I haven’t picked up the Great Gatsby in forever, and flipped through it the other day after hearing about the new movie with Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby, directed by Baz Luhrmann, same style as the Romeo and Juliet and Moulin Rouge movies Luhrmann made.
I’d always wondered about what made Gatsby one of those enduring classics. Gatsby and Daisy are actually pretty shallow. Daisy hits someone then Gatsby takes the blame instead of her taking responsibility for the accident. So why has this book about such people remained a classic? Fitzgerald explores enduring themes and portrays that age and its excesses, but what jumped out at me this time, was the writing. I love his descriptions. He writes with economy, but when he does describe the characters, it’s wonderful. Below is a snippet of Nick describing Gatsby:
He smiled understandingly — much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you might come across four or five times in your life. It faced — or seemed to face — the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.
I love the last part...and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.
This is a person that knows how to manipulate and use people and that’s exactly what Gatsby did to Nick, using him to get closer to Daisy. Awesome. (Um, not that he used Nick, but a spot on description awesome 🙂
This is more an excerpt from a poem with some wonderful imagery. I try to read poetry often to help my writing. The obvious, reading the wonderful use of words and imagery, but the cadence, reading the beats, helps with inserting that in your writing to make it flow and bounce in the right spots.
Who hesitates towards you in the light of the door
Which opens on her like a grin.
You see the border of her dress
Is torn and stained with sand,
And you see the corner of her eye
Twists like a crooked pin.
A twisted branch upon the beach
Eaten smooth, and polished
As if the world gave up
The secret of its skeleton,
Stiff and white.
(From Rhapsody on a Windy Night)
I love the corner of her eye twists like a crooked pin and the entire second verse, twisted branch, the world gave up its skeleton. Fabulous!
You’ll probably see a lot of Dean Koontz. I think he’s a great writer. This is from the book Lightening:
His face resembled a clown’s countenance-not the kind of clown you’d see in a circus but the kind you might run into on Halloween night, the kind that might carry a chainsaw instead of a seltzer bottle.
I mean, really? A clown with a chainsaw? I love it.
I do read more than just horror by the way. I read all kinds of stuff. I like reading Dean Koontz because I like the way he builds tension. It’s amazing really.
When I come across really cool and fresh descriptions or dialog tags when reading books, I write them down to serve as inspiration for my own writing. A way to keep it fresh. So I thought it would be fun to share those snippets on the blog. So here goes, my first snippet from Stephen King’s Nightshift collection, Jerusalem’s Lot:
A girl with a pallid, mouldering face and a corpse-grin; a girl whose head lolled at a lunatic angle.
I love the description, whose head lolled at a lunatic angle. We don’t really know what a lunatic angle looks like (!) but it’s a powerful image nonetheless. The beauty is we can imagine it ourselves and probably come up with more frightening images than King could ever describe.