Thursday, 7 June 2012

Shaking hands with an empty glove

Today's paraphrased titular quotation comes from F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel Tender is the Night. When I was beginning to compile a summer reading list for myself, I immediately jotted down many of those novels considered to be literary classics (which is how I saddled myself with the immensely long Vanity Fair. . . see previous post). These will not only be useful for me in my English lit courses, but are really important reads, I think, for anyone with a desire to comprehend a language, history, culture, and general style.

Tender is the Night made it onto my list straight away. You may wonder, why pick this over, say, The Great Gatsby? Well, I have to tell you, I have nothing against ol' Gatsby. In fact, I love that book very much, although this feeling of acceptance didn't come until my second time through it. I'm all for a good zeitgeisty tale of romance, parties, and a few too many silk shirts, but I was deceived by the story's shortness. It's easy, especially with a whirlwind of a story like The Great Gatsby, to be sucked in, tossed around by the wealth and the parties, and emerge at the end of the book slightly worse for wear and not knowing quite how you got there. Psychological depth is what makes Fitzgerald books tick, and moving on from my first experience with him, I was once again ready for the feelings of tension and desperation that his stories inspire.

Enter Tender is the Night. This is definitely one you'll keep puzzling your way through once you've put it down. Before starting this novel, I watched the 2011 film "A Dangerous Method" which depicts an early case study of Freudian psychoanalysis. Watching and reading these works at a close interval was not something I planned ahead of time, but it did provide some interesting context for Tender is the Night. I would say the central element of the story is the sanity of, not just the clinically unstable Nicole, but also of her husband Dick Diver. This is the kind of novel that helps you to see people as they present themselves in public and private and insists on keeping you wondering who they really are and how they'll get along once you leave them behind on the final page. Both Tender is the Night and "A Dangerous Method" examine doctor-patient relationships in the field of mental illness and demonstrate over and over that these are distinctions not set in stone.

To return to the title of this post, I felt that this particular quotation (and this is a pro-tip people: "quote" is only a verb, "quotation" is the term you apply to the line you're citing) was another good example of what it feels like to be a novice blogger. The character in Tender is the Night who feels that he is "shaking hands with a glove from which the hand had been withdrawn," is a man who initially refuses to conform, but seems to do so solely to annoy others and because someone ought to. He experiences this empty-gloved sensation during a party at which he attempts to foist his impertinences on others but must eventually concede that he's fighting an uphill battle. Annoying random strangers is not the point of this post, so let's not get ahead of ourselves here. I more identify with this quotation because, to me, it speaks to the difficulty one experiences when trying to get into anything new. It's a bit sloppy and awkward at first, but I keep trying to edge my hand a bit further into the glove.


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