May 11, 2013
What's to live for? The price of wine continues to skyrocket, and Warren Buffett is now tweeting. What's next for us culturally? Bingo night at the Louvre?
Meanwhile, the criminal justice system insists on hammering on poor Lindsay Lohan. It's only a matter of time before her work suffers, and then who takes over as the freckled queen of American cinema? Leonardo DiCaprio? That's the obvious answer. Yes, I have issues with him as Gatsby, but more on that in a moment.
For now, I'll tell you what's to live for. Summer, that's what. The steering wheel is already slick with sunscreen, and it's time to start adding a little extra detergent to the wash, especially if you have active young boys in the house.
By the way, it's Teacher Appreciation Week at the kid's school, and my suggestion that we send along little bottles of airline booze seems to have fallen on deaf ears. I ask you, in the last lap of the school year, is there anything a teacher needs more? Skip the flowers, forget the cupcakes. Send martinis, in big crystal vases.
"I don't know who ever told you that you were funny," my wife says as I suggest this enlightened end-of-the-year teacher gift.
The sad part is I had to discover it for myself. My whole life has been a long journey of self-discovery. A lot of self-everything, in fact, if you really want to know. But you probably don't.
But I'll tell you, as we head into summer, the perfect teacher's gift would be this: a basket containing a good wine, maybe a DVD of her favorite movie, some serious sunscreen, and the best summer book of all time, "The Great Gatsby."
What's so great about "Gatsby"? Everything.
"He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God."
I reread it almost every June, the way some nerds read "The Iliad" in Greek, or other nerds read the scores of Beethoven symphonies.
That's the way I read "Gatsby." In it, I hear the same soothing rhythms of baseball, or the soft poundings of Long Island Sound.
It's a slender novel. You could almost memorize it and recite it at dinner parties, where everyone would hate you. But later, on the ride home, you know the other guests would be thinking, "Did he really recite 'The Great Gatsby'? All in one breath, no punctuation? Between dinner and dessert? What a tool."
In the words of Charles Bukowski, the "libraries of the world have yawned themselves to sleep" on most of the stuff you should've read in high school and college, or most of the stuff you chatter about at dinner parties.
And then there's "Gatsby."
You'll hear a lot about the movie this weekend, and you'll maybe see it and talk about it, and wonder what's the big fuss. You'll blame DiCaprio, who seems a poor fit as America's ultimate leading man, no matter what he thinks of himself personally.
I can't help but think back to the recent cover story in Esquire, where the writer tried so hard to justify DiCaprio as a major national icon, as a fitting Gatsby, that you could smell the perspiration on the page.
So what you should really do is grab the book. Roughly. By the neck.
As reading nooks go, the Beverly Hills Hotel isn't ideal but it'll do. A nook should be in the corner of a big Victorian in Atlanta, or Grand Rapids, or Seattle. The lighting should be natural, through a pane of hundred-year-old glass, and the lick of a nearby fireplace won't hurt.
Minus that, the Beverly Hills Hotel has the proper gravitas for Gatsby, a shared sense of greatness, of longevity, of things well made. As adopted mansions go, I like the downtown Biltmore too.
Point is, you can pick your reading spot. A bluff by the beach will do. A corner of your favorite old bookstore (if you can still find an old bookstore). Or a little spot under a major tree.
And settle in with what is really America's greatest romance novel — this ode to summer, this ode to yearning, this ode to eternal love.
Meanwhile, thanks for everything, teach.
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