When I started this blog, I wanted a reason to write something even when I didn’t have anything to say – an exercise to keep my fingers limber, like running the scales on a piano. So I decided that I would make one post for each page of The Great Gatsby, picking out my favorite sentence from that page and describing why the words strike me so dearly. I enjoy this exercise for a number of reasons:
Exploration of personality. Gatsby is my favorite novel, which to some may indicate a deficiency in sophistication, given that the book is generally assigned to high school students and has been a classic long enough to become a cliché. I suppose a more learned reader would choose a foreign work or some postmodern monstrosity. But although my world has expanded a hundred times since I first read the book, I’ve never read another novel so perfectly constructed and luminously conveyed. I suppose this says something about my objective critical judgment, but probably says as much or more about my personal makeup, history and morals. I learn a little something about myself each time I pick out a sentence from a page. These lessons probably don’t come through in the posts, but the value for me is in the exercise and not the publication.
Rejection of crass careerism. This blog is presumably an important piece of my online personal brand. Prospective colleagues, partners and investors will review each word to get a sense of my professional capabilities. That’s ok, of course, I wouldn’t publish if I wasn’t fine with that. But I enjoy writing for writing’s sake, and I don’t want this blog to be an obligation to be updated like a résumé. So the Gatsby exercise is my excuse and my notice to all that this blog isn’t hostage to career intent.
Reminder of cosmic irrelevance. The modern ability to publish your thoughts worldwide at a touch of a button can feed delusions of grandeur. It’s easy to forget that just because you can now speak to everybody, that doesn’t mean that everybody wants to hear what you have to say. Simply looking at my website’s meager statistics might be enough to ensure humility, but I’ve found an added benefit in salting the blog with sentences from truly great literature: I can see the flyspeck of my existence in contrast to undying greatness. Organic traffic to this blog is dominated by the Gatsby posts. Delusions of grandeur cannot stand next to the reality that a novel published in 1925 generates more interest than whatever else I have to say.
For text fanatics: I began using the first Collier Books Edition, 1992, but then switched midstream to the first Scribner trade paperback edition, 2003. This switch had no effect on the page numbering, because Flitcraft.
Last updated: 9 Mar 2015