to the affluent, (and I don’t agree with the premise of the film) though it sets these scenes in great detail. That is really only a part of it. It captures instead (for us, if we imagine living then) a notion of the future. That notion of post great war America, like a cosmic object, can be seen from anywhere. In any town. The romantic notions are that lunar dust that is glistening on its surface, they inhabit that lattice of great romantic optimism. Gatsby..embodied this.

What is most striking is how these characters view the world and how different it is now.
..At the parties, they are engaged in conversation, watching each other, or looking off into the night. We don’t imagine anyone is checking their phone. So one of the striking differences I see is fundamentally at the social level, and how technology is really now a molder of what have become our current social values. Technology was not, a central force guiding social organization in that time of Gatsby. It was more a pervasive sense of social order, gained from direct human interaction. You fell behind, not because of a lack of techno savviness, but because of manners, forgetting someone’s name, leaving them unattended.
Is there some value in comparing the economics, of living in Gatsby’s world vs. the modern times? It can if we take a more aggressive view of Gatsby as not just a book, but an alternative society with which to compare to the present one.

Such an exploration seems justified, if the risk of going down this path is to essentially create a society that lives through its machines. And is less and less aware of its surroundings based on primary experience.

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Short Fiction

“No Names”

This blasted storm! I slammed the phone down in disgust. Then peered out the windows. It was mostly dark. White specs could still be seen beneath the lights. Did I expect anything different? At least the fire was still going and there was plenty of wood.

