an arrangement of notes that will never be played again

p. 13:

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.

Daisy’s voice is one of the magic totems of her allure. Here is an example of the hold that only the written word can bring, beyond any other creative medium – that voice is lauded throughout the novel, you hear the way it sounds and the way it feels to the men who love her, and no live recreation can ever reproduce that music the way you imagine it. This disconnect between your idea of her voice and actually hearing it is a microcosm of one of the themes of the novel itself – holding the dream in your hand can never live up to the dream in your head.

No one has ever been better at describing women in the full power of their youthful beauty, and this page gives distinct visions of both Daisy and Jordan. Daisy’s feminine magnetism is in full flower: “She laughed again, as if she said something very witty, and held my hand for a moment, looking up into my face, promising that there was no one in the world she so much wanted to see.” Every man has met that woman once, and remembers her forever whether or not he ever loved her. Her “absurd, charming little laugh,” the murmur that “was only to make people lean toward her,” that “low, thrilling voice” – these are things that might introduce her as an object of contempt, but it’s clear that her charms overpower all objections into irrelevancy.

Jordan’s got her own special qualities of beautifully hardened poise. She sits “with her chin raised a little as if she were balancing something on it which was quite likely to fall.” She nods at Nick “almost imperceptibly and then quickly tipped her had back again – the object she was balancing had obviously tottered a little and given her something of a fright.” Nick’s quite taken – “Almost any exhibition of complete self sufficiency draws a stunned tribute from me.”

I’ve read this novel more than a dozen times, and I never noticed until just this moment: you can tell that these women are beautiful, alluring and charming – and there isn’t a single line about their physical features throughout the page, nothing about what they are wearing, whether they’re tall or short, fat or thin. (Until the very last sentence, when Fitzgerald starts to describe Daisy’s face, but that goes over into the next page, so I’m going to count that out . . .) That’s good writing, and an example of why Gatsby can be read again and again and again – you keep finding more magic with every pass.

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