Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Dearest of Dedications

Every time I get a new book, I crack it open and look for a dedication.  These brief lines usually tell a story all of their own, apart from the book’s premise.  I love them, because they can provide us with a quick glimpse into the personal lives of the writers we follow.  

Sometimes, dedications are short and sweet, just “For you” or “To my love…”  Other times, they are long lists of helpers and inspirations.  And still, there are more that cryptic and mysterious – an inside joke only to be understood by those they’re meant for.

This semester I heard about a little book completely regarding dedications and the stories behind them.  I knew I had to have.  A quick click on Amazon and a few days later, it arrived on my doorstep!
Published in 2008, Marlene Wagman-Geller’s “Once Again to Zelda: The Stories Behind Literature’s Most Intriguing Dedications,” is a perfectly light and interesting read.  

Of course, you all know now that even if I didn’t like dedications, I probably would have given in to buying it simply because it references both my beloved F. Scott Fitzgerald and his Great Gatsby! 

As the title suggests, Wagman-Geller does, indeed, discuss FSF’s dedication in her book.  Relying on research, she writes of the tumultuous relationship between Scott and Zelda.  Furthermore, she delves into the ways that his life experience leaked into all of his stories.  “Once again to Zelda” stands not only as Fitzgerald’s dedication of The Great Gatsby, but also as a resounding declaration of his eternal love for Zelda.  Wagman-Geller’s recounting of their lives drives home the poignancy of FSF’s dedication.

In total, the book dissects 50 different literary dedications.  Some of my favorites, including To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, and The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, are among those discussed.  Each of the entries is easily-readable, well-researched, and provides insight into our most beloved authors.

Marlene Wagman-Geller, of course, included a dedication of her own to the book’s prefacing pages: “To my Js – And to the writers whose fictionalized worlds have forever enriched our own.”  It’s a lovely dedication, I think.

But my favorite part of the particular used copy I received comes from a handwritten note scrawled across some blank pages.  It reads: “To the most avid reader we know – Emilie.  Much love, Mom & Dad. 07/02/09.”  At first, I felt saddened to think “Em” had received this gift only to give it away, but thinking about now, I feel like maybe she passed it along so other avid readers could experience it…

If any of you wishes to read it, simply let me know and I’ll send it along!

Gaga over Gatsby

As promised in my last post, I am still talking about the work of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Some of you might have wondered why I only gave The Great Gatsby a meager nod last go-around.  The answer, which will be abundantly obvious in a few moments, is that I feel the book deserves its own post.

For many, The Great Gatsby is FSF’s best work.  The book continues to be used in high school classrooms and book clubs.  It is praised around the world as a classic and definitive novel about the lifestyles of the rich and famous in the Jazz Age. 

The book’s iconic cover even graces some clothing and other items on the trendy and very current website:  This shirt {and others like it}, plus an iPhone cover and tote bag, are some of the items available from their Gatsby store:

In keeping with all of his writings, Gatsby is filled with events and characters that mirror those on Fitzgerald’s personal life.  Perhaps, it is this intimacy that makes the story so strong and memorable. 
I mentioned in my last post that I love the way that FSF describes things.  

Some of my favorite scenes in The Great Gatsby are ones that give details of JG’s lavish parties.  The first one, read in Chapter 3, is depicted deliciously with lines like:

  • “Men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars…” 
  • “On buffet tables, garnished with glistening hors d’oeuvre, spiced baked hams crowded against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold…”
  • “Laughter is easier minute by minute, spilled with prodigality, tipped out at a cheerful word…”

We can also examine Gatsby for the recurring themes of Fitzgerald’s work: beauty, fame, money, love – or a lack thereof.  As with many of his pieces, The Great Gatsby is a constant mix of emotions.  There is lust and passion, anger and greed, jealousy.  There is love, kindness, friendship.  FSF takes us on a rolleroaster, careening around sharp turns, leading us high into the clouds, only to dash our hopes with a quick fall to the bottom.  It is a fabulous ride!

If you haven’t read it, you should.  If for no other reason than to be more aware of the storyline before you see the newest release of The Great Gatsby on film.  I will be in the seats on opening night {May 10th}, hoping against all hope that director, Baz Luhrmann, was able to capture the greatness of Fitzgerald’s literary masterpiece.

Happy reading {and watching}!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Falling for Fitzgerald

One of the big reasons I decided to take this Literature class was its inclusion of some F. Scott Fitzgerald material.  Since my middle school exposure to his work, I have adored all things FSF!  He is, hands-down, my favorite American writer – far above my second favorite, Steinbeck.  