Thump thump thump! There was a knock at the door.
What?
I opened it to find a girl. Her face was slightly hidden in the faux fur hood of her parka, which was fitted over stretch ski pants, and looked fashionably expensive. She stood there as if she’d forgotten something and needed to come in and fetch it. A pair of gloves? But there was something else in her eyes too, darting past me then back toward mine.
Well? It’s freezing out here!, Aren’t you going to let me in?
No hello. No introduction. Not even a name.
Let you in? I shook my head. Do I know you?
I thought you might say that. Yes. You should. If you have a heart. Which I doubt. And she nearly rolled her eyes
If I have a heart? I continued holding the cabin door open, completely confused by her last statement. While the snow covered female entered (my warm abode) nearly brushing against me as she passed.
Wait a minute. I didn’t say you could. I watched her walk into the room.. she tossed a flirtatious smile behind her, mmmm..thank you…and then squinted out into the icy storm, as if for a reply to this, which had built, half expecting to see her car, perhaps someone else, lurking, waiting, but there was nothing there but snow covered trees and there were no tracks.
Oh my god are those what I think they are?
She sat down in my chair by the fire. And reached for something near the floor by the fire.  I could’t see what it was she grabbed until she’d swiveled around.
What? For Christ sakes.
These! She pointed the sharp skewer towards me, You can’t get these just anywhere! They even have the corporate insignia, carved in the wood, look! She thrust the skewer like a weapon. You should take some, definitely! I jumped back slightly. Alright this is all a bit confusing, maybe you should go now. I again thought of the storm.
Relax. Haven’t you ever roasted chestnuts by the fire? She sat back in the chair and smiled lasciviously. She still hadn’t removed her parka hood. And though it hid her hair, it didn’t hide her formed cheek bones and brown eyes. I wanted to throw her out but was at the same time torn by the impulse. Wasn’t this a challenge, some kind of puzzle to unravel? Or was it danger, unseen? Curiosity killed the cat.
Don’t you have these at your place?
My place? Her eyes lit up. And she smiled with some inner recognizance. You should know?
My pause said I didn’t
They don’t. but you already knew that.
I did? She’d frowned, and put the skewer down. and again met my eyes. Whoever she was she was an absolute pro. She’d faced me and held perfectly still, so that her eyes reflected the fire.
Look you really should get going. I’ll drive you or walk you. Whatever you’d prefer.
She suddenly looked shocked. But even this looked scripted. An absolute gentleman!
Really. Let’s get going.
Lets go? She asked as if not quite understanding.
I looked quickly at the windows, perhaps wondering if we were being watched.
If you want to return me so quickly, why did you, invite me here?
I just wanted to explore a little, and see a little more of this place I imagined. Don’t you ever look at a cabin in the woods and wonder what it looks like inside? Her eyes were alive and seemed to tease at an idea.
It was all coming to me now. Ahhh…you were staying here before? Right?
Nope. Wrong. Do you have anything hot to drink? I’m feeling cold. It’s the least you could offer before you send a girl out into the snow again.
I puzzled at this. I suppose I could get us something, before you go. Where would she go? It would be better if this question was at least answered first. The cabins here were equipped with small kitchens to make them more home like, hence the name of the resort ‘Homestead Ranch. ‘
You have some Kona? Her voice carried from the room. It could have been rhetorical or a question.
I stopped at the counter. This was odd. I had in fact only one kind of coffee . That was drinkable. It was some Kona I’d picked up, last minute at the airport. There were of course the packaged varieties.
I was going to ask her, but stopped and dismissed this as coincidence. There were so many other things unanswered, a blizzard of them.
I still don’t know your name. she called.
I don’t know yours.
Should we really leave it at that? Not knowing?
Sometimes that works. I put some spoonfulls of the rich stuff in the filter.
Half pretending to work in the kitechen, I looked again. She’d stood up and was now by the mantle. At my approach she removed her hood, revealing long reddish brown hair. And more of her face.
Ohhh. I didn’t really form a word.
It should take a few moments to steep.
Steep? I like that word she said.
What  should we do in the mean time? she continued a dialogue with herself.
Roast some chestnuts? She’d relaxed and sat back into my chair.as if she’d done so many times before.
She smiled. I stared at her, then toward the fire. “Oh ,”she suddenly was surprised or aware of something. Is this yours?I’m so sorry!
No. No. that’s fine.
You always sit in the right chair don’t you?
How did you know about the Kona?
What?
The Kona.
I would have to keep her away from that spot. Once again her eyes flared. The flames darting in them.
I got up to check on the coffee. Oh that. It’s what you like. Your favorite, Isn’t it? She called. I brought in two hot mugs. Thank you. She took a long sip. You still don’t remember me? Her stare was warm and searching.
She brought her legs up toward her. Leaving her boots on the floor. OK I’ll engage you in this, this..ruse for a moment, then you have to go. Alright she said, her eyes glimmering. As if inviting the challenge. She didn’t seem at all worried about going back out into the storm, perhaps because she never planned to.
A flight was late, then pushed forward. I’d barely made it, but picked up the Kona, from the gift shop, just in time.
