Tag Archives: f. scott fitzgerald

A Bookish Love Story

T+E

T+E

5 years ago, I met this guy. I had just gotten out of a semi-serious and seriously burdensome long-distance relationship. I had just transferred to a new school in a new city in which I knew exactly one person. I was almost 20, and I had no intention of doing anything less than what my mom would call “dating around.”

And then, mere weeks after I move to Nashville, I meet this guy. And he is interesting and uncomplicated, and he’s flirting with me. Our first spark is a mutual obsession with The Lord of the Rings. He’s tall and good-looking, and now he’s wearing glasses and sipping whiskey and talking about Tolkien? How can I not?

As I get to know him over the cold months of 2008, I learn he’s the storyteller among his friends, who all love him fiercely, and that he also happens to be an extremely talented musician. I begin to fall.

Spring comes, and we are together. The world goes a little hazy, falls away. We are sharing our lives – our friends, our passions, our secrets, our time. And we read to each other. We do many things together, but he reads books that I have read, and I am in love.

Years pass. We share many, many highs and quite a few lows too; we are together under every sky, through every season. Then one winter day almost a year ago, he gets down on one knee and puts a ring on my finger – a Jazz Age antique. It is clearer than ever that we are meant to be.

We plan a wedding, but not just any wedding… our wedding. It must have music and books, scotch and flapper dresses. It is perfect. And then, life.

Today, Tyler and I celebrate five years together. I haven’t posted any wedding/honeymoon photos yet, so I thought it was an appropriate day to start. Below are some of the bookish details featured in our wedding…

one of our engagement shots

an engagement shot

the last line says, "20s inspired attire"

the last line: “20s inspired attire”

songs from the Downton Abbey, Finding Neverland, Pride and Prejudice, and Fellowship of the Ring soundtracks

songs from the Downton Abbey, Finding Neverland, Pride and Prejudice, and Fellowship of the Ring soundtracks; readings from E.E. Cummings and Shakespeare

designed by incredible bridesmaid/graphic designer Candie Walter as a wedding gift

poster by incredible bridesmaid/graphic designer Candie Walter

Tolkien quote on the favor cards

Tolkien quote on the favor cards

typewriter guestbook

typewriter guestbook

rings stored in a Fellowship of the Ring book safe

rings stored in a Fellowship of the Ring book safe

Lord of the Rings book cake

Lord of the Rings book cake

books on every table

books on every table

cameras, hourglasses, pearls, teacups, wine bottles, book ends, too

cameras, hourglasses, pearls, teacups, wine bottles, book ends, too

pinwheels from pages of Pride and Prejudice for every vase

pinwheels from pages of Pride and Prejudice for every vase

decorative paper pinwheel display

decorative paper pinwheel display

pinwheel display on the mantel

pinwheels on the mantel

dictionary page, eucalyptus, and lace boutonnieres

dictionary page, eucalyptus, and lace boutonnieres

paper bouquets

paper bouquets

many paper bouquets

many paper bouquets

sheet music paper bouquet

sheet music

flapper bridesmaids

flapper bridesmaids

book page and peacock feather fascinator

book page and peacock feather fascinator

earrings featuring quotes from A Midsummer Night's Dream

earrings featuring quotes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream

killer wedding party

killer wedding party

Paper crafts by the bridesmaids and me.
Photos by the lovely Liz Hendrickson.
Paper goods by the fabulous Holley Maher.
Cake by Stephanie Felts of The Sweetest Day.
Flowers by Vicki Sanders of Branching Out.
Hair and makeup by Kelly Hamilton of Imagine Design Team.
Dress by Casablanca Bridal, from The White Room, Lebanon, TN.
Location: Hermitage Golf Course, Old Hickory, TN.

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2012: A Reading Year in Review

Coolest Cover Award

I’m aware that we’re already two weeks into 2013, but last year was a good one, and I thought it deserved a little reflection (belated though it may be).

I read 42 books in 2012. For those of you that are not the avid albeit passive member of the bookworm/book blogging community that I am, that’s actually not that many in comparison to other members of said community. In all fairness, some of the people I’m referencing read books as part of their careers; however, some, like me, read purely for leisure. I’m a fairly slow reader in general, so I doubt I’ll ever read into the 100-150 range of some of my friends and favorite bloggers, but I would like to improve upon my overall number in 2013. My reading goal for this year is 60 books – ambitious (for me, anyway), but doable.

