Friday, August 31, 2012

Reading Fitzgerald and finding myself

The door is old and heavy. I force it open and step inside. The room is dark and dusty and I stand still for a moment allowing my eyes to readjust. Sunlight filters in through tiny windows at the back of the room. After a few minutes I see my reason for being here, a tall wooden cupboard sitting in the corner.

And then I opened the cupboard and discovered the portal to Narnia... Oh, how I wish! I didn’t discover Narnia that day but I did discover two other things – firstly, a large hairy spider guarding the entrance to the cupboard and secondly, the book that would change my life. After a few tears (I really hate spiders) and the brave spider-vanquishing work of a class mate, I managed to get what I had come to the store room for: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

I was fifteen years old and I held in my hands a portal far greater than any door to Narnia. Of course, I hardly knew it at the time. And though I have cast the story in the magic hues of nostalgia, I must admit that on the day I was quite annoyed at having to fight my way past doors, dust and devil creatures just for a school set book.

Nevertheless, the day after I finished the novel I went out and bought my own copy which has since travelled with me wherever I go. Because The Great Gatsby was far more than a novel about the frivolity of the 1920s and definitely, far more than a love story that wasn’t meant to be.

“You don't read Gatsby, I said, to learn whether adultery is good or bad but to learn about how complicated issues such as adultery and fidelity and marriage are. A great novel heightens your senses and sensitivity to the complexities of life and of individuals, and prevents you from the self-righteousness that sees morality in fixed formulas about good and evil...”                                                                              
The Great Gatsby at its most deep level speaks about the realities of existence. Realities that
do not cease to be relevant simply because time has moved on. We have changed our cars and our clothes but the story that Fitzgerald wrote almost a century ago still holds truths that relate to us.

There are more books in the world than we can imagine, more has been written than we will ever read. And if just one novel can teach you so much about the delicate nature of relationships and life, imagine what you could find in the worlds of a hundred novels, a thousand novels...

The Great Gatsby teaches me something new every time I read it. Some days I feel like Nick, other days I am Daisy and once in a while, I get close to being Gatsby. There isn’t anything that you feel today that someone hasn’t already put into words. All you have to do is push open the door, battle the spiders and discover answers to the questions you never asked. 

*Quote from "Reading Lolita in Tehran" by Azar Nafisi

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