I love the way that he describes textures, colors, and tastes. I love how brutally honest he can get when discussing things like lost love, fading beauty, lonely riches, and empty fame.  I love how his stories can transport me back to the eras in which they were written.  

His characters range from the romantic to the vapid from the honest to the evil.  Each of them has their own set of problems.  But, best of all, the characters are accessible – They seem to represent people we actually know in our current lives.  Furthermore, these characters give us a glimpse into his own personal and tragic life with his beloved Zelda.

{I love Fitzgerald so much that I’ll be talking about him/his work in some way for each of my final three posts!}

If you haven’t read much Fitz, you should definitely get on it. While The Great Gatsby might be the most popular of his works, FSF has a treasure trove of other gems.  I own a collection of his stories edited by Matthew J Bruccoli and published in 1989.  It includes over forty of his delectable short stories.

Here are my top ten picks {in alphabetical order}:

  • Bernice Bobs Her Hair
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • The Diamond as big as the Ritz
  • Head and Shoulders
  • The Ice Palace
  • Last Kiss
  • More than Just a House 
  • The Sensible Thing
  • The Swimmers
  • Winter Dreams

Before summer makes its official debut, pop into your local library to check-out a Fitzgerald collection.  Find a cozy spot in the shade, make some iced tea, and settle in for the ultimate in American literature!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Glorious Goodbyes

This past week, one of my cousins was involved in a tragic car accident that took her life.  She had just turned twenty-one in January and left behind a gorgeous and giggly baby girl.  As news of the accident spread through my family, I was struck again by just how fragile our lives are.

We hear of so many terrible events like this.  Always accompanying these headlines are phrases that echo the idea that life is too short.  Our end often come after what seems was just our beginning.  In the most rapid of blinks, we have lived and died.  We are here and gone.

When my cousin was born, she had a hole in her heart.  At just 6-weeks old, doctors at Riley Children's Hospital performed open heart surgery.  Her whole life had been a struggle, ups and downs, smiles and frowns.  Somehow, she always seem bent on optimism.  She loved anything tie-dye.  She lived the words to her favorite Lion King song, Hakuna Matata - which in case you don't know, means "no worries"!

When I woke up this morning, my heart was heavy.  I, indeed, had worries.  I logged onto Facebook and wrote this status:

"... Today, my family will gather to say "Until next time..." to my cousin. For Christians like us, it is bittersweet. We will mourn our earthly loss, but rejoice in heaven's gain. Please send your thoughts and prayers - particularly to her mother, brother & sisters, boyfriend, and 10-month-old daughter. May joy for her life win over sorrow for her death, may peace triumph over pain, and may laughter echo among the tears! ♥ Rest now, until we meet again..."

Afterwards, I sat reading through a variety of poems about death and goodbyes.

Here are some of my favorite findings.  They are comforting and rich.  Each of them reminds me that death cannot end the impact of our lives.  As such, we should maintain happiness and hope.  We should focus not on our troubles, but on our triumphs.  We should have no worries...

A song of living

Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.
I have sent up my gladness on wings, to be lost in the blue of the sky.
I have run and leaped with the rain, I have taken the wind to my breast.
My cheeks like a drowsy child to the face of the earth I have pressed.
Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.

I have kissed young love on the lips, I have heard his song to the end,
I have struck my hand like a seal in the loyal hand of a friend.
I have known the peace of heaven, the comfort of work done well.
I have longed for death in the darkness and risen alive out of hell.
Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.

I gave a share of my soul to the world, when and where my course is run.
I know that another shall finish the task I surely must leave undone.
I know that no flower, nor flint was in vain on the path I trod.
As one looks on a face through a window, through life I have looked on God,
Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.

-Amelia Burr

I fall asleep

I fall asleep in the full and certain hope
That my slumber shall not be broken;
And that though I be all-forgetting,
Yet shall I not be forgotten,
But continue that life in the thoughts and deeds
of those I loved.

-Samuel Butler

Miss me, but let me go

When I come to the end of the road,
And the sun has set for me,
I want no rites in a gloom filled room
Why cry for a soul set free?
Miss me a little - but not for long.
And not with your head bowed low.
Remember the love that once we shared.
Miss me, but let me go.
For this is a journey we must all take,
And each must go alone.
It's all part of the master plan,
A step on the road to home.
When you are lonely and sick at heart,
Go to the friends we know,
Laugh at all the things we used to do.
Miss me, but let me go.