Previously on Blogging The Great Gatsby, we discussed the American Dream, cyborgs, and Tom Buchanan’s powerful, glistening body, which is why it’s a miracle that you’re even joining me for chapter 2. If this is your first time, hi! I’m reading The Great Gatsby! You can read along with me, but you don’t have to. In fact, I prefer that you don’t. That way it’ll be easier for me to try and pass off Twilight quotes as Nick Carraway’s inner narrative turmoil:
“About three things I was absolutely positive. First, Gatsby was the nouveau riche. Second, there was a part of him—and I didn’t know how potent that part might be—that thirsted for my cousin. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.”
So where were we? Well, Tom and Nick are boarding the metaphor train to metaphor town (otherwise known as the valley of ashes) where Tom’s mistress lives. It’s a desolate industrialized hellscape between West Egg and New York City where everything is covered in ash and everyone presumably walks around like Pig-Pen from the Peanuts comics. There is also a billboard overlooking them with big, judging eyes painted on that probably aren’t metaphorically resonant.
Nick thinks that Tom’s determination to hang out with him “borders on violence.” I believe it. This is Tom “No Chill” Buchanan we’re talking about. Here’s a hot tip, Tom: if you’re trying to seduce somebody, there are better ways to go about it than by introducing them to your mistress. Aside from the fact that he’s third wheeling pretty hard, Nick also resents the fact that Tom assumes he has nothing better to do on a Sunday afternoon. But we all know that’s a lie. Nick has no friends and no social life, and his dog ran away. He’s a sad potato sack of a man.
We meet George Wilson, the man Tom is currently cuckolding, and here’s what we learn:
Nick says he is “pale,” “spiritless,” and “anemic”
Tom says “he’s so dumb he doesn’t know he’s alive”
Myrtle (his wife, the aforementioned mistress) basically walks right through him to say hello to Tom
Conclusion: we’ve got Nick the cyborg, and now we’ve also got George Wilson the ghost. Maybe Gatsby really is a vampire. I love a good paranormal romance.
While George Wilson is otherwise occupied, Tom furtively invites Myrtle along with them to the city, which feels a little rude. I mean, Nick is right there. Once in Manhattan, Myrtle buys a puppy from a man on a street corner. This also seems rude. Didn’t they hear about Nick’s dog?
They arrive at Tom and Myrtle’s city apartment, and Nick proceeds to get drunk for the second time in his life. Myrtle calls up her cute sister, Catherine, and their neighbors, the McKees, and invites them over. Catherine is for Nick. I don’t know who Mr. and Mrs. McKee are for. Possibly for Tom and Myrtle, if what follows next is any indication. Mrs. McKee tells Myrtle that her dress looks wonderful on her—”if you know what I mean,” which is an actual quote and not something I fabricated to spice things up. Things are getting pretty spicy all on their own. Mrs. McKee tells her husband, who’s a professional photographer, that he should take pictures of Myrtle. Sexy pictures, presumably. The whole thing is about to break out into a full-blown sex party when Tom yawns and says they need more ice.
Nick remembers that Catherine was invited specifically for him to make out with, so he strikes up a conversation. She asks where he lives; he says West Egg. She says she recently attended a party at West Egg and asks if he knows a man named Gatsby. Nick says, “Know him? I love him with the bittersweet passion of a thousand dying suns,” except what he actually says is just “He’s my neighbor.”
Catherine once heard someone say Gatsby is related to Kaiser Wilhelm and that’s why he’s so filthy stinking rich, which is my cue to play a little game called “Let’s Guess How Gatsby Made His Millions!” My guesses:
Befriended a rich and lonely widow whose death was ruled an accident, but questions still linger
Cheating at card games
It’s probably one of those, but let’s keep reading to make sure. Catherine whispers to Nick that neither Tom nor Myrtle can stand the person they’re married to. Myrtle then cozies up to Nick and tells him all about how she and Tom first embarked on this lecherous tryst. I don’t know why she does this, actually. Nick seems to have a certain something about him that compels people to tell him their secrets. To be honest, I sort of zoned out here. I don’t care how Tom and Myrtle met. A couple of pages ago Nick said the apartment was “one slice in a long white cake of apartment houses,” so I’ve just been thinking about cake this whole time.
The photographer, Mr. McKee, has fallen asleep. Nick gently wipes some spit off the man’s face because it’s been bothering him all afternoon, and I’m completely serious about that.
Meanwhile, Tom and Myrtle have begun arguing about whether or not Myrtle can say Daisy’s name. Apparently she can, because she does it four and a half times before Tom hits her in the face so hard that he breaks her nose like an absolute maniac. It’s incomprehensible to me that Tom has friends and isn’t in jail.
This essentially kills the party vibe, so while the ladies fuss over the state of Myrtle’s face, Nick leaves the apartment with Mr. McKee. They get on an elevator, and Mr. McKee invites Nick around for lunch sometime. Two sentences later they are in Mr. McKee’s apartment, and he’s showing Nick some photographs from his portfolio that may or may not be sexy in nature. Okay, sure, I guess somehow this could be platonic, except that Nick specifically mentions the bed, and the sheets, and the fact that Mr. McKee is 100% in his underwear. The next thing we know (FOUR—COUNT ‘EM, FOUR HOURS LATER), Nick is getting on a train to West Egg. Read between the lines, people. Nick had some hot, sexy fun.
NEXT TIME, ON BLOGGING GATSBY: Nick finally—finally—goes to a Gatsby party! He was waiting for an invitation this whole time. What a nerd.
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