Despite the lack of abounding quantity, I am pleased with my efforts in 2012. I did some pretty cool things. This year, I…

planned a wedding,
started a book club,
spent two weeks in New Zealand,
lost 15 pounds,
turned 24,
attended some fantastic author readings (thanks to Ann Patchett and the wondrous Parnassus Books) (Amor Towles, Lyndsay Faye, Jennie Fields, Erin Morgenstern, Mark Helprin, Holly Tucker, and Kevin Wilson, just to name a few),
read books with long distance friends,
successfully read multiple books at a time (something I had rarely attempted before now),
gave books away as an official World Book Night 2012 giver,
sparked two separate fiction ideas and started research on them,
bought two more bookshelves for my library,
read more nonfiction than ever before (although still a rather small percentage overall),
attended Bonnaroo for the second time,
spent a weekend in Asheville for the first time,
spent a weekend in New Orleans for the first time,
watched every How I Met Your Mother episode,
watched every Doctor Who episode,
watched every Gossip Girl episode,
went to 5 midnight showings of movies and 3 regular showings of movies,
wrote two bios and two freelance music articles,
and bought 11 pairs of shoes.

A Few Stats

Of the 42 books I read this year, 20 of them were written by women, which I thought was pretty cool. There was exactly 1 DNF. 6 of them were nonfiction, 9 were for the book club I started in March, 7 of them I listened to on audio, and 5 I read with a friend. Collectively, I read/listened to approximately 17,000 words. Of the 42 I read, 34 of them were more than 300 pages, 8 were more than 500, and 3 were more than 800 pages (Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, by Suzanne Clarke, and The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett).

I also found the publication dates of the works I read interesting. See the handy chart below. Most of what I read was published in the 21st century, but strictly speaking, I read more backlist than frontlist.

Books Read in 2012

Books Read in 2012

Superlatives and Honorable Mentions

I thought I’d do some of my own personal reading year awards. Also, there are a few moments in the books I read in 2012 that stand out and thus deserve to be recognized.

Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles

Best Book [Overall]: I thought I’d get the more difficult category out of the way first. This year, I had no trouble narrowing down my top 5, which says to me that this was a good reading year, not a great one. And although Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles, was a clear choice for me, The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern, was an extremely close second. Rules of Civility is just one of those rare books in which every word seems carefully chosen and every moment is beautifully laid out. I would have read any story written so gracefully, but single girls and chance meetings in Manhattan in the 30s? Rules of Civility, you win. I love you.

Best Book [Classic]: I read a couple of classics this year… perhaps not as many as I would have liked. While I truly enjoyed reading Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy, my favorite classic I read was definitely The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. I should have read it long ago, but I’m glad it was in this year’s list.

The Gods of Gotham, by Lyndsay Faye

Best Book [Published in 2012]: There were some solid books published in 2012, and I read 10 of them. As much as I thrilled reading the psycho twisty Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn, I have to go with The Gods of Gotham, by Lyndsay Faye, as my favorite. An 1860s Manhattan setting makes the book automatically awesome, but Lyndsay’s well-researched, fast-paced, expertly-crafted, set-up-for-a-sequel historical novel was truly top notch.

Best Audio: Weirdly enough, this is probably my most difficult category. I picked some seriously awesome listens this year. From Tim Curry and Alan Cumming reading Dracula, by Bram Stoker to Jim Dale reading The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern, audiobooks have been a huge part of what made this reading year cool. If I had to pick a fav though, it is definitely Stephen Fry reading Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Book 1, by Douglas Adams (I should have read it a long time ago, but I’m so glad I waited until I found this recording (and the subsequent four novels, which are read by Martin Freeman)). Honorable Mention goes to Jim Broadbent reading The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce, because I just can’t imagine what reading that fabulous book on my own would be like; Jim Broadbent IS Harold.

The Lost City of Z, by David Grann

Best Nonfiction: I’ve been actively working to broaden my nonfiction horizons the past few years, and while I haven’t gotten much farther than biographies of Arthur Conan Doyle, the bibliographies of Sarah Vowell, Mary Roach, Erik Larson, etc., and the occasional historical text or memoir, this year’s Best Nonfiction was by far, The Lost City of Z, by David Grann. Grann’s study of Percy Fawcett’s letters, telegrams, and diary entries, as well as first- and secondhand accounts of his travels, tells a thoroughly researched and thoroughly engrossing tale of the explorer’s search for a lost civilization and mysterious disappearance in the Amazon in 1925.

The Family Fang, by Kevin Wilson

Best Book I Read for Book Club: Now, in my opinion, the category doesn’t necessary mean just “best book.” To me, book club is a way to extend one’s reading beyond his comfort zone, so I believe Best Book Read for Book Club should be the book that was most outside what I typically read that I also happened to enjoy. This year, I believe there’s a tie. State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett, was so far outside of the fiction I normally have on my shelf, and yet it truly impacted me when I read it and made for a fascinating discussion at book club. However, The Family Fang, by Kevin Wilson, was perhaps not as far outside my comfort zone, but one that I enjoyed immensely and also made for great discussion.

