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The Great Gatsby and American Psycho


The inhumans populating the pages of American Psycho are “alive” and unwell in chapter one of The Great Gatsby. Character in GG is perverse. In ch1, the one character who acts the most authentically human is Gatsby himself—who will later be exposed as the prototypical “all surface” character in the entire book!—(a Patrick Bateman, but without the violence.) At the moment when the narrator (Nick) sees Gatsby acting human in the dark, Nick is seduced by the visual. . . .


The Cinematic in GG


Examples of the cinematic in ch1—three characters, three “introductory frames” :


Tom Buchanan in riding clothes was standing with his legs apart on the front porch.


This opening image (“his first shot”) encapsulates the aggressive and sexual nature of his character.


Miss Baker’s lips fluttered, she nodded at me almost imperceptibly and then quickly tipped her head back again—


The narrator shows us the moment as if he were a lens. What is happening? At first sight Miss Baker finds herself attracted to the evidently handsome Nick.


The other girl, Daisy, made an attempt to rise—


This introduction is symbolic-cinematic; a failure to rise sufficiently is encoded into Daisy’s fate.


GG : prophetic of our times


GG ch1 is a snapshot of inhumans : each thinks they’re superior to the others in a sick, empty, dog-eat-dog environment. Together they choose a common damnation. An imbecilic Situation. If each thinks the other worthless, what is there to feel superior about?


The level of perversity intensifies. Near the end of Nick’s first meeting with the horrid inhumans Tom and Daisy  :


[ Daisy says : ] “Sophisticated—God, I’m sophisticated!”


The instant her voice broke off ceasing to compel my attention, my belief, I felt the basic insincerity of what she had said. It made me uneasy, as though the whole evening had been a trick of some sort to exact a contributory emotion from me.


Nick suspects that Daisy’s presentation includes an underlying strategy to undercut him, to expose him in whatever way, in order to vitiate the hatred she feels for herself. Same goes for Tom. If these inhumans can expose a flaw—or the flaw—in Nick, then they will feel ever-more superior. Their ego boost consists entirely of tearing others down. (Even friends!—or is it especially friends?) They reduce others, to better accept their own personal catastrophe. Sound familiar?


Remember the words “wild” and “secret griefs”? We discover Daisy and Tom are “wild” with “secret griefs”. When Nick speaks of his past on page one, encoded therein is commentary of his future. 


Tom and Daisy are vacuous inhumans. They flail in futility against hateful self-recognition, and in the process leave wreckage behind without a backward look, satisfied with “their murderous work in the world” (Barry Lyndon, 48:48) as long as they can live with themselves.


We’re far from page one’s echo of moral Victoriana (the fatherly advice). The Great Gatsby is the nihilist hell of 2023—only the 1925 advance look.


Storaro-Like Use of Light


Three instances at Tom and Daisy’s :


We walked . . . into a bright rosy-colored space, fragilely bound into the house by French windows at either end.


. . . the two young women preceded us out onto a rosy-colored porch . . .


Inside, the crimson room bloomed with light.


After an experience with excruciating inhumans—their disastrous marriage, their inane gabbling, their vacuous barely-thereness—the storyteller conveys the growing pressure of it all by ratching the “rosy” up to “crimson” in the room, Storaro-like.






Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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Basic Instinct : Daisy in The Great Gatsby


The character of Daisy is a prototype in modern storytelling of the Dangerous Beauty. Daisy is a triumph of style over substance. In this aspect she encapsulates the fundamental theme of the novel. Fitzgerald in ch1 uses the character of Daisy Buchanan to anthropomorphize this theme, thereby making it immediately clear to the audience.


Daisy’s beauty recalls a concept of Norman Mailer’s which appears in more than one of his books : “The devil will appear to us as the most beautiful being of all.” Why? Because that’s the way to seduce the largest number of converts.


Daisy Buchanan is a mess. In ch1 her mind is mush. She’s a quintessential careless child who tears wings off butterflies with cheerful inattention. Problem is, men such as Gatsby—and Nick—cannot stay away from the dangerous part because of the beauty part. Fitzgerald nails imbecilic humanity perfectly : Daisy gabbles rubbish, but she is beautiful, so people find her interesting.


“She’s beautiful—that’s always interesting.” Robert Mitchum in His Kind of Woman (1951).


Narrator Nick nails the dichotomy in Daisy right off her start—her outward beauty belies her bland mind :


“I’m p-paralyzed with happiness.”

She laughed again, as if she said something very witty. . .

I looked back at my cousin who began to ask me questions in her low, thrilling voice.


If a beautiful person pronounces idiocies in a “thrilling voice”, the listener will apparently stick around for more.


For a moment the last sunshine fell with romantic affection upon her glowing face; her voice compelled me forward breathlessly as I listened . . .


Listening “breathlessly” to idiocy? Nick, like Gatsby, is seduced by this dangerously vacuous inhuman—because they’re both judging the book by its cover.


a stirring warmth flowed from her as if her heart was trying to come out to you concealed in one of those breathless, thrilling words.


