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The Grey Matters

Gatsby is a Verb


Gatsby is a Verb

and Fitzgerald was WAY ahead of us…

{You may not understand the phrase, “Dude, you totally just Gatsby’d that.” But don’t worry… you will soon. }

I am in a fantastic book club. We’ve read so many great books this year…The Night Circus, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Casual Vacancy, The Hunger Games Trilogy, and more. This month we decided to read a classic. And since the movie is coming out soon, Book Ends Book Club chose The Great Gatsby to read… and boy, am I glad we did.

Because this book is such a classic, I’m going to go ahead and assume that everyone basically knows what happens in the book. {aka, minor spoiler alert!}

Some discussion topics we covered included:

Why was this book called The Great Gatsby?

Is the generation in the 1920’s just like us?

Is marriage ever worth it? Will anyone ever just be faithful?

What was Gatsby’s big downfall and how can we learn from it?

How much of the past should we focus on?

This was one of the most enjoyable book discussions I have ever had a hand in. I honestly wasn’t expecting such a reaction from us gals who read it, but we all had a lot to say.

First things first.

I’d like to point out is that our generation is NOT doing ANYTHING new. We think YOLO  {which I’ll never say again on this blog… I hate it! Just say the words!} and ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN and making the most of the night LIKE WE’RE GONNA DIE YOUNG are new themes? We think that all of us young adults in the year 2012 could possibly have come up with any of this on our own? Let me show you something.

In The Great Gatsby:

When Myrtle (wife of Wilson) first met Tom (husband of Daisy) and he began to flirt with her on the train, at first she felt as if she should brush it off. They were both married, after all. This might not be a “do the right thing” kind of feeling… she just wasn’t sure how to respond. But then…

“…I was so excited that when I got into a taxi with him I didn’t hardly know I wasn’t getting into a subway train. All I kept thinking about, over and over, was ‘You can’t live forever; you can’t live forever.’”

See? In her time of cheating and excitement she thought “you can’t live forever.” She had a “You only live once” moment. This was written in the year 1925. They wanted to live it up, too.

Another interesting point I’d like to discuss is this quote, said by the narrator {and who I’d like to call “hidden or behind the scenes main character”} :

“I’m thirty,” I said. “I’m five years too old to lie to myself and call it honor.”

So when we’re 25 we can lie and call it honor? I’m 23, so looks like I have two more fun years ahead. Just kidding! But this quote is one that I underlined because it really had me thinking. More than once, the age of thirty is mentioned in The Great Gatsby, and Fitzgerald has a way of making it sound, well, old.

Which is quite the opposite of how I’ve been feeling lately. There are too many people thirty and above in my life who seem younger than ever. They don’t seem like that mystical age of “thirty” that people fear. They’re living life, getting into shape, making thirty look so good, that I am no longer afraid to age. So at least our generation is breaking that mold, especially if the twenty-somethings of the 1920’s (or perhaps just Fitzgerald) couldn’t quite cope with aging.

WE CAN. We are. We are going to live like we’re young forever, just like all the songs say :)

Next came the big topic— Gatsby himself.

Gatsby spent five years pining away over the memory of a lost love. He loved Daisy, lost her while he was away for the military, and never quite got past it. It’s that old tale… she married someone else. But his memory of her escalated to almost silly heights. She was perfect, the one he wanted, and Gatsby went to amazing lengths to see her again.

Only to pretty much have it go horribly wrong. She wasn’t as great as he remembered. She didn’t really love him as much as he had hoped, and they didn’t end up together. (oh, yeah, and three people, Gatsby included, died because of all the mess…) They probably never should have been together. And since he is The Great Gatsby… I think that his actions are strong enough to cause Gatsby to now be a verb.

If you GATSBY something, you give it too much credit. You “the grass is greener on the other side” the heck out of something.


An ex-boyfriend. If you Gatsby this person, you only remember the good things. You forget all the times he made you cry or paid more attention to another girl. You remember the one time he called when he said he would or told you that you were beautiful. You want him back. You think he’s just as good looking as way back when.

