Every night after I put down my book and turn out the lights, I roll over to look out my window and talk to the Gatsby Lights. It’s like praying, without the deity and the asking for help. If I could find a word as good as prayer without religious connotations, I would use it here. I looked and couldn’t find one.
The lights aren’t from a dock, they come from Mystic Lake Casino, which is about five miles down the road from my bedroom. The casino has a ring of spotlights on top of it, and they shine into the sky to make a sort of illuminated tipi above the casino.
I love the lights and how when the clouds are low in the sky it looks like an alien spacecraft is about to land next door. I call them the Gatsby Lights because they remind me of the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock in The Great Gatsby.
Usually I talk about the day and what I liked and didn’t like and how tomorrow will be different. Sometimes when I’m blue or anxious I will sing “Let it Be” by The Beatles in my head until I close my eyes.
Every night, though, my final thought is Gatsby’s last line: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
Some will find this endlessly depressing, others will find it unceasingly optimistic. I won’t argue the interpretation of the line because I don’t want to ruin it.
My friend Vodo is a writing teacher, and he gets a sour look on his face when you bring up Gatsby. “English teachers ruin that book,” he says. “The glasses and the symbolism and the green lights. They turn it into Algebra, a problem to be solved.”
I was one of the lucky few who came to Gatsby on my own. Somehow I made it through high school and college without reading Fitzgerald’s masterpiece. This is even more surprising when you consider I grew up in Minnesota and we like to claim F. Scott as a native son. Also, my English 110 professor did her dissertation on some sort of Fitzgeraldian arcana I can’t remember.
Reading Gatsby on my own earned it a special place in my heart and memory, the way that books you discover on your own do, even when those books are considered the “Great American Novel.”
[Editor’s note: The Book Riot community is reading The Great Gatsby together this summer. Click through for more info on The Riot Read.]