Archive for December, 2008


Christmas Comes Early!

December 23, 2008

Well Twin I’ve decided to give your Christmas present a little early this year.  Now I know you were expecting the usual t-shirt with the slightly inappropriate sloganing that has been a staple of Jeffryes twin gift swap for the past few Christmases (“Kiss my grits” indeed!).  But I’ve decided to try something new this year and I’m giving you your Christmas present a little early this year via the blog.

It’s bi-partite so hold on to your socks!

Gift #1:  Jon’s Reading Recco’s!

Here’s a list of my five favorite books that I read last year…they should provide you with hours and hours of enjoyment.  This is indeed the gift that keeps on giving.  These are in no particular order.  Drum roll please…

1. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

     Mostly pictures…but what pictures!  This book may look huge, but it can definitely be taken in one sitting.

2. The Drunkards Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives by Leonard Mlodinow

     Not often that a book makes me look at the world in a different way, but this one definitely did.  It’s also a pretty quick read, but some of the math may slow you down (I know how you don’t like numbers), I know I had to read parts twice.

3.  August: Osage County by Tracy Letts

  This is a doozie of play…all sorts of drug addiction, weird sexual piccadilloes, and deep family secrets.  It kind of reminded me of the play that you and I wrote in seventh grade about the southern matriarch who was funneling money to the Viet Cong through the illicit sale of stolen refrigerators…but this one is actually well written.  You’ll be shocked, and saddened and you’ll laugh out loud I don’t know how many times.

4.  Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice by Janet Malcolm

   Now I know officially you recommended this book to me, but I enjoyed it so much I’m sending it back to you for a re-read.  You gotta love that Janet Malcolm!

5.  Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith, Careless in Red by Elizabeth George and When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson

   Three for one!  All great suspense books…Child 44 is probably the best, but the other three are also quite diverting reads.

So there’s part one.  I know you’re not reading Gatsby but maybe one of those will trip your trigger.

And now Part 2 of your gift comes to us via YouTube

David Bowie thinks Bing Crosby is the butler! What a hoot! I think this is the most sublimely odd Christmas carol ever sung…The way Bing and Bowie switch emphasis in the middle part of the duet is great!


Litany of Ships

December 20, 2008

Oh twin brother you are incisive…all three conclusions you drew from my last post were correct.  If Eliza Doolittle can dance all night, why by goodness I could watch her (am I the only who’s perturbed by her misnomer–how about Eliza Doo-alot…for Jon’s heart…but again these are just “words, words, words”).  Why couldn’t those ivory tower fat cats at Grinnell see the genius of my parsing of libertarian party ideology through the use of the objective correlative of a well-curled handlebar mustache–the curls represent a laissez-faire approach to the market…anyone can see it!.  And I had in fact put down Gatsby (I was waylaid by the new instant viewing feature Netflix has made available to Mac users–now that I’ve watched all of the 2nd season of 30 Rock I should be able to focus again) and lost my copy under a pile of crossword puzzles.

But it’s found now and I’ve read on.  I note in your last post you said that you had just finished Chapter 4 and went on to discuss the party that happened in Chapter 3….was this a typo or some willful deception.

If it’s willful deception than I applaud you because deception seems to live at the core of this novel.  I think no truth exists…a very post-modern modernism if you ask me (and you shouldn’t because I don’t really understand post-modernism.  All I know is that as I read this I feel radically decentered.)

Gatsby says of Jordan Baker

“Miss Baker’s a great sportswoman, you know, and she’d never do anything that wasn’t right.”

But wait a second didn’t Nick just say (in the real Chapter 3):

“She was incurably dishonest”

And Gatsby’s lying about Oxford (maybe) and Wolfsheim fixed the 1919 World Series that “play[ed] with the faith of fifty million people.”  And hey weren’t those baseball players great sportsmen too?  See radically decentered…and a little sick to my stomach.

Re-reading this book is making sad…21 year old Jon definitely glossed over the unpretty parts of the book and was swept away by the decadence and mystery (that dilettante!)  Now I see why the eyes on the cover of my book are so sad.

