Since I feel indifferent about Great Gatsby (I know, I know, I’m one in a million, but I’m team Zelda and I can’t love F. Scott without feeling guilty towards Zelda). There are other reasons, amongst them that I don’t particularly like reading about wealthy people. I also don’t like reading about wealthy complainers. My least favorite thing is reading about wealthy people who are scheming to be wealthier people, but are full of lies and secrets. Now don’t get me wrong, I like watching reality television with this basis because I can laugh at the ridiculousness of their problems (not that problems can be judged on different levels because everyone faces problems differently), but books, books are too much my heart. Books are supposed to carry the deep, ancient truths of the world in their words. Rich peoples lives are too far away from my own truths.
I also know that we’re supposed to be able to read about lives that are not like ours, but I just feel like every book I’ve ever read about rich people is this glass bubble that once it’s popped, it’s only a downhill climb. I’ve felt like this about nonfiction as well, for example, Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, make me want to throw something, hard, against the wall. I felt the moments she discussed the love she shared with her husband and the codependence which they lived, I didn’t like the private planes.
I forgave and forgot though.
Gatsby premiered a few weeks ago to a soundtrack by Jay-Z, Oh Baz, and instead of reading Gatsby to prepare, I’ve beed reading Appointment in Samarra. Penguin sent me a beautiful Deluxe Edition with their new classic’s cover. It’s radiant with bold golden fonts, a tanned man reaching a little too low on his lady’s apple bottom, a tuba player in the big band strapping tuxedo, a drinking glass spilling over and a fresh Caddy, lights beaming. Even the pages are in fancy diary style with ripped edges and side pockets on the front and back bindings. I love using those side pockets as a quick bookmark, no need to find that finger-printed receipt in your purse. The book will be used as a very fancy decoration on my front table.
That being said, we’ll start at the small stuff. Since good things come in small packages.
John O’Hara doesn’t really love to indent, or have paragraphs really at all. Full pages will be stock-drummed with words. To a reader, this is a disadvantage. Of course, Penguin can’t indent where the author didn’t intend to have indent because that would make the integrity of the book a little less real. However, this is a HUGE disadvantage for the reader. When words are all smushed (it isn’t a word, but it fits here) together it doesn’t give me much satisfaction to turn the page because it took me a small desert of words to finally get to that sweep. Small things, small things, but very big.
Here’s what especially bothered me about Appointment in Samarra, you know from the very first sentence, the back book blurb in fact, that everything in this couple’s life is going to go wrong. You don’t know the truth of the pistol in the mouth (I’m not ruining anything), but you know it’s all downhill from here. In fact, you don’t even get to see them in their high-time, you’re just told that Caroline is a swell gal and I really wanted to believe them, I really wanted to say, “Yes, you’re right, Caroline, she is a swell gal” and do my “har, har” and clink champagne glasses with O’Hara, but I can’t. Caroline was loyal, that’s for damn sure. Her husband skips off with Dita Von Teese and she’s not even half worried about the transparent glow between Dita’s thighs in her lounge singing dress. Caroline puts up with a lot of shit, it needed a cuss word. Her husband is on a binge of stewing the pot. We find out why towards the end, which isn’t quite evident in the beginning, but one can suppose since we’ve been living the high-life in the clubs of Gibbsville since the second chapter.
Julian English isn’t the most desirable of fellows. I think he’d be quite attractive if I was a sweet young dame waiting for a spot to be filled on my dance card, but otherwise he enjoys one too many glasses of scotch. He spends far too much time in the men’s room and with dirty priests and especially bad-mouthing Catholics in Great Depression Pennsylvania. Needless to say, he isn’t my favorite literary character. His wife is redeeming when we learn about her past and her vague naivety. Her mother, ugh. Selfish woman who wants to stay in the character of the 1930’s and claim no divorces in the family. I wanted to strangle that woman with a mink coat. She was far too respectable, too 1930’s, too leave-the-past-in-the-past-darling, and the woman is only in the book for a few chapters. She’s that disturbing on the page.
I guess all of this goes to show that I can’t really hate this book. The characters were fully thought-out, they were just despicable. And people like them live in the world today and probably will continue to live in the world. Unless I win the lottery, I will never know what it feels like to wear a cocktail dress in a golf club because I’m not that kind of a girl. I’m more likely to dress up as an old-man golfer with a club hat and knee socks. However, it was nice living it for a time. Seeing the dark side of money, the wink of Franklin’s eye on the billfold.