your case and mine

p. 39:

‘Well, I married him,’ said Myrtle ambiguously.  ‘And that’s the difference between your case and mine.’

There are two kinds of unhappily married women:  The kind that convinces herself that she narrowly averted a disastrous choice, so the man she married isn’t so bad; and the kind that is convinced that her choice was an elaborate deception, and has revealed himself as the sum of all her fears.  What links these two is the woman’s portrait of the wrong man, the fact that she has this portrait, carries it around in her head, continually defines it and holds it up for comparison until the subject compared slowly takes on all traits of the original portrait.

a letter of introduction

p. 37:

‘Ask Myrtle,’ said Tom breaking into a short shout of laughter as Mrs. Wilson entered with a tray.  ‘She’ll give you a letter of introduction, won’t you, Myrtle?’

A capsule study of the extraordinary cruelty of Tom Buchanan.  He mocks the slightly desperate Mr. McKee, whose sad artistic ambitions as a photographer cause him to ask the wrong man for a favor.  Much worse and more directly, he mocks his own mistress with a careless puncture to her fantasy of upper class status.

a dozen chefs

p. 36:

Then she flounced over to the dog, kissed it with ecstasy and swept into the kitchen, implying that a dozen chefs awaited her orders there.

Just another dart in the bullseye portrayal of poor, doomed Mrs. Wilson, trying to imagine herself into a life that she’d never get to live.

a noisy, creaking pivot

p. 35:

Her laughter, her gestures, her assertions became more violently affected moment by moment and as she expanded the room grew smaller around her until she seemed to be revolving on a noisy, creaking pivot through the smoky air.

Myrtle Wilson had put on a new dress (“changed her costume”) just before this point, and with the dress she put on a new personality:  clothes make the woman . . . make her pretentious and vain.  Though this is all just a little afternoon party, the sentence is fraught with danger, with “violent” affectation and the claustrophobic feel of the shrinking room, the oversize load on the fragile point of contact.  Interesting choice to say the room “grew smaller” around her, but insert the word “shrank” and the sentence doesn’t seem to read right.  Something about the pace of the sentence would be suddenly thrown off, it wouldn’t run the silky way that it does now.

On this page, I also like what Mrs. Wilson says when she gets complimented on her dress:  “It’s just a crazy old thing . . . I just slip it on sometimes when I don’t care what I look like.

people who ought to know

p. 32:

She’s said to be very beautiful by people who ought to know.

Mrs. Wilson describes her sister in the grandest terms she can. It’s amazing how some people value the opinions of others over their own senses. The kind of people who so willingly abdicate their own judgment deserve to live their lives under the judgment of others.

no facet or gleam of beauty

p. 30:

Her face, above a spotted dress of dark blue crepe-de-chine, contained no facet or gleam of beauty but there was an immediately perceptible vitality about her as if the nerves of her body were continually smouldering.

There’s something sophomorically prudish about Fitzgerald’s refusal to describe Mrs. Wilson as beautiful. As if to find beauty in her obvious sexuality would diminish the refined sensibility required to appreciate the charms of the dewy southern flowers he idolizes.

as some women can

p. 29:

She was in the middle thirties, and faintly stout, but she carried her surplus flesh sensuously as some women can.

Mrs. Wilson isn’t like the other women in this book, or most other women in Fitzgerald’s work. She’s a full-grown woman, not a dewy debutante or rare orchid in first flower. The idea of sensuous surplus flesh stuck in my head on first reading like a description of a far-off land I’d never heard about before and might never visit. I must have read this book for a decade or more before I understood what kind of woman can carry herself as Mrs. Wilson does.