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Monday, January 15, 2007

The End of Trimalchio and Run Between the Raindrops

The end of "Trimalchio," just like "Gatsby's," is one of the most memorable in the history of the literature of the 20th Century. It is that passage that has--for better or worse--jaded teachers to instruct the novel centered around the value of "the green light" at the end of Daisy's dock. The novel really is much more than the green light. The light transformed into Gatsby's dream becomes then a metaphor for reckless ambition and deceit, much more in tune with the main theme of the novel. It is difficult to pick a character to directly associate with; to allow ourselves to be led unquestioningly by Nick Carraway is readers' suicide. Is there a sympathetic character in this novel? If not, why is it the classic American novelistic achievement it is? Tom and Daisy are scratched off from the beginning of the novel. Nick is too much into himself for the reader to give in peacefully into his epiphanies and meanderings. Gatsby earns some pity from the reader, but pity doesn't cut it, really. Jordan Baker is, despite her vampirism, the only openly dishonest person in the book. She accepts her condition because she always gets her way. The Wilson's are not minor characters, as some major literary criticism would have them be, but their effort is a little too late in the book for redemption. So where does that leave the reader? It is only Fitzgerald's technique and artistry that keeps the reader begging for more, even at the end when the catastrophic events bring the novel to a resolution. I always teach this from the stand point of reader's enjoyment rather than to make a political, gender or literary criticism statement. At any rate, reading "Trimalchio" was more than satisfactory. It was like having a conversation about Gatsby with the master himself.

I am re-reading two novels I read when I was in high school. The first one was the first book I read this year, "War Year," by John Haldeman and the second one which I am reading right now is "Run Between the Raindrops" by Dale A. Dye. These are two novels about the Vietnam war. They are written brutally honest, and carry with them all the pain and horror of that conflict. The language is "dirty" language. That is not to say that the language is sexual or deviant in content, but rather that it is written in a vernacular that is so steeped with the language of the infantry man so as to have the effect of ripping to shreds all the stylistic rules of standard novelistic language. The action centers around the Battle of Hue City in 1968. It follows a group of United States Marines in their almost hopeless charge against the walls of the citadel. Why am I reading this book? I have been thinking lately about my own war experience (first Iraqi war) and how memories fade and affect me when I see what's going on in Iraq today. I miss the grunts, that's all.

I am actually going to write a bit more this coming week about the creative process. I am really trying to make an effort to finish some projects I started last year. We'll see where it all ends up.

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