Suburbia

So, of course rather than working on Bury Me in Shadows, yesterday I spent some time writing the opening scene of a short story inspired by watching I’ll Be Gone in the Dark. This is why nothing ever gets done around here, seriously. It’s called “After the Party,” and I’m not really sure where to go with it from where I got to with it–about nine hundred words in, actually, which isn’t bad, really. But I always have to write these snippets down; they nag at my brain the way your tongue will worry a loose tooth, and nothing will get it out of my head other than to write it down.

I don’t know if it’s the show that haunts me so much as it is seeing those suburban middle class cookie cutter houses where so many of the victims of the East Area Rapist–later upgraded to the Golden State Killer–lived; having lived in a similar style house in Clovis, a suburb of Fresno, and of course, our suburb of Chicago was essentially housing developments all in the same area; Bolingbrook was never a town but was rather incorporated as a “village”; the “village of Bolingbrook”–which always struck me as a little too cutesy for words. The developments all had model houses that were “modern”–split levels, ranch houses, etc–and they had folksy names; the original one was Westbury , and I honestly don’t recall what ours was called; there was another that was townhouses and I don’t recall its name either. But the newer ones had names like Winston Woods (more expensive) and Indian Oaks (same area, less expensive) and then the newest, which start going up down the street from us a few years after we moved there: Ivanhoe, which was fancier and the most expensive of them all; the 1970’s version of McMansions, I suppose. The village of Bolingbrook grew up so fast with all those working class and middle class white people fleeing the city to get away from “crime” (read: desegregated school systems) that parents were willing to commute an hour or so up the Dan Ryan Expressway to get to work. We were bussed ten miles or so over to Romeoville for junior and senior high school; the “village” grew so quickly that Romeoville High School couldn’t accommodate everyone, and even my junior high school went to a split schedule: kids from Romeoville started junior high at 7 and classes ran till 12; the Bolingbrook kids had class from 12-5–no lunch period, homeroom, or study hall. My freshman year we got our own high school but it wasn’t finished in time for school to open; so the high school went to the same schedule: RHS from 7-12 in the morning; BHS from 12-5. It was rough for sports teams and after-school activities for both schools; pretty much everything but sports was suspended until BHS was ready for us–the gym wasn’t finished, and neither was the cafeteria and an entire wing of the school, so some classes had to make do.

It was very strange, and made even stranger because we were on a “track” system of schooling as it was, so the school could handle the student load; the village was divided into four sections, and where you lived determined which track you were on; either A, B, C, or D. Three tracks were in at all times, one track was out. You went to school for nine weeks, then rotated out for three, then back in for another nine. We were in B Track, which was kind of the best–the school system shut down for two weeks at Christmas and two weeks in the summer, and those two weeks always began right as we cycled out–so B track got five weeks in the summer and five weeks in the winter.

It was different, and for the most part, I didn’t thrive in that educational environment.

But it would also be interesting to write about.

I spent some time with Cottonmouths yesterday and am really, as I have said all along, enjoying it. But that story was nagging at my brain, and I finally had to put the book aside to write it. But I think I am willing to put aside at least an hour or so a day for reading going forward, and I look forward to not only finishing the book but giving you all the glowing book report it so richly deserves.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark continues to enthrall–we watched another two episodes last night–and I’m already, with two episodes to go, wondering about what we will watch next. Hopefully, there’s insanely fabulous Spanish-language show just waiting for us on Netflix; perhaps something else German or French; there’s bound to be something on there somewhere.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines with me. Have an awesome Tuesday, everyone.

In My House

Well, here it is Monday again and we’ve made it through another weekend; the last of May. Perhaps June will be the month this annus horribilis will turn around, but somehow I rather doubt it.

I grew up in the 1960’s. I was born in 1961, so when the decade ended I was nine and my earliest memory is me, maybe two years old or so, and the air raid sirens were going off in Chicago–they went off as a test every week on a certain day at a certain time, to ensure they were working and if Chicago was suddenly attacked by air–missiles, I suppose, from the Soviet Union or Cuba or perhaps a Canadian Air Force attack–we could get proper warning. I remember that the basement of my elementary school was a nuclear fallout shelter–or perhaps there was one accessible through the basement; my memory on this is cloudy but I can remember seeing the symbols (the black circle with three yellow triangles) on the wall above the stairs when I’d go down there to use the bathroom. I remember the Civil Rights movement and Vietnam and the violence meted out against people who protested inequality or an unjust war. I remember riots, and cities on fire, and leaders being murdered, shot and killed in a time when it seemed like the very fabric of the nation was being torn apart.

