Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Fitzgerald

Life or the living? This charlatan of a magician

We want to believe we had a dream,

As a kid, reckless, careless, cheerful, forgetful

We must have had a dream, everybody says so…

We cling to that forgotten dream,

 

Gone with the wind for mysterious reasons.

Now adult and mad, for never recalling what was this beautiful dream

And we create another delusional dream,

Weaved out of and around the skills and talents we scrambled feverishly to acquire and boast of.

 

And we go crazy, seeing the world in black and white,

Struggling to be convinced that a dream must be an all-right world

Fighting the Great Evil, the Great Satan, master of all the wrong values

And we commit the most absurd acts of violence

On these criminal elements, poisoning our dream value system,

And we go on rampage, carrying banners of the most idiotic arbitrary concepts

 

Mid-age:

We blame our disillusion on these chaotic and vile realities that is life,

This “foul dust

Fooling us on a full moonlight

Watching this staircase, a ladder to heaven,

Perched up high to suck on the pap of life

Gulping down the incomparable milk of wonder…”

 

Along the way, we missed

These streaks of happy moments,

Failed to observe the real people

Characters rich in complex reality of life.

 

Along the way, we got lost, and we missed

To empathize with the pain, frustration of all the others’

Diverse dreamers of all kinds of “illusory dreams“,

Just like ours…

 

This foul dust amidst our chimeric failure,

To whatever we convinced ourselves we were after. for success and happiness

And we are getting old, really old,

And we reach this famous conclusion that

It was all illusion, a drama we played on this comical stage

 

As if we ever started with anything more than a delusional dream.

Loss of the illusion,

This heavy baggage grown-ups carry and nurse

To enjoy this acrid taste:

Licking our self-made wounds

 

The hero who wants to end a martyr

For all the dreamers of a better world…

And we missed the reveries, sources of our impossible imagination,

We missed the fact that the rock of our world

“Was and should be founded on a fairy’s wing

Note: Borrowed a few sentences from Fitzgerald novels

 

This charlatan magician that is life

We want to believe we had  a dream,

As a kid, reckless, careless, cheerful, forgetful

We must have had a dream, everybody says so…

We cling to that forgotten dream,

Gone with the wind for mysterious reasons.

Now adult and mad, for never recalling what was this beautiful dream

And we create another delusional dream,

Weaved out of and around the skills and talents we scrambled feverishly to acquire and boast of.

And we go crazy, seeing the world in black and white,

Struggling to be convinced that a dream must be an all-right world

Fighting the Great Evil, the Great Satan, master of all the wrong values

And we commit the most absurd acts of violence

On these criminal elements, poisoning our dream value system,

And we go on rampage,

Carrying banners of the most idiotic arbitrary concepts

Mid-age:

We blame our disillusion on these chaotic and vile realities that is life,

This “foul dust

Fooling us on a full moonlight

Watching this staircase, a ladder to heaven,

Perched up high to suck on the pap of life

Gulping down the incomparable milk of wonder…”

Along the way, we missed

Streaks of happy moments,

Failed to observe the real people

Characters rich in complex reality of life.

Along the way, we got lost, and we missed

To empathize with the pain, frustration of all the others’

Diverse dreamers of all kinds of “illusory dreams“,

Just like ours…

This foul dust amidst our chimeric failure,

To whatever we convinced ourselves we were after.

And we are getting old, really old,

And we reach this famous conclusion that

It was all illusion, a drama we played on this comical stage

As if we ever started with anything more than a delusional dream.

Loss of the illusion,

This heavy baggage that grown-ups carry and nurse

To enjoy this acrid taste:

Licking our self-made wounds

The hero who wants to end a martyr

For all the dreamers of a better world…

And we missed the reveries, sources of our impossible imagination,

We missed the fact that the rock of our world

“Was and should be founded on  a fairy’s wing

Note: Borrowed a few sentences from Fitzgerald novels

“These are my memories at the University of Oklahoma…”: From another person recollection…

I wrote extensively in my autobiography on the city of Norman and the University of Oklahoma during two periods of higher education. And here I am reading “Reading Lolita in Tehran” and am taken aback that Iranian author Azar Nafisi also studied and lived many years there, and may have joined the same demonstrations that I participated in…

Azar started her studies in English literature early in the 1970’s, when the US students were demonstrating against the war in Vietnam.

I arrived in the summer of 1975, and the Vietnam war had ended, and the demonstrations were headed by the Iranian student movements against the Shah of Iran, and I had started my MS degree in Industrial engineering…

What follows is Nafisi’s recollection (and whatever comments I might butt in are in parenthesis).

