It’s been something like 35 years now since I first read The Great Gatsby. At that remove it seemed as though Fitzgerald was somehow commiserating with–and possibly consoling–me from the year 1925. Apart from his masterful legerdemain with the English language, quite how he accomplished this still amazes me. As five movies and countless printings attest, obviously I’m not alone here.
But–slowly over those 35 years–I have largely quit reading fiction precisely because I have read so much of it. I’ve become jaded. Let me give you an example.
The Turkish Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk’s 2009 novel The Museum of Innocence piqued my interest because, after its publication, the author actually established a museum in Istanbul that operates as a paean to–and is eponymous with–his book.
SPOILER ALERT: If you plan to read this novel, don’t read the next paragraph.
From the first sentence, I knew the author was going to kill off the protagonist’s love interest, the beautiful and enigmatic Fusun. It’s just the kind of thing I’m attuned to.
“I know what this guy is up to,” I told my wife–although his method eluded me. But does method matter, in a novel, when the outcome is foreknown?
A few days later I told my wife that the day had arrived. And, sure enough, right there on page 488, the event in question occurred. Only there was never any question.
As I say: I’ve become jaded.
To combat–or perhaps celebrate–this, let’s take a stroll through my own museum, The Museum of Jadedness.
>>Inside this case is my torn ticket stub from the 1982–a scorched earth of a year–Big Game, the conclusion of which featured a five-lateral kick-off return through the Stanford band and a winning touchdown for California. One wonders how many now claim to have witnessed this when so many had fled the stands in disgust after an apparently game-winning Stanford field goal.
>>In this corner of the hallway we’ve installed a boulder taken–with permission–from the south jetty in Eureka, California. Three of us were washed off it in January, 1982–and only two of us emerged. I managed to get washed off twice.
>>In the niche in the far wall we feature a full-sized bust of Murphy, framer of the famous–and eponymous–Law.
>>This sofa before you is actually the fold-out bed that our older daughter was born on. The midwife assured us, over the phone, that there was plenty of time for her to arrive before the birth. She was wrong.
>>This glass jewelry box contains a loose assortment of lost baby teeth from our five children. As you can see, the Tooth Fairy’s coffers were fairly strained to the breaking point.
>>On display here is my dad’s left-handed baseball glove from, I think, the early 1950s. Notice it’s a three-fingered sort of thing with only a small web. I sometimes used it when I was a kid–because I, too, am left-handed–so I can tell you that fielding, and fundamentals, must have been very different in distant eras of baseball.
>>And this football was awarded to our oldest son for being the best lineman on his freshman football squad at boarding school. I still can’t see how he accomplished this while refusing to wear the sports glasses we bought him.
>>Here’s our youngest son’s destroyed first guitar. It’s an Epiphone Les Paul model that one of our cats knocked over. Cats may have nine lives; guitars, decidedly, do not.
>>As we turn the corner here, you can see this entire wall is covered by the political cartoons–a portfolio, of sorts–drawn by our middle son. The irony is that he never votes.
>>Which brings us to the inner sanctum, and the pages of this newspaper, wherein, pressed beneath the glass, we can read many articles detailing the inexplicable re-elections of some very disappointing incumbents.
— Joseph Oldenbourg
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Beware of Barbecued Bugs
What ever happened to the good old days when our worst worries on the 4th of July were traffic jams and wayward fireworks?
A well-warranted worry, according to the Department of Agriculture’s Meat & Poultry Hotline, is food poisoning by nasty E. coli and Salmonella bugs hiding in hot dogs and hamburgers at millions of backyard barbecues. The Hotline’s advice is to grill them longer and hotter. Of course, they avoid mentioning that the high-temperature grilling that kills the bugs also happens to form cancer-causing compounds.
Fortunately, some forward-thinking U.S. food manufacturers have solved these issues for us by creating an amazing assortment of healthy and delicious veggie burgers and soy dogs. No nasty pathogens or cancer-causing compounds in these tasty plant-based foods. They don’t even carry cholesterol, saturated fats, antibiotics, or pesticides. And, they are conveniently waiting for us at almost any supermarket.
This 4th of July offers a great opportunity to declare our independence from the meat industry and to share wholesome veggie burgers and soy dogs with our family and friends.