She watched me thinking, working it out. And?
There was a girl standing at the far side. She turned, but I was already leaving. Perhaps if I’d gotten a better look.
That was you?
Yes!
Wow.
Yes.
Wow. And now you’re here. I said the words trailing off, sinking in like legs drawn into heavy snow, snow up to their crotch.
A woman who spotted me at an airport is now here in my cabin in the middle of a snow storm, drinking coffee with me. And the light was beginning to fade. The snow drifted towards the windows out of the darkening forest. But why? but I began to think of something else. more sinister. That however, made no sense. I traveled light. No cash.
I’ve heard about these things before.
She simply watched me from behind her mug.
Who is it out there? Waiting for you?
She was still smiling, but then very subtly, her expression seemed slightly hurt.
Yes. Tell me. You can do it.
It isn’t what you think. She became rigid. Her eyes darting, towards the door, then towards me.
I thought quickly. The next cabin was probably a hundred yards away, but it wasn’t occupied. I had relished the idea of getting away, of a weekend to myself in the off season. Then the storm had hit.
Her eyes widened.
Suddenly I stood up and looked at the door, thinking I’d heard a noise, heavy steps on the wood deck. My eyes turned back at her. You followed me here. Didn’t you?
I kept my eye on the door as I spoke. No. you followed me.
Get control of yourself, she said, you always do this! it’s a character flaw but we all have them.
Listen I’ve had enough of your games. I don’t know why you came here but it’s time for you to leave.
OK she acquiesced. Thanks for the coffee. She frowned as she put on her boots.
There was a knock.
Who is that?! I straightened.
Wha? She looked up, nonchalantly. It’s my friend. He’s checking on me. That’s all. He always does.
Your friend? Outside? Tell me what the fuck’s going on!
She stopped for a moment. OK. She sighed. The car is broken down. A quarter mile from here. I knew you were here, alone. I told him to stay behind, that you wouldn’t …she stopped and searched my eyes. There was that recognizance.
And strangely I felt relieved. Somehow a calm filled me, I doubted it could be the coffee. I felt powerful. Though it might have been great hubris. I prepared to open the door. There was heoroic sympathy in it. And it was completely pointless and had no justification. After all. A man was freezing outside.
I opened the door.
A man I’d never seen before, stood at the door. He was heavily covered in snow. Hello.
You are?
He shook his head. Bewahhh. Look. Hey man. Whatever you want it to be.
Listen pal, give me a name!
He looked at her. Can you control this?
She flashed a look at me. Then at her friend.
Give him a name! She ordered. OK you want a name. Jerry. There. That’s a name.
Jerry? I said.
Jerry lumbered inside. Snow dumping off. This is some place you have. But this was very odd. When he said this, he looked at her, not at me.
Look, I think we’re stuck. There’s nothing I can do either. Not tonight.
She said nothing.
Your car? I asked “Jerry.” Who at least now spoke to me.
Yeah.
It’s dead.
Look. You people can dispense with the ruse. I know why you’re here.
As far as I’m concerned you can have the cash, the pc, whatever you want in the kitchen, there’s some beluga in the fridge. it’s yours. But I’ll take the files. Then, I’ll be on my way.
Is he for real?
She nodded and gave Jerry an icy stare. This caused him to relax somewhat and sit down in a chair, the other one I’d sat in by the fire. Jerry put his boots up on the stone. The snow from his boots quickly formed pools on it.
She came over. Do you want to know who I am?
Does it matter? My thoughts were now focused on leaving, and getting back to the airport, though getting down the road might be a trick.
Her tone became low and firm. She stepped toward me and whispered. We know who you are.
I searched her eyes.
Then I looked at the man who sat in my chair. And thought of the soothing airport terminal. The anonymity of it. Even if I could I woudn’t be able to. The phones are down. I thought of my accounts. I’d just recently inherited a large sum. But how could they know? If they wanted something like that, they chose the wrong place and the wrong time. Why these two characters would track me down, all the way into the mountains in the middle of a snow storm was beyond me.
He’s not going to help us, said the man. He didn’t turn, he just kept staring into the fire.
We don’t have a lot of time. She whispered. She was deadly earnest. Then Jerry started. Believe me if there was some other way, I’d have thought of it by now, but there isn’t. He stopped  unable to speak further of some unspeakable thought. He turned to speak, but then slunched and faced the fire. There was pain in his eyes and fear.
She spoke for him, He wants to know why you are going to have him killed.
Jerry nodded. “And then you’re going to steal his girl. You’re going to bed her.”
What!?
I was shocked. But then my complete disbelief was replaced by a sudden urge to laugh.
Haha! Hahaha! You! Oh cmon’ stop it. They had to be the most incompetent pair of criminals ever.
He’s laughing at us.
Look mister writer. This isn’t funny not at all. Think about it from my perspective? For a change?
She looked at Jerry sternly,
Maybe we should have something to eat? I said.
I’m not hungry she said.
But Jerry disagreed. I could eat a horse, said Jerry. I better go get the stuff..
While I rummaged for food, Jerry had gone back out and brought in some luggage, oddly it was just one small suitcase.
Fortunately there were plenty of frozen meals, already stocked. Jerry had the meat and potatoes. She touched barely anything. This is really delicious he said. She grabbed my fork and took a bite of fish. Jerry paid her no attention.