“Red earth and fireflies, singing and demonstrating on South Oval lawn, reading Melville, Poe, Lenin and Mao, reading Ovid and Shakespeare on warm spring mornings, singing revolutionary songs…

(I read all of Lenin, Mao, and even the North KoreanKim Il Sung in Lebanon before I left to the USA. The civl war in Lebanon had just started. On several occasions, I had to rely on the Red Cross for news on my family safety status, and mails were dispatched via Paris where I had relatives…)

At night watching new films by Bergman, Fellini, Godard, and Pasolini… (I watched their movies in Beirut, and kept watching all the European movies on Friday evening, organized by the film student association, usually in the microbiology department by the main library. It is in one of these Fridays that I saw what I thought was the most beautiful girl in the wide world…)

One of my radical professor David singing on his guitar:

“Long-haired preachers come out every night

And they tell you what’s wrong and what’s right

And when you ask them for something to eat…

Work and pray, live on hay, you will get pie

In the sky when you die.

That’s a lie!”

Four of my favorite English professors were of different political leaning. Dr. Yoch was conservative, Dr. Gross was a revolutionary, and the two liberal Dr. Veile and Dr. Elconin.

Taking over the administration building, occasional streakers running across the green toward the redbrick main library…

The suffering ROTC students trying to ignore our presence, while we were protesting against the Vietnam war. (After 1975, our demonstrations were mainly against the Shah of Iran, since most of the radical students were Iranians of the two Marxist factions of Mujahideen Khalk and Fedayeen Khalk…)

Later, I would go to parties with my true love Ted, who introduced me to Nabokov, and gave me “Ada”, writing on the flyleaf “To Azar, my Ada”

I reluctantly joined the Iranian Students movement: I was more of a rebel than a politics activist, and I never fully integrated into the movement…

In the Univ. of Oklahoma at Norman, the Iranian movement was a chapter of the World Confederation of Iranian Students. The militant branch of the Revolutionary Communist Party RSB and the Third World Committee Against Imperialism were created later on.

The Marxist elements in the movement came to dominate the group and the male members wore Che Guevara sports jackets and boots. The women cropped their hair short, no makeup, and wore Mao jackets and khaki pants… I insisted on wearing long dresses, I didn’t cut my hair, and loved reading “counterrevolutionary” authors such as TS Eliot, Austen, Plath, Fitzgerald, Nabovov…and occasionally delivered speeches in rallies.

The Iranian students held study groups, reading Engels‘s “Origin of the family, Private Properties, and the State“, and Marx’s “The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte”.

The mood was revolutionary and the romantic atmosphere infectious, and the Iranian students were at the forefront of the struggle…(Eventually bringing Ayatollah Khomeini to power, who ultimately instituted a theocratic system… I was there as a few secular and radical factions supported the return of Khomeini, and I attended a few of their meetings)

In the fall of 1977, I got married with Bijan Nadiri, whom I met 2 years earlier at a meeting at Berkeley.

I felt nostalgic about places in Iran and famiyl, but the meetings mostly tried to reconstruct another Iran.

The movement started discouraging alcoholic beverages, dancing or playing “decadent” music during Iranian celebrations: They wanted us to avoid the “bourgeois” habits of studying

The most radical faction “The Confederation of Iranian Students” convened a conference in Oklahoma City. One of the members, a former running champion, was suspected of being a SAVAK agent (the Shah’s secret services).  This suspect war lured into a room at the Holiday Inn and tortured to “extract” the truth… He manged to escape.

The next day, several FBI agents barged into the conference. As the suspect reached the “culprit” or the leader, he broke down and cried and asked in Persian “Why did you treat me so cruelly?”, but he refrained to expose his tormentors, and left with the FBI agents.

The news were reported in the Univ. “Oklahoma Daily” and there were heated discussions engaged in coffee shops and the Student Union…Many boasted of the “power of the masses“. Many others quoted Stalin on the need to “destroy once and for all the Trotskyites, the White Guards, the termites, and poisonous rats…” Many defended the right of the masses to torture and physically eliminate their oppressors…

Azar warned: “Be careful what you wish for. The Islamic revolution will answer the wishes of the radical students and destroy the left-leaning and westernized citizens…Could my former comrades have predicted that one day they would be tried in a revolutionary Islamic court? Tortured, humiliated, put in jail, and executed as traitors and spies? They could not have predicted these outcomes, Not in their wildest dreams…”

I wanted to do comparative study of the American literature of the 20’s and 30’s.  I thought Fitzgerald represented the 20’s generations, but I had difficulty selecting a counterpoint in the 30’s, like Steinbeck, Farrell or Dos Passos..

And here I come across the real proletarians, whose spirit was best captured by Mike Gold, the radical editor of the popular literary journal “New Masses“. Gold was a big shot in his day: Even Hemingway took notice. Gold had called Thornton Wilder “the Emily Post of culture

“The Great Gatsby” book on trial: In Iran Islamic Republic?