The Casual Vacancy, by J.K. Rowling

Worst Book I Read for Book Club: The book club I started in March of this year has done a pretty stellar job picking books that we have all enjoyed reading; however, The Casual Vacancy, by J.K. Rowling, was disliked across the board. Personally, I understood the satire and what I took to be the novel’s general purpose, but I didn’t appreciate it. I don’t ever like reading books that wallow in the ugly, mundane troubles of middle class life, but such exaggerated, overwrought cynicism stretched over 500 pages was an absolute chore.

Best Character: A difficult choice. While I’m tempted to go with Jamie Fraser, the sexy 17th century Scot featured in Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon, I have to award Best Character to one to whom I was so tenderly endeared I physically teared up while reading: Hans Hubermann in The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak. Yes, in my book, having heart and teaching the powers of language and literature to Nazi-era children trumps being a romantic, red-headed, muscly, kilt-wearing hunk o’ dude… but barely.

The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett

Worst Character: A tough call as well. The self-righteous, self-serving, despicably evil William Hamleigh in The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett, won out over the thoughtless, narcissistic, gossipy Emma in Emma, by Jane Austen, but it was close, and I don’t think anyone who’s read those two books would argue with me.

Most Read Author: In tallying this category, I’ve created the best tie ever – between Louis Bayard and Neil Gaiman – at two books each. I really enjoyed all four of the books that make up this category, but The Black Tower, by Louis Bayard, an alternate history involving the world’s first private detective, Eugene Vidocq and Louis XVII, was the better of the two works (winning out over Mr. Timothy, about Tiny Tim grown up and investigating a murder in Victorian London, which was still pretty neat). And while The Graveyard Book was a cool read, Stardust, by Neil Gaiman, was just plain awesome.

The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern

Most Recommended/Coolest: Without doubt, this one goes to The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. I’ve been telling people about this book since before I read it myself. It is utterly original, inventive, colorful, and breathtaking in scope. It’s not overly burdened by plot, but the language is so lovely and the ideas so clever and well-detailed. I never wanted to leave this world.

Best Written: Winter’s Tale, by Mark Helprin, is 600-something pages of gorgeous prose. While the story is a seamless blend of historical fiction and magical realism, what really drew me into the book was the glorious language with which it is told.

The Stockholm Octavo, by Karen Engelmann

Best Setting: The Stockholm Octavo, by Karen Engelmann, is, to me, an obvious debut novel: brilliant setting, cool idea, and execution that could use a bit of work. Mostly, I was disappointed with the lack of character development, but barring those shortcomings, it was a pretty killer story. Best of all, it takes place in Stockholm in the 1790s. When else are you going to read all about Sweden during the French Revolution?

Best Fact-Based Fiction: The Chaperone, by Laura Moriarty, is a story  I didn’t know I wanted to read about. Moriarty writes a poignant and carefully told account of the silent film star Louise Brooks and the woman who chaperoned her first summer away from home. The novel primarily takes place in 1920s Manhattan, which is one of my absolute favorite eras.

The Sherlockian, by Graham Moore

Best Quick Read: The Sherlockian, by Graham Moore, is a lightning-fast-paced novel that weaves the story of Arthur Conan Doyle’s years in between killing off the world’s most beloved detective in 1893 and bringing him back to life in 1901 and a present day story of a member of the Baker Street Irregulars investigating the murder of a colleague using Sherlockian tactics. I am partial to a story involving the society of which I am so desperate to be a part, but either way, this novel is a great little murder mystery with lots of trivia about ACD’s life thrown in as well.

Best Slow Read: I listened to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce, over a period of several weeks, and I feel like I was fully able to ruminate and ponder the subtle, thoughtful things that happen in this story as a result of the pace. I highly recommend this quaint little tale but most importantly read at a rate at which one can fully enjoy it.

The invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick

Best YA Book: The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick is a graphic masterpiece, and although it’s geared toward kids, I found the book fascinating and innovative. The book in its entirety is white type on black pages, and photos and drawings occupy the majority of the novel. I also highly recommend listen to the soundtrack to Hugo, the book’s movie adaptation, because its music is fitting and beautifully orchestrated.