Because Daisy’s fatuous speech emerges from a seductive outward presentation, her idiotic words, though clearly understood by Nick as such, are still received by him as “thrilling”.


This sad triumph of style over substance—the fundamental theme of the book—is no mere error of a moment. In The Great Gatsby, choosing style over substance eventually leads to catastrophe.


Nick finally articulates the truth of things much later. At last, he sees through Daisy’s “sunshine” and “thrilling voice” :


They were careless people, Tom and Daisy—they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made . . .


Does this kinda recall Oppenheimer?—“We’re awful. Selfish, awful people.” (47) Just as “Somehow I graduated to housewife” (37) recalls, in Emily Blunt’s amusing presentation, a moment in, say, Tennessee Williams (e.g., Blanche Dubois).


The concept of the dangerous beauty recalls well-nigh an infinite number of stories throughout time. Here’s one : The Snow Woman in “The Blizzard” of Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams.





Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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Godless Eyes : The Great Gatsby ch2


But above the grey land and the spasms of bleak dust which drift endlessly over it, you perceive, after a moment, the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg. The eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg are blue and gigantic—their retinas are one yard high. They look out of no face but, instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a nonexistent nose. Evidently some wild wag of an oculist set them there to fatten his practice in the borough of Queens, and then sank down himself into eternal blindness or forgot them and moved away. But his eyes, dimmed a little by many paintless days under sun and rain, brood on over the solemn dumping ground.


Empty Skies. One of the first lines of Crimes and Misdemeanors—“The eyes of God are on us always.” (5:03) In the nihilist hell of GG, the eyes of God have become a meaningless, long-since-faded billboard advertisement. This Situation is Fitzgerald’s sly grimace at his bleak and hateful times : no one is watching us but “you”. GG goes downhill from there.


The Sad Narrator. Isn’t it sad that narrator Nick enters into the fray of the Roaring 20s, the “get rich quick” decade, yet, amid the pomp and wild excess, Nick himself, who had such high hopes for himself, ends up an abject failure? Seduced into devoting himself to frivolity, he sacrificed his dream of self-improvement. His memoir is an elegy for himself. People ruined him, and moved on.


(Scorsese ca. 1980 : “It was up to me. Nobody cared, ultimately, even your closest friends. Nobody gives a damn. . . . [But] you can’t let the system crush your spirit.”)


“you perceive”. The cinematic style.


Cars of the future. Present-day readers, when absorbing the fact that Tom’s mistress is the wife of a car mechanic, may simply pass that fact by and continue on. But recall that automobiles were pretty much a new invention back in the 1920s. In GG, automobiles represent the awful future—mechanized contraptions, like the book’s inhumans. Indeed, it is an automobile that is implicated in the catastrophe for which Gatsby himself must be punished. The metaphor of the automobile in GG is clear : The future is deadly. Worse, the future is here. In the first paragraph of ch2, the only identified colour of the many cars moving along the motorway is “grey”.


Contrast. Ch1’s opulence smash-cuts to a “waste land” opening ch2.


Colossal carelessness. “[Tom’s] acquaintances resented the fact that he turned up in popular restaurants with [his mistress] and, leaving her at a table, sauntered about, chatting with whomsoever he knew.” A young reader may wonder, What is so careless about that? Answer : By rubbing everyone’s faces in his own private impropriety, Tom is compromising everyone—because (1) now they must hold onto a secret; (2) such behaviour possibly reminds the patrons of their own improprieties; (3) the patrons are appalled that Tom cares so little about compromising them; (4) it is bad taste.


Class and classlessness. This theme is a colossal facet of GG. Example : The impoverished car mechanic’s wife, who is having a seedy affair with Tom, has the audacity, when installed in her love-nest in the city, to complain about the hotel’s help : “I told that boy about the ice. . . . These people!”


Pointless afternoon. The aimless nonsense of ch2, in which nothing of dramatic note seemingly takes place—in terms of moving the story forward—recalls (no coincidence?) the genius move of the unremittingly hilarious chapter “Another Night” in American Psycho, in which a monumental seventeen pages are required for characters on a group telephone call to decide which restaurant to make reservations for—and apparently they end up going nowhere.


Pointlessness as meaning. Ch2 is a clear expression that GG is a “modern novel” and no continuation of Victoriana. The reader may wonder, “What is this chapter about?! Something like twelve hours go by, but nothing happens!” (Indeed. Fitzgerald complained at the time of publication : “No one has the slightest idea what the book is about!”) In ch2, Fitzgerald shows us, as if through a lens, the vacuity of his characters. Just as in American Psycho : If the novel’s characters are aimless and pointless, the most authentic manner in which to present them—as Fitzgerald wisely, prophetically realized—is through an aimless and pointless Situation. The meaning of ch2 is—aimlessness and pointlessness!


more vulnerable years.” Apparently the older Nick is just as “vulnerable” now :


             “Hold on,” I said, “I have to leave you here.”
             “No, you don’t,” interposed Tom quickly. “Myrtle’ll be hurt if you don't come up to the apartment.”
             “Well, I’d like to, but—”
              We went on . . .