You know it is remarkable that we can be compatriots like this and sit down to a meal. I mean after this mister writer takes our pad and all. I guess it was fair though, considering what we’ve done! He had a wine glass now, but where had it come from?
Now you’ve done it! I’m going to go take a bath. She looked at me as if I might like to join her.
Took your pad? What is it that you’ve done? It was now probably very early in the morning.
Yes, you see there’s been a misunderstanding, you see this place was double booked. But you got here first it appears. Now how often does a mark follow you to your suite? I mean, considering what we’d done I guess it was the least we could do though, but then the storm hit and we had no choice. We couldn’t go back and we sure as hell weren’t going to spend the night in a frozen suv! That’s for sure.
So it wasn’t broken down?
Jerry chuckled. Hell no! it’s just parked down there a piece. I watched and waited till she had got inside. Of course she was supposed to give me the sign.
She flashed concern at Jerry. That’s not important! Stop it!
I suddenly noticed a half filled glass of wine in front of me. She’d poured it without me noticing. Perhaps I’d been too riveted by this new layer…
But I figure this, if you’re as all knowing as she seems to think you are, then maybe you will ptu it all together.
Look Jerry, why are you calling me Mark? And what is it I’m missing here?
He isn’t! stop it Jerry!
You see, I don’t think he gets it.
Do you remember the airport?
Yes of course. you were there.
And after?
After I…. wait a minute.
Jerry couldn’t contain himself.
You see he’s putting it together now!
I went to make a withdrawal..
Yes.
At the bank.
You were doing it for us.
Go on.
So we could get away.
Jerry became suddenly more solemn. His smile wiped away.
He got up and left the room and sat again by the fireplace.
This is ridiculous. I wrote out the deposit to my account. It was to my account. Then I remembered. There was a girl there too. The same one I’d seen at the airport gift shop. Then you came over. Yes she said. And I took the check to the teller to deposit.
How do you know it was your account?
I don’t. You? And Jerry?
There would be a receipt. Proving it was deposited to the account.
I lost it.
Yes of course she said.
But I know where it is! Said Jerry.
Let’s clear this up. That was my entire account.
I know where it is! It’s out there!
Go and get it Jerry. I want to see it.
Jerry got up from his chair by the fire. He had his jacket on. As he spoke he felt his jacket pocket.  I tell you what, why don’t you go and see for yourself. I know how I die. I keep going out there and getting killed. And I won’t do it. It’s your turn this time. But maybe you already saw that coming, mister omniscient one! Here take the keys. And if your satisfied, just take the car and leave, don’t come back. Not unless you want trouble!
Jerry. Go and get it. She urged.
Why me?
Oh alright. You probably wouldn’t find it anyway.
Jerry went out. Then he came right back in, walked to the counter. I forget them. He grabbed the keys and left. Some snow came in and more cold air, but it quickly disappated in the warm cabin.
Does he always die?
What do you think, she said. Her look incredulous. Or perhaps more knowing than before. She had once more become the mysterious woman who’d come in before. Not a co conspirator. All of a sudden it was very quiet, you could hear the snow beat against the windows. But this was interrupted by a noise outside, a voice..it had to be loud to hear it through the snow storm..“Well, that black widow little beeac…” There was a sudden rumble outside, then some sharp cracking sounds, like trees breaking. Then it was silent again.
There was a pause..
You were supposed to come back in. Then he was going to kill you.
I see. Nodding slowly as if I understood.
I didn’t want that outcome. She said, her eyes boring into me.
Do you mind if I slip into something, more comfortable?
No.
So this elaborate scheme worked according to plan? Yes it did she said. It always does.
What happens later?
She sighed impatiently. Your funds are safe.
She’s half naked.
She came over and put her lips firmly on mine. Then released.
No I mean with us. I think you already know, she said. Inspecting my face.
Pause.  She planted her lips again on mine, letting it linger.
Wait. Is this in character or out of character?
I don’t know.
So. Are you joining me? This is the moment I believe. We’ve had the meet cute, remember.
I don’t know. I look out the window.
Pause. She’s thinking.
Do you think he’s still out there? I asked.
Oh dear, don’t be ridiculous. Can’t we take a break from this?
I’m going to take a bath. Then we’ll talk.
No.
I’m going outside.
Outside?
Are you mad?! Look it’s coming down harder. Suit yourself but the only thing you’ll find there is a cold!
She was right.
She laughed uncontrollably hahahaahhaha!
What?
She slowed. Seeing my glare.
You’re still in aren’t you. We do this every time. It’s always some ruse, you like it remember? The stranger, my boyfriend, my co conspirator, dying in some way or another.  I’ll be in there waiting.. and if you have any sense you’ll come in and join me.
Yes. But this is different.

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The Artist

“The Artist”

 

The artist does not want

to live in his time. He despises time.

(the shortness)

He wants to live somewhere else, enchanting

He despises the concept of limited existence, he works

to overthrow it.

driven to the point of not wanting to live in it

driven out of it

like a game fish, flying free

He pierces through the interface (though he cannot live here, not in air)

the artist goes where he cannot think

where he cannot be.

 

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