Best Movie Adaptation of a Book I Read in 2012: Joe Wright’s film adaptation of Anna Karenina was exactly 100% of the reason I decided to read the book, and I am so glad I did. I feel like I got so much more out of the movie as a result of having read the book, which happens quite often with these things, but I also felt like I got more from the book having seen the movie, which is quite rare. The movie did an unbelievable job distilling a vast, sprawling plot into a rather more easily digestible storyline. I understood better the themes of the novel for having seen them concentrated for an audience and got a better grasp on the scope of the story after watching the whole thing played through in a 2 hour window… not to mention, the movie is decadence and richness at its utmost, so it is an absolute pleasure to look at.

Final Thoughts

At this point, I’ve named the majority of the books I read in 2012, and I might as well list the rest. The middling lot is as follows:

13, rue Therese, by Elena Mauli Shapiro
Among Others, by Jo Walton
The All of It, by Jennifer Haien
The Wordy Shipmates, by Sarah Vowell
Moonwalking with Einstein, by Joshua Foer
Packing for Mars, by Mary Roach (DNF)
Love and Respect, by Emerson Eggerichs
Arthur and George, by Julian Barnes
This Side of Paradise, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Solitary House, by Lynn Shepherd
Mr. Churchill’s Secretary, by Susan Elia MacNeal
A Jane Austen Education, by William Deresiewicz
The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, by Laurie King
The Detective and the Woman, by Amy Thomas

And now that the Internetosphere is familiar with my entire reading list from 2012, I would be ever-so-pleased to share, discuss, comment upon, argue, commiserate, or gush over any of the above. I’m also curating an ever-changing list of those 60 I plan to read in 2013, so I’d love to hear about those I’ve overlooked in the past year or should be looking forward to this year. Feel free!

Summer Reading for Two

I am an avid reader. For as long as I can remember, a great majority of my free time has been spent reading books. In the years 2005-2008, I even made lists of 40 books that I wanted to read over the course of the year, understanding that each list needed to be flexible and impermanent, since the order in which I read the book depended on my mood and I also could not predict whims and recommendations so far in advance. Anyway, when I found myself deep into my only truly serious relationship, I realized that I either needed to give up some of the time I wanted to devote to reading OR find a way to combine the two.

At first, my boyfriend and I sat on opposite ends of the couch and read our own books, pausing to discuss plot twists, inspirational moments, etc., but remaining essentially in separate worlds. However, when you love two things so much, sharing them fully is more fun. So we started reading to each other. It began haphazardly on a road trip… he was driving, so I became his own personal audiobook. It worked for us. When stationary, we switch off every few chapters and make it interesting with voices and accents and dramatic inflection. There have been times that we’ve stayed up all night reading aloud to finish a book. Nerdy, yes, very, but pretty cool too.

We read  the entire Harry Potter series together a few months ago, which took a very long time. We took a bit of a break after that, going back to our respective libraries and preferences for a while. We took The Outsiders with us on a weekend getaway more recently, but last night, we decided that it’s time to begin again with true gusto… so we started a summer list.

Lewis Carroll

1. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, by Lewis Carroll

(Me: reread; Him: new)

I’ve read them; my boyfriend has not (which is often the case with our choices as I am such a pushy recommender of books). He realized how unfamiliar he was with the actual stories when we went to see the Tim Burton film in theaters. He’s going to love how trippy they are.

Mark Twain

2. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain

(Me: reread; Him: new)

We were discussing British and American authors once and trying to figure out our favorites’ contemporaries and international counterparts when it came out that my boyfriend had never read Huck Finn. We (I) decided that this travesty needed to be eradicated from our lives immediately.

Mark Twain

3. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain

(Me: reread; Him: new)

Of course, you can’t talk about Huck Finn without talking about Tom Sawyer. And similarly, you can’t have read Huck Finn without also reading Tom Sawyer. I know the rules. Added bonus: we are going to have so much fun with all those ridiculously Southern accents.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

4. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

(Me: reread; Him: reread)

We’ve both read Gatsby, but it’s been a while for each of us, and it’s such an important book (especially to me), it was a no brainer to add this one to the list. Also, with the on and off discussion of a Baz Luhrmann remake film adaptation with Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby, Carey Mulligan as Daisy, and Tobey Maguire as Nick, we are curious to read it with them in mind.

William Golding

5. Lord of the Flies, by William Golding

(Me: new; Him: reread)

This is one that my boyfriend has read and I have not. He seems to really have enjoyed it, even though it was a required read in one of his high school English classes (a circumstance which often killed his desire to read a book). I don’t even know very much about it, except that it is about an anarchist society and it is often considered a new classic by most’s standards, which is enough for me.