As a society, we tend to look back at the wild and crazy Sixties as a bizarre decade that opened with malt shops and bobby sox and the sock hop, which gradually morphed into something darker, and vastly different. The darkness and disillusionment didn’t lead to change in society or more equity; if anything, the resistance to civil rights for people of color became even more entrenched as other marginalized groups began advocating for their own rights and freedoms and equalities: women and queers. But the problems and inequities protested in the Sixties never went away completely; more doors were opened, to be sure, but the progress was slow and incremental, but below the surface it continued to simmer, and here we are, in 2020, dealing with these same old problems still.

Why is this so fucking hard, people? It doesn’t have to be.

I remember when Dr. King was murdered. I remember when RFK was murdered. (And yes I know these were political murders, so they were technically assassinations, but I’m sorry–murder is murder and it doesn’t need a fancy name to dress it up nice and pretty for consumption. MURDERED. They were MURDERED.)

I also remember the busing riots in the 1970’s.

My elementary school was segregated–in Chicago. I don’t know if all public schools in northern cities were segregated back then, but I do know ours was. The story was our principal would regularly turn away Black families trying to enroll their children by telling them the school was full, but any white family who came in was permitted. We had a lot of Hispanic/Latinx students at my school though; so clearly the bigotry was targeted at Black families. It was very strange, and even stranger to think about now, looking back; my elementary school was (with the exception of no Black children) the proverbial melting pot of cultures and countries (as taught to us as children–no mention of non-whites in that melting pot, of course). Most of my neighborhood–and therefore my schoolmates–were immigrants, either first or second generation; the woman down the street who babysat my sister and me’s parents immigrated from Poland. We had Poles and Latvians and Lithuanians; Czechs and Slovaks and Serbs and Croatians; Greeks and Mexicans and Nicaraguans and Guatemalans and Cubans and Puerto Ricans. Ironically, I also had classmates who identified by their principality in what used to be the Holy Roman Empire before it became Germany: Bohemians and Bavarians and Hessians (they were made very uncomfortable when we studied the mythology of the American Revolution, since the Hessians were mercenaries hired by King George III).

My high school in the suburbs, despite its size, only had a handful of black students; Bolingbrook is much more integrated now than it was at its inception. And of course, my high school in Kansas was completely free of black children. I had one black teacher before graduating from high school; and that was the sixth grade. My first black teacher in college was in Women’s Studies–she was a great teacher, and during that semester was denied tenure. I often wonder what ever happened to her; I don’t even remember her name. But she was the first teacher I ever had that truly opened my eyes to what our society and culture was actually like, rather than viewed through the rose tinted lenses all white children were given back then; what it was like for women and minorities in this country. As I was also beginning to realize at the same time that I didn’t necessarily have to be closeted and miserable for the rest of my life, and maybe wasn’t, and didn’t have to be, a square peg, she had a profound influence on me and this was when I first began to challenge, and question, everything I had been led to believe was carved into stone as truth.

It disturbs me that I do not remember her name. It disturbs me now to realize had I not been gay and had I not taken her class…I might not have ever questioned and reevaluated everything I was raised and socialized to believe. Sometimes when I see this right-wing assholes bloviating and spewing their bullshit and lies and bigotry, I sometimes think that, but for an untenured Women’s Studies professor and my sexuality, could have been me.

And it sickens me.

I don’t have the answers to how to solve what’s wrong with our country. But I do know the answer of how not to–which is to continue not listening to the people, to not listen to people of color, to not listen to anyone who is a minority of any kind in this country; to not listen to anyone who is anything other than a cisgender white male.

The Pledge of Allegiance ends “with liberty and justice for all.” It doesn’t say “with liberty and justice for white people.”

I’m not perfect. Every once in a while a thought will pop up in my mind that no longer fits my current worldview, something from the lizard part of my brain and the way I used to think, was conditioned to think, before my gradual enlightenment and reexamination of everything was I trained to think and believe, and it horrifies me. But I don’t pretend it doesn’t happen; I examine it, try to dissect and dismember it, to ensure it never pops into my brain again.

It’s work, but it’s work that needs to be done.

Black lives matter. No one should have to live in fear for their life every time they leave their goddamned house, or go into a nice neighborhood, or just go about their fucking day-to-day business.