A life you wish you had. Attention! Single people- not all married people are what they seem. Married people- not all single people are living the high life.

Something that looks glamorous… like smoking. Some of you may think I’m crazy for adding this here. But seriously. I know I’m not alone in thinking, every once in a while, that certain people make smoking look cool. I’ve smoked two cigarettes in my life. One was in seventh grade with Meredith in the backyard. The second was this week. I Gatsby’d the whole thing. I thought, “I’m stressed, this will relax me. My lungs are healthy. They can take it. Also, I dressed great tonight and I might even look okay doing it.” Result? I didn’t feel relaxed, but I also didn’t get sick like my friend thought I might. I just didn’t feel anything at all. I certainly didn’t feel cool. I’ll leave the looking-good-smoking thing up to my girl crush, Melanie Laurent. (google her!)

Or people may be Gatsby-ing you. While we were at book club, discussing the new Gatsby theory, one member received a text message from an ex boyfriend from more than seven years ago. It said something along the lines of, “Hey. Thinking of you and that one time we first hung out…” blah blah blah. Yeah. I know. It was freaking meant to be or something. The moment could not have been more perfect. She admitted that he was certainly Gatsby-ing her lately.

Just like another post I had concerning marriage, this book leads us to the inevitable question:

Does marriage ever really work as perfectly as we think? Is the dream of marriage a reality for anyone?

Three of us who were there at book club were married. One was not. The one who wasn’t said, “Okay, I’m going to say something that you guys probably won’t agree with… but this book makes me think that no one should get married.”

She expected us to all shout out that she was very wrong and that we were offended, but we all took a look around, thought about it, and muttered “yeah… kind of.”

According to the book, anyway. There are so many reasons why I would agree with her statement. People change. People grow out of love. People do things that are reckless and stupid and selfish. People who should stay together get divorced. People who should get divorced stay together. The past holds too much importance for some people and not enough for others.

NONE OF IT MAKES SENSE. Except for when you wake up in the  morning and have a reason to smile. Then, and only then, does life make sense. Whether it’s because your cat has just snuggled up to you (which I will never understand…) or because you husband is there with his arms around you… if there is at least one little reason, then yes… life begins to make sense. Even though we are all imperfect, Gatsby-ing, crazies who are floating along this thing we call life, we are doing it, at least.

This book actually inspired me to live a little. It made me realize that people are human and that (just like for Daisy and Tom at the end, who disappear after basically messing everything up…) life will always go on. That’s the thing about it. We wake up, live another day, and hopefully we can smile and enjoy it. Just make sure you don’t Gatsby anything. Or if you do, make it a good one.


Author: Melinda Haas

Melinda is a writer, blogger, artist and teacher. She lives in Wisconsin with her family.

4 thoughts on “Gatsby is a Verb

  1. Kudos to you for creating a word! I love that! You built your case for it perfectly and I will do my part to help it catch on You gave excellent examples of places we all have a tendency to Gatsby a situation. I also enjoyed all the current music you brought up. You are so right; “You only live once” is everywhere right now! I hadn’t realized! I feel like the kids who eat that music up are the ones who DON’T need that message and the ones who DO need it will never hear those songs.

  2. SO TRUE!!!!!!! Thanks Cindy!!! I totally agree. And thanks… I think that with your help, the word will become famous haha :)

  3. I love this! I totally get Gatsby being a verb. Sounds like an interesting discussion. Also, what did you think of the Night Circus? I read it a few months ago and basically devoured it. I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending, though, for some reason. Let’s just say I had a few thoughts on the book as a whole. But I thought it was very creative and a fun read.

    • Awesome! I’m glad you agree with the whole Gatsby/verb thing. Especially since you are a grammar queen. I LOOOVED the Night Circus. I thought it was so good. I, too, devoured it in almost one sitting. Everyone I know who read it wasn’t too thrilled with the ending. After alllllll that suspense and pent up amazingness, the ending was just kind of blah. I thought the entire book was original and authentic and I really wanted the two magicians to get together. I guess I wish they could have been together normally? Oh, well.

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