I see now that our list is made up of books read in one’s youth or adolescence, books that shape one’s thoughts and philosophies and ideas about the world. This was unintentional, although it should make for some very interesting discussion along the way.

Other possibilities we considered were Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe, Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, and Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, all of which would be new to both of us (with the exception of Kavalier and Clay, which he has read before).

I’d be happy to have suggestions, recommendations, comments, thoughts, etc. about the books on our list or perhaps the ones that aren’t. No matter what, it ought to be a pretty good summer.

A Letter from F. Scott Fitzgerald to His Daughter at Boarding School

f. scotty

I don’t really know why, but today I was reminded of a line of prose… no, not just reminded.  I was haunted by it.  It may have been the lovely cool fall weather that we’re having and the fact that my first real Fitzgerald season of life was a fall not too many years previous.  It could have been other ideas I had today that guided my thoughts to an old friend who loved Daisy, and particularly these words, so much.  Whatever it was, I found the phrases rolling around in my brain all day… like a song I knew a long time ago and can’t quite remember.  So I looked them up:

“‘Ah,’ she cried, ‘you look so cool.’
Their eyes met, and they stared together at each other, alone in space. With an effort she glanced down at the table.
‘You always look so cool,’ she repeated.
She had told him that she loved him, and Tom Buchanan saw.”

– Chapter 7, The Great Gatsby

Spending only a few brief moments flipping through such an old favorite is truly an impossibility.  I used up an hour at least skimming and remembering, going back and forth, reading text as well as my annotations in the margins.  I was probably 15 when I made them.

As I was putting the book down, the pages settled on one where I glanced another quote that always drew me to it as well.  Daisy, again.

“I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she’ll be a fool – that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.”

– Chapter 1, The Great Gatsby

Of course, beyond these few lines, there are a thousand reasons that Fitzgerald resonates with me… the poise of his language, his sharp, observant storytelling, the lovely characters in his works as memorable as real people and sometimes more so.  I was one of those that was happy to read his novels for senior English class, as they were on my own reading list.  I wrote two separate research papers on various aspects of his work.  I was drawn to the “Lost Generation” Jazz Age era anyway.  I loved discussing his poignancy in symbolism, the themes of youth and despair, acting out scenes we’d watched in the Redford/Farrow movie version.  But one bit of our studies stands out as more significant in my memory than the rest.  It was a letter… pieces of which were reprinted in our American literature books… a letter from F. Scott Fitzgerald to his daughter in boarding school.  I have copied here what I transcribed from my textbook back in high school:

These lines of advice are listed in a letter dated August 8, 1933.

“…halfwit, I will conclude with things to worry about: worry about courage, worry about cleanliness, worry about efficiency, worry about horsemanship….

“things not to worry about: don’t worry about public opinion, don’t worry about dolls, don’t worry about the past, don’t worry about the future, don’t worry about growing up, don’t worry about anybody getting ahead of you, don’t worry about triumph, don’t worry about failure unless it comes through your own fault, don’t worry about mosquitoes, don’t worry about flies, don’t worry about insects in general, don’t worry about parents, don’t worry about boys, don’t worry about disappointments, don’t worry about pleasures, don’t worry about satisfactions….

“things to think about: what am I really aiming at? How good am I really in comparison to my contemporaries in regard to: a) scholarship, b) do I really understand about people and am I trying to get along with them?, and c) am I trying to make my body a useful instrument or am I neglecting it?”

I just love that although this letter was written almost seventy years ago, all of its advice is still so relevant and appropriate for our lives.  I love FSF’s mix of silly and important, and his categorization of things that matter and things that don’t.  I need this posted in front of my desk, not buried in some ancient book of quotes and poetry.  I need to heed its sage words as much as his own daughter, it seems.

Elsewhere, in my short internet researches of the man himself, I found a few unrelated but interesting bits I’d also like to include:

an excerpt from Gatsby in Fitzgerald's own hand

The above section (click to enlarge) can be found just a page or two beyond the first quote I mentioned…, also in Chapter 7.  Below is Fitzgerald’s silver hip flask.

Zelda was of course to become his wife

The inscription says,

“To 1st Lt. F. Scott Fitzgerald
65th Infantry
Camp Sheridan

Forget-me-not
Zelda
9-13-18
Montgomery, Ala.”

And last, a photograph of Zelda and Scott’s grave in Rockville, Maryland, inscribed with the final sentence of The Great Gatsby: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

died at age 44

I, of course, highly recommend Fitzgerald’s novels as well as his abundant short stories, which for the most part are gathered conveniently into collections like Flappers and PhilosophersTales of the Jazz Age and Babylon Revisited and Other Stories.  Such fantastic classic works… do yourself a favor.