This country and what it stands for was a terrific ideal that we, as flawed people and humans, have never actualized into reality or lived up to. It isn’t too late for us to start now. But we have to examine everything we’ve been taught, white people. We need to look at our art, our culture, our society, and our politics, with a skeptical, questioning eye, and we need to do the work. Our country will never heal without it…and if you care about this country as much as you claim you do–or you are, indeed, a true Christian–you will do this work so that everyone is equal in the eyes of the law and everyone has the same opportunities to succeed, to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Because we who are minorities–whether racial, gender, class, sexuality, religion–are never going to shut up and we are never going to go away. You don’t have to like us; you can still think I’m a faggot if it makes you happy and you somehow think that’s what your invisible sky lord demands. But your business has to serve me, and you have to treat me the same way you treat everyone: with the respect and dignity every human being deserves.

I don’t really understand what is so controversial about that.

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Phyllis A. Whitney is one of my all-time favorite authors.

I first discovered her, as Constant Reader is probably already aware, when I was a kid looking for mysteries in the school library. I distinctly remember that day in the fourth grade when I found The Mystery of the Hidden Hand on the shelves at the Eli Whitney Elementary School library; this was during my period of fascination with the ancient world (I was getting the Time-Life series Great Ages of Man; and had just gotten the volume Classical Greece). The description on the back of the book told me it was set in Greece, and had to do with antiquities and Greek history; that was all I needed and I signed it out. (I have, in the past, mistakenly identified The Secret of the Tiger’s Eye as my gateway drug into Whitney’s novels; I remembered incorrectly.) I enjoyed the book tremendously; I returned it and checked out The Secret of the Tiger’s Eye. I went on to read many of her children’s mysteries; she won two Edgars for Best Juvenile and was nominated twice more. After we’d moved to the suburbs, Signet started reissuing her children’s mysteries, and I started buying them at Zayre’s: The Mystery of the Angry Idol, The Secret of the Spotted Shell, The Mystery of the Black Diamonds, The Mystery of the Golden Horn, The Mystery of the Gulls, and numerous others. (I started collecting them again as an adult, thanks to eBay.)

I won’t tell the story again of how I rediscovered Whitney as a romantic suspense writer for adults; I’ve told that story any number of times, and I read almost everything she wrote for adults–but with The Ebony Swan I noted a decline in the quality of her writing, and never read anything she published after that. (I do intend, at some point, to read the ones I’ve never read–it’s the completist in me.)

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Cunningham’s department store is quiet again now. Sylvester Haring still puts his head in the door of my office whenever he goes by, to call out “Hi, Linell!” and perhaps to linger and study the pictures on my walls, to speak briefly of the past. But his days are given over to the humdrum of catching shoplifters and petty thieves, instead of trailing a murderer.

He never mentions that one picture we hunted down together, or the tragic denouement to which it led. But now and then we cock an eyebrow at each other because we are conspirators and know it.

Not that the law was in any way defeated. Payment in full was made for all those terrible things that happened. But still, Haring and I know what we know and the case as it broke in the papers told only half the story.

There are still things about Cunningham’s that make me shiver. I can never cross that narrow passageway that leads past the freight elevators into the display department without a feeling of uneasiness. I cannot bear the mannequin room at all, and I will go to any length to avoid setting foot in it. But most of all I am haunted by the symbols that came into being during the case.

The color red, for instance. I never wear it anymore, because it was the theme of those dreadful days. It ran beneath the surface of our lives like a bright network of veins, spilling out into the open now and then to accent with horror. And there are the owls. Sometimes in my dreams that eerie moment returns when I stood there in the gloom with all those plaster creatures crowding about me, cutting off my escape.

Nor will I ever again breathe the scent of pine without remembering the way the light went out and those groping hands came toward me. Strange to have your life saved by the odor of Christmas trees.

But the worst thing of all is when I imagine I hear the strains of Sondo’s phonograph. For me, those rooms will never be free of ghostly music and I break into cold chills in broad daylight whenever a radio plays Begin the Beguine.