Well that’s all I have…until Chapter 5,


P.S.  Wait!  One more thing..I forgot the title of the post…the beginning of the chapter where he lists all the people who came to Gatsby’s parties…boring right?  What’s the point…it reminded me of the litany of ships in The Iliad…which means it definitely got skimmed.  And by skimmed I mean I’ve never read the Iliad…j/k!  read it twice and wrote a rather stirring paper (if I do say so myself) on Glaucus and Diomedes and the culture of gift-giving…if you’d like me to expound, I will.  But my guess is that you don’t, so adieu!


Reading Between the Lines

December 18, 2008

Thank you, Twin Brother, for that edu-taining post. (It’s educational? It’s entertaining? No, it’s edu-taining.) Your thought provoking post allowed me to once again use my close reading skills and delve into the subtext of what you’ve written. Having done so I have come to 3 conclusions:

1. You really, really like My Fair Lady

2. You are still arguing your thesis from your freshman poli sci paper “That Was a Close Shave: Facial Hair and Socialist Ideology.”

3. You haven’t actually read the book in a while.

I just finished chapter 4, and I will tell you it kind of gave me the creeps. The idea of this huge party that no one seems to have actually been invited to (like the guy in the library says, “Who brought you?…Or did you just come? I was brought. Most people were brought.”). I feel like it’s the party for the damned or something.

Someone cue the theremin, because things are getting a little creepy. (The theremin does make that creepy ethereal music from old movies, right? If not, cue whatever instrument you feel makes creepy music. If it’s not the theremin, for me it’s the oboe. Nothing says “creepy music” like a woodwind.)

And can I just say what a relief it is to have Nick Caraway guiding us through this book. I mean someone with the self-awareness to say of themselves: “I am one of the few honest people I have ever known.”

The really scary part is that when I read this book the first time, i really identified with Nick Caraway. This now begs the question: What kind of jerk was I when I was 19? (This is merely a rhetorical question. There’s no need for you to actually answer.)

Anyway I will leave you with my favorite exchange from chapter 4:

“Whenever he sees I’m having a good time he wants to go home.”
“Never heard anything so selfish in my life”
“We’re always the first ones to leave.”
“So are we.”

This book does crack me up.



Foiled Again!

December 16, 2008

Learning opportunity alert!  What you referred to in your last post as Gatsby’s bizarro-Tom-ness (a reference, I believe to Superman, or the Seinfeld episode where Elaine starts dating bizarro-Jerry, that was, I believe a reference to Superman–ah the Circle of Life…somewhere a baboon is lifting a lion cub up to the red, red sun…don’t drop him baboon, because if you do, you’ll be lion lunch–no pressure!).

Anywhosit that bizarro-like quality has a name in literary circles…that being that Tom is Gatsby’s foil. (Does this sound condescending…its kind of supposed to, but in a gentle, friendly way.)  Here’s what Wikipedia says about foils:

foil is a character that contrasts with another character (usually the protagonist) and so highlights various facets of the main character’s personality. A foil usually has some important characteristics in common with the other character, such as, frequently, superficial traits or personal history. The author may use the foil to throw the character of the protagonist into sharper relief.  (Wikipedia)

Other famous foils in literature

  • Mr. Badger and Mr. Toad
  • Dorothea Brooke and Rosamund Lydgate
  • The Fonz and Mr. C

Wasn’t that fun…I love to learn!

I also love GBS trivia–George Bernard Shaw rocks my world! (LOVE that bushy, bushy beard!)

Shaw did not accept the monetary award that went with his Nobel Prize (he’s a socialist and proud of it…just look at that bushy, bushy beard!  Shaving’s for Capitalist fat cats with gold tipped canes and bow ties with dollar bill sign insignia).  Instead he asked that that money be donated to the translation of Swedish literature into English.  (Once again, Wikipedia–lots of interesting facts and all for free…socialist Shaw would approve, I like to think).

Also I went to George Bernard Shaw’s house while I was in Dublin…it was tiny and I had to walk a long way in the rain to get there.  That’s all.

Oh yeah…AND I saw My Fair Lady twice when I was in London.

The Great Who?  Gatsby what?

Jon Out.


Distracted by “The World”

December 14, 2008

Apologies for my lack of posting. I have been a bit distracted from my Gatsby reading. I am currently knee deep in The World Is What It Is: the Authorized Biography of V.S. Naipaul, but I have read a few bits and pieces. 

