Oh how I loved the Great Gatsby. Not the book. I can’t be having with the book. But the Baz envisaged, glitzy hairband wearing, Leo wincing, Lana singing, flower and confetti filled version made me giddy, and it had nothing to do with camera angles.
I probably can’t explain it very well, as anything I attempt sounds fan-girl and gushy. But it isn’t about pretty dresses or long-loved actors any more than it’s about wishing I could sample the champagne.
I loved it because it made me feel… joy and melancholy and hope and that rare feeling of being small and mighty at the same time, of your whole life stretching out before you while simultaneously some of the best bits have dripped away.
The bittersweet, press the ache, stare into the face of the creeping worry, the delicious thrill of horror that everything is at your fingertips if you could only reach a little farther. I loved it because it made me think and I can’t brush it off like stale popcorn from a plush seat. It lingers with me, making me impulsive and happy and thankful and, strangest of all, hopeful.
It isn’t a hopeful story. Almost everything goes wrong for the people you get attached to. But neither is it real, neither is it my story, neither is mine the hopelessness of the final line.
It is one of the best I think, the desperate stinging finish offered through clenched teeth by the shattered narrator. The idea that we live our whole lives striving forward for what is behind us, never attaining, never resting, never knowing, grasping, satisfied.
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
It’s profound because we feel this, don’t we, sometimes? As though nothing of note will ever change. Because behind is all we know for sure everything ahead is measured by it. Is the watermelon as sweet as that time when I wore the green silk skirt from the shop in the railway station that I don’t remember throwing away? Am I as happy under these country stars as I was years ago when everything was younger and I forgot to bring socks and the milk froze overnight?
I have these moments every change of season, the first balmy night in spring, when I smell certain flowers, when I least expect it. I have the wistful ‘I just want to drive all night’ moments that aren’t bad or good or rational, brought on by the old colliding with new, the years lining up in comparable jasmine scented rows.
And I think, remind myself in those moments as now, that I’m not a victim of my past, destined to repeat old mistakes or long for broken because it didn’t used to be and I’ve forgotten. I remember in those moments that this beautiful life just keeps going forward, and that the one in charge is the only one who can be trusted.
Lists get longer, of good and bad and everything in between. Moments pile up, file away, words fly out and don’t return. You love more, you hurt more, you sin more, you learn more. And God. God knows the end that isn’t like the past. The end secured in the very real past, the end that isn’t an end at all but the ultimate Last Battle beginning of the story that we were made to live.
The hope set before us, an anchor for our lives.