And while there are some romantic aspects to The Red Carnelian, it’s probably one of the least romantic suspense-like novels she published (Skye Cameron, The Quicksilver Pool, and The Trembling Hills were not mysteries, at least not that I recall; but they were also early in her career and once she hit her stride, she became enormously successful). It’s a straight-up murder mystery, told in the first person point of view of Linell Wynn, who works at Cunningham’s Department Store on State Street in Chicago, writing copy for advertising posters, ads, and so forth. When the story opens, the entire store is on edge, because the window display manager, Michael “Monty” Montgomery, is returning to work that day from his surprise honeymoon; he and Linell had been a thing before his sudden elopement caught everyone by surprise. He’d married Chris Gardner, whose father Owen ran the luxury floor–the 4th–evening gowns and jewelry and furs. Linell claims that she and Monty were cooling things off when he suddenly eloped; I’m not entirely convinced that’s not something she claims to salvage her damaged pride. Naturally, later that day Monty is murdered, and of course, Linell finds the body; a fact which she, on the advice of Bill Thorne (one of the store’s vendors) keeps quiet from the police. He was killed near one of the window displays, by a golf club; Linell found the broken end of it in the window before she finds the body and put it back in the golf bag, thus handling the murder weapon. She also finds a piece of stone, a red carnelian, in the window display and puts it in her smock pocket and forgets about it.

Linell, of course, immediately becomes suspect number one–but it doesn’t take long for her, her store detective buddy Sylvester Haring, and new love interest Bill (who she does suspect from time to time) to find out almost every single person working in the store who’s a character in the book has a reason for hating Monty and wanting to see him dead. Linell of course also finds herself targeted from time to time by the killer–who never actually kills her (obviously)–as she sort of starts figuring out the who’s and what’s and why’s of the story.

It’s quite a good read; the characters are very well fleshed out, and the writing itself is pretty good. Whitney always wrote in a more Gothic style, in her books for adults; a style that seems a little dated now as well but still manages to hold your interest. I also would imagine a teenager reading the book today would have to look up what a “phonograph” was–although its usage makes it fairly clear to me what it is; but of course I grew up with phonographs and vinyl records and needles and all the accoutrement that goes along with them.

I’d recommend it as a gateway to Whitney’s other, more romantic suspense type work; it works very well as a stand-alone cozy type mystery novel.

Free Your Mind

Well, I slept deeply and well last night, only waking up twice–and both times I was able to go back into a lovely, lovely deep sleep. I also didn’t wake up until almost nine. I know, right? It’s so lovely to feel rested.

LSU’s game isn’t on until tonight, but there are some terrific games on throughout the day. I suspect I can finish the floors and cleaning the living room around and during some of these games; I can also get some writing done as well, methinks. I am leaning towards editing some short stories rather than working on the book–yes, I know that will put me two days behind where I want to be with it, but I am also stuck. (And no sooner did I type that, did I come up with a way to start Chapter Four in a way that will help advance the plot somewhat. Huzzah!)

Yesterday, as I mentioned, I stopped at the Latter Library on my way home from work to pick up a book I’d requested on-line, Volume 2 of Otto Penzler’s Bibliomysteries. If you aren’t familiar with the “Bibliomysteries,” these are slightly longer than your average short stories, written by today’s top crime writers, and have to focus or be centered around a book or a bookstore. I first became aware of them when I was a judge for the Edgar Award for Best Short Story a few years ago (maybe more than a few; time has become so fluid and untethered for me–particularly when I realize it’s fucking 2018 sometimes), and in fact we picked John Connelly’s Bibliomystery, “‘The Caxton Lending Library and Book Depository,” as that year’s Best Short Story winner. Since then, I’ve read others–Megan Abbott’s “The Little Men,” Laura Lippman’s “The Book Thing,” Denise Mina’s “Every Seven Years”–and been blown away by their absolute brilliance (which reminds me, I really need to get back to the Short Story Project, which has sadly fallen by the wayside); so I am very excited to read this second collection of these singles; the stories are, you see, originally published as singles–you can buy them as ebooks or you can get a print copy.

I love the library, and was extremely pleased with myself, as Constant Reader is probably already aware, for finally getting my library card. I haven’t had one since I left Kansas in 1981; and even in Kansas I hadn’t used mine for years when we moved. Libraries were very important to me, as a kid and as a teen; I don’t know why I stopped using them–other than the fact that I often lost library books, or forgot to return them on time, which meant fines, which meant lectures from my mother about irresponsibility and on and on and on it went–but I remember the Tomen Branch of the Chicago Public Library fondly; the library on 6th Street in Emporia, and the little library in Americus, as well as when the Bolingbrook Library opened. I often spent time in my school libraries as well as a kid. Stupidly, I suspect I stopped using libraries when I started working and had my own money to buy books with; I loved owning books, always coveted other people’s, and for years was also sentimentally attached to books and didn’t want to get rid of my copies of them. I still am, and I still hoard books, always buying more when I haven’t read all the ones on hand, and I was the same with the library; always checking out more than I could possibly read because I also wanted choices about what to read. I’m looking forward to reading–and reporting back–on the stories in this book I haven’t already read–the Abbott and Mina stories are also inside this collection of them. Writing a Bibliomystery is a bucket-list thing for me; but I will also need to become more important of a writer to be asked.

