simply amazing

p. 57:

‘It was – simply amazing,’ she repeated abstractedly.

What’s amazing to me is that every time I’ve read that sentence before today, I read ‘abstractedly‘ as ‘distractedly‘ – thinking that Jordan was distracted by the hour-long conversation she’s just had with Gatsby.

And what’s really amazing is that Fitzgerald never has an imprecise paragraph or sentence or phrase or even a single slightly improper word choice. He used ‘abstractedly’ because that’s precisely what he meant.  Jordan wasn’t distracted by some diversion or emotion; she was abstracted, lost in thought. I’ve read the word wrong every time and never noticed until I took the time to find the artistry on every line.

A mild note of interest on this page is Jordan’s reference to her aunt, Sigourney. The actress Sigourney Weaver, star of the Alien movies, was born Susan and changed her name after this character, who is only mentioned this once in passing.

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2 thoughts on “simply amazing

  1. the Great Gatsby is one of the most sublime and profound books I have ever read. I remember the moments I started reading it in 11th grade and how I felt it was the first time someone was showing the world as it actually looked to all of us who are hiding from it in plain sight. Fitzgerald took a moment and extended it out infinitely, with gestures and grace, following the perspective of characters who looked perfectly at and in reality and its disguised forms but never let themselves be caught or felt for real. Or at least they tried not to, until they felt it all, and felt it too much. He captured for me, how it felt to hide in the beautiful form of living and feeling, luxuriously basking in the sun light of indulgence but never really feeling it, any of it.
    Daisy felt, and when she did she fell, and fell…
    So this observation about Sigourney struck a cord, or several with me.
    I often consider names, how they brand and capture our identity, our past, or origins and our designated future. How we struggle and at times, rail against those names, wrestling with the angeI of we are supposed to be. I imagine that Susan Weaver wanted to change her name, as many have, to differentiate herself more and in that act, more honestly express and define who she is. The irony to me is that Susan Weaver prolly felt very different from the human race, being the epic, deep feeling, powerfully expressive woman we have all come to appreciate as a dramatic powerhouse. So she changed her name to express that difference, standing apart form the maddening crowd (yes, I love Thomas Hardy-Mayor of Casterbridge-Sigourney could have played the part so well) and choose a moniker unsung by most human lips. Interesting then, that her act of self identification and creation was what makes her so like every other human-feeling different and excluded from every other human, disenfranchised in your very nature, which you truly judge more harshly or deem to be outcast, more than others would ever even intend.
    I recall a discussion group where I stated that I felt like I was like everyone else and wanted to be included. My friend Dave said: “You are a freak, different from everyone we know, and I always thought you were proud of that!”
    In that moment the paradox of human longing hit me with revelatory lightning strike. In my many obvious differences, diliberate and assumed, I was seeking connection and inclusion by being “special” but seeing the distinctions as a way to be considered one of the many special individuals, the way all people seemed special to me in their magnificent individual and unique own universes.Special in not being trapped as I felt I was…
    It was then that I realized I was trying to be same by making myself more and more different, which was working for and against me as I imagine it has for Sigourney.
    Sigourney captures human emotion on classic and epic scales with a rare magnitude of emotional expression and tremulous cadence rarely seen.
    She can utter Shakespear in a whisper, her deep baritone voice rumbling through you, stirring all matters majestic and dire. She is at once royal and foreboding and never more massive in cadence and impact then the subtle performance in ‘TheYear of Living Dangerously’ a movie I didn’t even like. The filming panned close to her mountainous features and her voice electrified the quiet pass of night around the characters and countryside.Yet, in Alien, her entry performance, she was cast for being the most plain of women, distinguished by no quality she possessed, except to resist the obsolescence of her unremarkable nature by virtue of her survival instinct and its indomitable nature.
    Why do I think she choose that name of Aunt Sigourney from TGG? A mere mentioned figure?
    I think its the casting of a grand figure as a portrait of greatness. The way we all had mythic family figures in the pantheon of childs world order. Our parents were mighty but mundane in their imprisonment in our lives, but they Aunts and Uncles who existed on the edge of forever were boundless adventures moving in and out of our lives…as we longed to…one day. They existed on the periphery with all the grandeur of our parents but none of the trappings.
    Sigourney must have identified with TGG but it brought people of perfect form, flowing grace of gesture and action and simmering passion and thunderous feeling as she always has, a survivor who emerged an enchantress of untold ability, always standing just on the edge of the possible.
    That brings me back to simply amazing…abstract, not distracted at all.
    This expresses greatness that has the depth and power of complexity (a-maze)to capture you forever, but is thus incredible with a purity and simplicity that didn’t need all that time or machinery to do so. Sigourney captures us with the simplicity of a Susan, who in her very gesture, word, cadence or need to stand out and thus survive, imprisoned us with merely her voice or glance.Or was it with her need, simple but grand, hidden behind those eyes, within that maze?

