Cradled by Books


The word incunabula refers to the earliest printed books and is often translated as cradle books. Some books cradle me. They feel familiar and steady, not like the cradle that falls out of the tree, but some of my early reading still rocks me, tips me one way and then the other, challenges my balance. Lately, several “coincidental” references to The Great Gatsby have made me a little rocky. One: I have a granddog named Gatsby the Flying Chocolate Lab, who is often on my mind. Two: at the 2014 Conference on World Affairs in Boulder I heard William Nack recite the last page of that book and was moved by it. Three, browsing through used books at a thrift store this week, I came across The Authorized Text. Okay, I don’t need to be hit by a brick. It was time to read this book. Or is it rereading?

This book is so familiar that I don’t know if I had read it before or inhaled it from the air. Books like this become part of our daily bread. But I did not recall/know that Daisy was married and had a child. How could I not know this, as it surely colors the whole affair with Jay? Nor did I recall the splendor of the language. Gatsby the book gets its greatness in sentences and paragraphs, those daunting elements of English class. In the hand and mind of one such as Fitzgerald, they become prismatic. Like crystals embedded in a geode. Crack the hard rock of an idea–bam! Light gets out and dazzles. Makes my scalp tingle. My brain gets itchy and I have to live with this disruption until I’ve finished the book. So excuse a short blog today, but I have an appointment in East Egg.

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