Last night, as I laundered the bed lines and blankets and coverlets, it took longer for the dryer to dry things then planned–it was damp yesterday, and damp always affects the dryer–so I had to stay up a little later than I wanted to, so I started streaming an 1980’s classic thru Prime: Night of the Comet, starring Robert Beltran, Catherine-Mary Stewart, and Kelli Maroney. I saw this movie in the theater when it was released; it’s not the greatest movie in the world, but it also recognized that it wasn’t a great movie and embraced its camp sensibility. The premise of the movie is this: a comet with an enormous orbit through space is going to pass close by Earth again for the first time in sixty-five million years (hello, dinosaur extinction event!), and of course, it turns into this thing, with comet-watching parties and so forth. Our two leading ladies manage to miss the comet by falling asleep inside of steel–Stewart in the cinema where she works in a steel-walled room for storing film; Maroney in a steel shed in the backyard–and the comet turns everyone into either dust or murderously insane zombies, and they have to survive somehow. Fortunately, the women–sisters–have a father in the military who taught them how to protect themselves. Beltran plays a truck driver (who passed the night inside his truck) they encounter, and eventually team up with for survival. I was just far enough into the movie to get to the part where they run into Beltran for the first time–having already realized most of the world is dead–when the blankets were finished. I also remembered some trivia–Stewart’s big break was being the original Kayla on Days of Our Lives (her replacement became one of the most-loved and popular stars of the show), and Maroney started out playing a manipulative spoiled bitch teenager on Ryan’s Hope. Stewart was also the female lead in a favorite scifi movie of mine from that same period, The Last Starfighter. Both kind of faded away which I always thought was kind of unfortunate–although watching the movie again last night and seeing their performances clearly, it’s really not that surprising.

And Beltran, of course, was part of the Paul Bartel stable, also appearing in Eating Raoul and Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills. Interesting that Bartel’s films, which were kind of the same style as John Waters movies, aren’t remembered or talked about much anymore. (Bartel and his usual female muse, Mary Woronov, also were in another classic from the period, Rock ‘n’ Roll High School–but I don’t remember if Bartel directed that one.)

I may finish watching Night of the Comet at some point today; we shall see how the day goes.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Lust to Love

Thursday! This week has slipped right through my fingers, hasn’t it? I looked at my weekly to-do list and was very disappointed to see many things not crossed off, that will have to carry over until next week. I am going through the WIP painstakingly; I am doing a line edit, which is something I’ve not done in a long time on one of my own manuscripts (which is really shameful to confess; in my own defense the copy editors haven’t had to do too much to my manuscripts to clean them up because I generally write very clean copy to begin with), but I am also trying to make this manuscript leaner than it came in on the last several drafts; it’s still sitting at over a hundred thousand words and at most, it should be ninety. At MOST. But it’s taking me longer to do than an usual edit, and I am having to pay more attention because I don’t have long stretches of time to dedicate to it, grabbing an hour here or there whenever I can. I will probably wind up working on it a lot this weekend because I really want to get it finished, once and for all.

I’ve also been revising a short story at the same time, and that’s coming along really well, too. I am very happy with the writing I’ve been doing, which is a lovely thing.

So, The Great Gatsby. I’ve been thinking about it a lot since I finished reading it the weekend before last, and while I am still not convinced it is either the great American novel or a masterpiece, I did enjoy it much more than I did when I was a teenager and had to read it for American Lit at Bolingbrook High.

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In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.

“Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.

He didn’t say any more but we’ve always been unusually communicative in a reserved way and I understood that he meant a great deal more than that. In consequence I’m inclined to reserve all judgements, a habit that has opened up many curious natures to me and also made me the victim of not a few veteran bores. The abnormal mind is quick to detect and attach itself to this quality when it appears in a normal person, and so it came about in college I was unjustly accused of being a politician, because I was privy to the secret griefs of wild, unknown men.

When I read this book in high school, all I could think was how boring. As my teacher went on and on about the symbolism of the green light on the dock, the eyes on the billboard in the valley of ashes on the road from the Long Island twin villages of East and West Egg (where the Wilsons’ garage was), the valley of ashes itself, and on and on, I just rolled my eyes in the back of the room, unable to wait to get back to reading whichever Ellery Queen or Agatha Christie or P. G. Wodehouse or Victoria Holt or Phyllis A. Whitney novel was next up in the stack from the library. My primary takeaway from the book? Every character in it was awful, even Nick Carraway, the narrator who knew everything, said nothing, and allowed the tragedy to unfold.