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  2. Ok, so that comment compells me to say 2 things:
    1-you and I prolly see some similar and much different in Gatsby…I will save that for a late night bar stool conversation.
    2-Whats in a name….or, er..a Rose by any other name is just a rose….meaning now I have to talk about Names and the changing therein.
    When I was a kid, getting beat up for having a fur coat my rents bought me when we moved form Florida to Seattle, I really wanted to change my name from Sandy to anything masculine and survival oriented.I tried Sammy, Samuel, Sanford (ugh) etc…Nothing worked besides burning the fur coat and accepting that I would always be Sandy.
    Later in life, I realized 2 things:
    ‘Sandy’ was goodness and more definitive of who I am than just descriptive.
    Other aspects of me that I wanted to change were also hallmarks of aspects I came to appreciate in myself-femininity, interest in the lives of others, love of diverse individuality, my front teeth etc.
    In genesis, Jacob struggles with his birthright, his naive dad, his brutish mighty and dominating brother and his own true nature. He manipulates his destiny from dad and Esau, flees the country, wrestles with an Angel, and then gets his name changed and weak ankles for his troubles.
    Whats missing?
    The angel was the Angel of Esau, Jacob wrestled with the aspects of Esaus nature-controlling, a need to be superior and in control of others, imposing his will over theirs-that were within himself.
    While jacob imagined that he was unlike esau, righteous, selfless etc, he was in fact controlling in his own way-by virtue of his manipulations and righteousness.
    Thus he encounters the Angel Esau and they fight until sunrise-meaning until the truth is revelaed, Jacob has lots of Easu in him (not in that way, gross) and must accept that he is not pure as his naive father is who lived his life serving God and not dealing with other nations and temptations like Abraham and Jacob would both have to. Thus the bible said Isaac was blind in his old age, not just visually, but to the politics of human nature and the world around them, he was focused on the soul and its climb to Godliness.Jacob and Abe, on the other hand would have to deal with the world, in excess and Jake would need that manipulative ability but needed to not let it take him over. He would need to manipulate in situations where he wasn’t the might, or in situations where he needed people and himself to see past their emotions to reason, but he could not let his desire for control takeover. He would be sorely tempted as he ventured out into dangerous lands where he was in many vulnerable positions just like with Esau. Once he reconciled this, he vanquished Angel-E but the touch on his heel was the reminder-it will always be a vulnerability, the weakness of man, the inherent need for control. Why the ankle/heel as the symbol, we walk-our legs hold us and move us, and in that stability lies our weakness-the need for stability and control.

    His name changed to Israel, meaning strength or straightness-meaning rightness not the other straight 🙂 comes from God-or serving the greater good of the community, life, love. He was now ready to let go of control and instead focus on serving all people, bringing them together, forging a nation etc
    The idea about Susan Weaver becoming Sigourney, Sandy staying Sandy and Jacob becoming Israel speaks to names-the are at our beginnings, we attach our identity and destiny to them. We love them and rebel against them as we do our nature, the dichotomies within us. But, in them lies our essence-the identity of them. What we need to realize is they aren’t just passive-we create ourselves and our names.
    I think keeping your name is important and I think changing it is just as empowering, potentially. The key is to understand the aspects of our identity and nature that reside in both old name and new and to synthesize and accept both, who we are, who we were when created, how we were perceived, where we came from, like it or not-and we need to like, actually love our origins to ultimately accept ourself- and how we shape ourselves and choose to grow.
    Israel was always Jacob as later chapters showed, but managed to become Israel too, Sigourney’s greatness lies in Sigourney who has alot of Susan in her, shaping her and driving her. None of us would have been drawn to an abstract heroine like Sigourney, as much as we were had she not been a desperate Susan emergent. Sandy needed to accept and embrace Sandy as much as he needed to escape to be Sammy. Oh, yeah, there was this one time when I thought I should be Lance…but that’s a different tale…

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