I actually took a swing at posting on Friday, but it was, in all honesty, the most idiotic thing ever written. (When a post revolves around obscure pieces of Brady Bunch trivia and George Bernard Shaw–I mean who doesn’t love a good Pygmalion reference–it’s probably now worth posting.) It truly would have been a punishment for you and any one else who happens to stumble on our blog to read.

I’ve read the first half of Chapter 3 and here are my thoughts so far:

It’s becoming increasingly clear that Tom Buchanan is kind of like the Bizarro-Gatsby:

Gatsby is a mystery while everybody knows everything there is to know about Tom. In case you missed it he has a “girl in the city.” (Even Daisy knows, for crying out loud.) Tom throws the nightmare party from hell while Gatsby through quite a fancy shindig.

Well, I may have more thoughts after finishing the chapter. (I can promise quantity, I cannot, however, promise quality.) Until then, I will leave you this little piece of GBS trivia:

George Bernard Shaw is the only person to ever have been awarded both an Oscar (for the aforementioned Pygmalion) and a Nobel Prize.

So long, 



I Speak for the Trees

December 13, 2008

So Twin I just finished Chapter 3 and Gatsby finally makes his appearance!  But even when he makes his appearance I feel like he is shrouded in mystery.  Everytime I read this book (i.e. now and back in college–that makes it sound like I’m just always paging through Gatsby thinking these wonderfully deep thoughts) it always makes me think of The Lorax and Gatsby is like the narrator of that story, who wreaks havoc on the forest and all we ever see is his arm.  I think its because as a kid that character was a somewhat troubling enigma to me (living all alone in the decimated forest with all of his riches) and as an adult I feel the same way about GG.

That and both books make me want to recycle (all that party waste!)

Sometimes I look at the notations of 21 year old Jon and I ask myself who was this naive, young, devastatingly handsome young man?  Another highlight highlight…I chose to mark this nugget for future reference–it’s only a fragment of a sentence

…shawls beyond the dreams of Castile

I bet that came in handy when the final came around.  But I guess I always have been a shawl man (although I like to refer to them as “pashimas”).

Two more things and then I’m off to Chapter 4.

1.)  I love the description of Jordan Baker’s driving…it took me back to the days I drove the pastry truck around the pre-sunlit streets of Grinnell delivering coffee cakes and danish to hungry masses of Grinnell College students.  I’d be clutching the wheel of that midsized box truck with whitened knuckes thinking as I saw every car come my way “See me!  See me!  Be cautious because my truck is gigantic!”

2.)  My conversation with Nick Carraway:

Nick:  “I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known.”

Me: Liar.

Speaking for the trees,

Jon (Lorax)


The Bocce Ball of Accord

December 10, 2008

You are correct… I was veritably seething after your last post (but you’ll note not so angry that I felt the need to bring out croquet metaphors–when I start talking about Double Taps and Irish Peels then you’ll know that I’m real mad), but since you’ve rolled a gentle apology my way I feel able to move on and keep talking Gatsby.

I also believe that you are correct in your assessment of Chapter 2…was that not the least fun party that you’ve ever been invited to?  I’m trying to think of things that could have made that party more awkward or uncomfortable and nothing short of an unexplained grizzly attack comes to mind.  (Unexplained, of course, because everyone knows that grizzlies summer in the Hamptons).  But I don’t know if the characters are so unlikeable (except, of course, for Tom–he’s definitely a dick no matter how you slice it–he broke her nose!) as that Nick doesn’t like them and he’s telling the story.  And we know he’s unreliable because he completely excises his little “interlude” (Which I shall include in euphemistic quotation marks) with Mr. McKee…one second they’re in the elevator, then McKee’s in his underoos in bed, and then Nick’s back at the train station and it’s four in the morning.  Keep your hands off the lever indeed!

But I kind of like Daisy, I think.  And the puppy seemed nice.

Do the eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg upset you?  They upset me–freaky crap!

Well that’s all I got…I’m kind of book clubbed out after Books and Bars tonight.  Hopefully I’ll be back to my incisive analytical best next time we type.