Can I Still Be A Gatsby Scholar Even Though I Forgot The Plot?

Image credit:

Image credit:

Some people take great pride in their physical appearance– say long silky hair or great calves.  I am not one of those people, but I am not above taking great pride in one attribute I believe I possess.  For years, the spotlight of my pride has been shining on my memory.

I have a killer memory.  I remember what I wore on the first day of every single job I’ve had.  I remember the first question that someone (Steve) fired at me the first morning I went to group therapy (“Are you a top or a bottom?”).  I remember old boyfriends’ dogs’ names and the meal I ate right before I saw E.T.

But just as someone whose good looks are chipped away by the ravages of time, my memory has deteriorated faster than Paula Deen’s reputation.  It would take me a few minutes to remember what I had for breakfast this morning (banana and KIND bar) and an unforgiveable five minutes to remember what I wore last Thursday.

I hardly know myself anymore.

The other night Jeff and I went to see The Great Gatsby, which was one of my favorite books in high school.  My senior quote was the last line of the book: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”  I’ve considered myself something of a Gatsby expert.

The only problem is that I haven’t read the book since junior year.  That’s over *cough* *cough* two decades between me and Mr. Fitzgerald’s tale.  But still. I was smug.  I kept leaning over to Jeff “explaining” what was happening.  “Jeff, that billboard of T.J. Eckleburg symbolizes the loss of spiritual values in America and the growing commercialism of the time.”

I was aglow with self-congratulation that I remembered the themes, the names, and that I was drinking a Diet Coke right before the Gatsby exam in Miss Baker’s honors English class.

But, then, Daisy did that thing where she killed her husband’s mistress accidentally.  Oops! I hadn’t remembered that.  At all. 

I assured myself that it was just a tiny blip in my gray matter. There’d be no more surprises.  But, then, to my everlasting shock, Gatsby got shot.  What the what? I had zero memory of that.  I didn’t even remember that he died in the book.  What kind of a Gatsby scholar forgets that he died?

I decided that Baz Luhrmann must have taken some serious poetic license with his “retelling” of the story. But when I got home and Googled the plot, turns out that Mr. Luhrmann was sticking pretty close to the book.  Or at least, he was closer than I was.

Upon reflection, I believe I had confused the ending of Gatsby with the ending of Our Town, the play by Thornton Wilder, which adds yet another nail to the coffin in my chances of getting tenure as an English professor.

The only upshot, if any, to all this demoralization and loss of identity is that in a few short days, I’m hoping I won’t remember it!


24 thoughts on “Can I Still Be A Gatsby Scholar Even Though I Forgot The Plot?

  1. I am in the same *cough* cough* twenty + years since high school. I ever re read the book and I did not remember the things that you just mentioned. I knew that my memory was going about a year ago, but then I had my baby and it has been a very serious downhill slide since then!!

  2. This post was amazing. I too suffer from that deteriorating killer memory. It’s the only thing I mourn more than the loss of my boobs. So what did you think of the movie? I loved Carey Mulligan as Daisy.

  3. I loved The Great Gatsby and also considered myself somewhat of a scholar. I think we would have had many deep discussions about the book over Diet Coke together! But I’ll be damned if I would have remembered that little detail either!

  4. I have an insane memory for pretty much everything except for my chosen career. I can remember the names of every character in every romance novel I’ve ever read, the lyrics to songs I haven’t heard in years, what day and time every TV show I watch is on, and at least a few lines from every West Wing episode that ever aired. But I can hardly ever remember the names of my clients, their kids, what their estate plan entails, or any number of other things unless I look it up. I think maybe all that other stuff takes up so much space that I don’t have room for anything else. And I’m totally ok with that.

  5. I, too, used to have a great memory, but that all changed when I got knocked up. When I was about seven months pregnant, I forgot where I parked my car. I walked around for more than an hour looking for it. It’s been all downhill since then. So, I was not surprised when I saw “The Great Gatsby” and realized that I didn’t remember those key moments from the book, either.

  6. HA! I had the EXACT SAME EXPERIENCE. I was like, How could I possibly forget only the most important plot points?? And Google was the one to shame me. Wikipedia, to be exact.

  7. Preaching to the choir, darlin’! I’m freaked about how many things I don’t remember that I used to effortlessly keep tucked away in my brain for future use (to win an argument with my husband for example!). And then there’s all the useless crap I can remember (every slight, every gaffe, every dumb ass thing I’ve said/done, every dumb ass thing my husband has said/done, etc.). Ah, the joys of aging. But just think of all those classics you can reread now as if for the first time. Joy!

  8. I have a great memory too…
    I remember sitting at Pietro’s pizza eating pizza w/my sister and mother after seeing ET. My mother had cried south during the movie, that she was still trying to collect herself and eat pizza at the same time.

    It wasn’t until many years later did I fully understand her tears that day!

  9. Oh, my friend. My awesome memory is deteriorating, too. Last night, I came across a paper I wrote on The Battle of Antietam. I had written it with such certainy in college 8 years ago. And when I read it last night, I was all “wow. I didn’t know that” even though I was the one that wrote the damn thing. I couldn’t tell you a thing about Gatsby right now. Maybe I should re-read it, too. Sigh.

  10. Ah, Gatsby. Worst famous American novel. Important. But dreadful as a foreboding tale of America’s evisceration by class divide.

    Hate it. Plan to see the movie. But hate it.

  11. I have absolutely horrible comprehension. I remember liking Gatsby, can’t remember a thing about it except that I think it took place in NY and I think during the 20s. But I could be wrong about all that. And I remember what the cover of the edition I read in high school looked like. Don’t remember which teacher taught it. And I stopped remembering anything about it the minute the tst was over. Not because I didn’t love it, but because I can’t remember anything. Ever.

      • Ah, not so. I remember plenty of slights and most of the awful things I’ve ever done, so I get to be angry AND feel guilty regularly. I will forget to pick up something at the store today, even when I bring a list. It’s a gift.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s