A New Year, A New Decade

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, set in and published in the 1920s, seems apropos for kicking off this decade. He said that we can’t repeat the past, but also that we are “boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” So be borne back to, or imagine, if you will, a past in which you had to take that one English course in order to graduate, in which you were asked to understand something about the corrupt Jay Gatsby’s “incorruptible dream,” and what that meant about the collective dreams of nations. As this decade begins, the globe is gripped by the desire to capture various versions of a dream of a time when all was right: when America and Britain were great, or before Trump or Brexit, when India was all Hindu, when Japan had an Asian empire, before Gorbachev and Yeltsin sold the collective farm, before Thatcher and Reagan and the neoliberal revolution. What happened to the good old days when a working stiff’s salary could cover the rent? Ah, the 90s when we were happy just to watch Seinfeld, “a show about nothing”! What’s “the price for living too long with a single dream”? When, exactly, was that golden age of innocence?

No telephone message arrived but the butler went without his sleep and waited for it until four o'clock—until long after there was anyone to give it to if it came. I have an idea that Gatsby himself didn't believe it would come and perhaps he no longer cared. If that was true, he must have felt that he had lost the old warm world, paid a high price for living too long with a single dream. He must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky through frightening leaves and shivered as he found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how raw the sunlight was upon the scarcely created grass. A new world, material without being real, where poor ghosts, breathing dreams like air, drifted fortuitously about... like that ashen, fantastic figure gliding toward him through the amorphous trees. 

The Great Gatsby, Chapter 8. 

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