In the early 1980’s, waves of makeshift trials were levied on all kinds of “criminal elements“, those employed in the Shah of Iran institutions and the “westernized” citizens…Many were sentenced for a few years of prison terms, only to be eventually executed in jail…

Nyazi was a student in the English literature class of Azar Nafisi, and he proclaimed that the book “The Great Gatsby” of Fitzgerald was a representative of the kinds of poisons that American novels disseminate in the Islamic Iranian society…

The English literature teacher at the university of Tehran, AzarNafisi, suggested that the book be put on trial in class.

Nyazi would be the prosecutor of the book, another student Farzad was appointed the judge, and the girl Zarrin was to be the public defense. Since no student agreed to be the defendant (representing or the witness of the book), Azar had no choice but to accept this role.

Maybe it was not proper for Azar to be cornered into the role of the defendant (the book), on the ground that she is opening the way for the students to question her judgment as a teacher, but Azar loved these kinds of drama and anxiety. In any case, Azar sincerely believed that this “subversive” book trial is a necessary step in the right direction to confronting the trend of a totalitarian and theocratic sentiment that highjacked the revolution…

Nyazi sat in the middle of the classroom reading from papers he had prepared, and began his “opening” statement:

“Imam Ayatollah Komeini, the leader of the revolution, relegated a great task to the poets and writers. Khomeini is the shepherd of the flock and the writers are the watchdogs to counter the western materialistic ideology and culture.

In the battle against the Great Satan (US imperialism, a reminder of President REAGAN proclaiming the Soviet Union as the Great Evil) that is disseminating its immoral poisons of cheating on wives, encouraging prostitution, adultary going unpunished, illicit relationship the norm, fornication… a culture meant to rape the islamic moral value system, thus the western fiction novels must be banned…”

After the long speech of Nyazi that never touched on the book and talking generalities of western fiction harms done to the revolution, Zarrin took her turn as defense lawyer, and said while walking around and turning around Nyazi:

“Our dear prosecutor committed the fallacy of getting too close to the amusement park. He can no longer distinguish fiction from reality. Nyazi leaves no space, no breathing room between the two world. He demonstrated this weakness of inability to read a novel on its own terms. His judgment is crude, a simplistic exaltation of right and wrong

Is it bad if characters in a novel stray from Nyazi’s moral values?

A fiction can be called moral when it shakes us out of our stupor, and encourages us to confront the absolutes we believe in. Gatsby has succeeded brilliantly in creating such a controversy…

Gatsby is on trial because the book disturbs us. Many controversial books were put on trial by societies, and they all won their cases…

It is true that Gatsby loves to get wealthy and he recognizes that money is one of Daisy’s attractions, but this novel is NOT about a poor young charlatan’s love of money. This fiction is NOT about “the rich are different from you and me”. It is about how wealth corrupts

The most corrupt characters in the novel are the rich and wealthy people, those careless people who smash up creatures and things and then retreat back into their money, and let other people clean up the mess they had made

The wealthy Jordan Baker admits she is careless and lightly responds that she counts on other people to be careful…

The dream that the wealthy classes embodies is an alloyed dream that destroys whoever tries to get close to it

This carelessness is a lack of empathy and it appears in all great novel works. Imagination in these great subversive works is equated with empathy. We can’t experience all that others have gone through, but we can understand even the most monstrous characters in great novels…

Gatsby novel shows the complexities of the characters, and each character is given the opportunity to respond, to express his opinion, to has a Voice. The biggest sin is to be blind to others’ problems and pains.

Not seeing the pains and frustrations in the characters means denying their existence. This behavior is significant of those who tend to see the world in black and white, drunk on the righteousness of their own fiction…”

At the end of the trial, Zarrin said softly: “Why students bother to claim to be literature major? If they fail to be wary of the consequences of the in unusualdreams they value? If they fail to look for integrity in unusual places…? I enjoyed reading the Great Gatsby. Can’t you see?”

After the class was dismissed, the students were arguing vehemently, and NOT over the US hostages (the personnel in the US embassy during president Carter), the recent demonstrations or Rajavi (leader of the Marxist Mujahideen Khalk) or Khomeini… The students were discussing the Great Gatsby…

Note 1: Inspired from “Reading Lolita in Tehran” by Azar Nafisi

Note 2: Do you think people have gone on strike or the citizens in the Dust Bowl headed west by reading Steinbeck?

Did people go whaling or stopped whaling after reading Melville?

Note 3: In modern times, many books faced trials such as Madame Bovary (Flaubert), Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Lolita…


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

October 2020
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