Several years ago, I was talking about books with a writer friend and I just kind of casually tossed out the notion, without putting a lot of thought into it, that “I mean, The Great Gatsby is a murder mystery told in reverse. A crime writer would have started with the body in the pool, unpeeling the layers that led Wilson to shoot Gatsby, with the big reveal at the end that Daisy was actually driving the car.”

Laura Lippman, one of our most talented voices and one of the smartest people I know, has said that she doesn’t like when people take books that are considered ‘literature’  and use them as examples of crime novels, to give the genre more cred (and is there anything more annoying than the phrase elevates the genre? Whenever I see that it makes me homicidal, because it implies that everything else in the genre is garbage), like those who say, “well, Crime and Punishment is a crime novel.” The definition of mystery that Mystery Writers of America uses, though, (paraphrasing) is “any fiction about a crime; the commission of, the solving of,  the events leading to,and/or the after-effects of,  a crime.” Dostoyevsky’s book certainly fits that description, as does To Kill a Mockingbird, Les Miserables, Sanctuary, and so many other books. Laura’s point, though, is that there are plenty of crime novels that are literature and can be seen as such without having to pull in books that aren’t traditionally seen as crime novels to give the genre credibility.

But in all honesty, I would rather read The Great Gatsby written as a crime novel rather than the way it is written and structured. It’s fine–don’t come for me, Gatsby fans, seriously–as it is, but I think the themes could be explored more deeply in a crime novel. On this read, I didn’t find I cared or liked the characters any more than I did the first time; I’m certain that was Fitzgerald’s intent. Nick, our narrator and our introduction to the glittering world of the rich in the 1920’s, may not be the most reliable narrator. Tom and Daisy are, frankly, awful people. Tom is an aggressive bully who thinks nothing of cheating on his wife or hitting a woman; the scene where he breaks Myrtle Wilson’s nose is horrific. Daisy is a self-absorbed narcissist needing constant entertainment; the two of them are a perfect match, and one can only wonder about how awful of a person their daughter will be when she grows up. (Hmmm, now there’s a book idea: Daisy’s Daughter.)

We don’t really learn much about Gatsby at first, other than he seems to have a lot of money, lives in an enormous house in less fashionable West Egg, and throws a lot of parties. There are lots of rumors about him, which Nick dutifully records, but the reader does eventually discover that he grew up very poor, but during World War I he was briefly stationed in Louisville before deploying, where he met and fell in love with Daisy before she married Tom. Whether he actually loved her or simply became obsessed with her we never know, as readers; but not being good enough for Daisy is what drove him to get money–because he believed that his poverty was the thing that kept Daisy from his side, and also convinced himself that she loved him. They do reunite during the course of the book, but again, Daisy isn’t really in love with him. She’s just bored and knows Tom is cheating on her, but in the big confrontation scene in the apartment in New York where Tom usually meets Myrtle, Daisy just sits there and won’t commit to either man. She is the one who accidentally runs Myrtle over in the road–which leads her cuckolded husband to shoot Jay Gatsby while he floats on an inflatable raft in his pool. The funeral of the man who threw such lavish parties, filled with people, is sparsely attended; Tom and Daisy simply go away, wash their hands of the mess, and go on with their lives. Gatsby–and Myrtle–were just blips in their lives; speed bumps they had to slow for and forgot about once they moved past. Nick’s disgust with them–which they would no doubt laugh about as bourgeois middle class moralizing, also leads him to end his budding relationship with the athletic Jordan Baker, who is basically cut from the same cloth. She cares so little for Nick, it turns out–who she has been seeing for the entire summer–that when he didn’t call her for a few days she just shrugged and moved on. An embittered Nick says of them all, They were careless people, unconcerned with the people whose lives they’ve smashed.

The book sadly still holds up in its theme; the rich continue to be careless and unconcerned with other people; almost more so today than in Fitzgerald’s time. Gatsby, so desperate to be one of them, was never accepted and forgotten once he was gone.

I enjoyed the book much more this time out; as an adult, its look at classism in what was supposed to be a classless society made more sense, and resonated more, and the characters seemed more real; the thirteen year old sophomore who originally read the book didn’t know enough of the world for the book to resonate. It would be terrific if someone would do an homage-like update of the story; although the case could be made that this is a storyline that runs through almost every iteration of the Real Housewives shows.

And now, back to the spice mines.