I wanted to get out and walk eastward toward the park through the soft twilight but each time I tried to go I became entangled in some wild strident argument which pulled me back, as if with ropes, into my chair.


More vacuous gabble. Is there a single line of dialogue in ch2 demonstrating an iota of intellect? As Tom himself says : “He’s so dumb he doesn’t know he’s alive.”


EWS. “He informed me that he was in the ‘artistic game’.” (cf. 8:57)


Coen Brothers. “I lay down and cried to beat the band all afternoon.” The quaint US expression “to beat the band” appears in The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001), 43:15.


From bad to worse. “Keep your hands off the lever,” snapped the elevator boy.


Colossal example of the Indirect and Unstated. In the following, the ellipses are precisely as they are in the novel :


               McKee turned and continued on out the door. Taking my hat from the chandelier I followed.
               “Come to lunch some day,” he suggested, as we groaned down in the elevator.
               “All right,” I agreed, “I’ll be glad to.”
                . . . I was standing beside his bed and he was sitting up between the sheets, clad in his underwear, with a great portfolio in his hands.


What in the world is suggested by the silence of the “. . .” ?


(Remember ch1?—“unusually communicative in a reserved way” / “marred by obvious suppressions” / “I am still a little afraid of missing something”)


Recall this from ch1 :


I looked at Miss Baker wondering what it was she “got done.” I enjoyed looking at her. She was a slender, small-breasted girl, with an erect carriage which she accentuated by throwing her body backward at the shoulders like a young cadet.


And this, later in the novel :


I’d been writing letters once a week [to Miss Baker] and signing them: “Love, Nick,” and all I could think of was how, when that certain girl played tennis, a faint mustache of perspiration appeared on her upper lip.


Moronic Inferno. What does Tom Buchanan do to his mistress after sleeping with her in ch2? He casually breaks her nose. Tom Buchanan is the quintessential character who poisons every atmosphere he enters into. Tom Buchanan is Person of the Year not only of 1925 but horrible 2023 : The vacuous bully with inexplicable authority.





Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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Impressionism : The Great Gatsby ch3


Party like it’s 1999. Ch1’s set-piece is a small dinner party; ch2’s set-piece is an impromptu larger party; ch3’s set-piece is a large-scale party.


Contrast. Ch2 ends with a lonely Nick “lying half asleep in the cold lower level of the Pennsylvania Station”—while ch3 begins with lovely warmth : “There was music from my neighbor’s house through the summer nights.”


The Sea. Describing the party at Gatsby’s, Fitzgerald conveys a suggestion of a deep-sea murk without saying so as such. First, at the start of the chapter, Fitzgerald sets up this mood :


At high tide in the afternoon I watched his guests diving from the tower of his raft or taking the sun on the hot sand of his beach while his two motor-boats slit the waters of the Sound, drawing aquaplanes over cataracts of foam.


After this, phrases quietly continue to convey the vibe of water : “floating rounds of cocktails” / “Laughter is . . . spilled” / “The groups change . . . swell with new arrivals, dissolve and form in the same breath” / “confident girls . . . glide on through the sea-change of faces and voices and color under the constantly changing light.” / “A tray of cocktails floated at us through the twilight”


“What more do you want, mermaids?” (Oppenheimer, 167) :


The groups change more swiftly, swell with new arrivals, dissolve and form in the same breath—already there are wanderers, confident girls who weave here and there among the stouter and more stable, become for a sharp, joyous moment the center of a group and then excited with triumph glide on through the sea-change of faces and voices and color under the constantly changing light.


Colors. Contributing to the vitality of the chapter, Fitzgerald incorporates a dense kaleidoscope of colors : “In his blue gardens” / “his station wagon scampered like a brisk yellow bug” / “turkeys bewitched to a dark gold” / “the orchestra is playing yellow cocktail music”  / “gypsies in trembling opal” / “A chauffeur in a uniform of robin’s egg blue” / “Dressed up in white flannels” / “two girls in twin yellow dresses” / “said one of the girls in yellow” / “we sat down . . . with the two girls in yellow” / “It was gas blue with lavender beads” / “A pair of stage ‘twins’—who turned out to be the girls in yellow” / “The moon had risen higher, and floating in the Sound was a triangle of silver scales” / “One of the girls in yellow was playing the piano and beside her stood a tall, red haired young lady” / “The tears . . .  pursued the rest of their way in slow black rivulets.”


Also, references to color. “At least once a fortnight a corps of caterers came down with . . . enough colored lights to make a Christmas tree of Gatsby’s enormous garden.” / “You’ve dyed your hair since then,” remarked Jordan / “already the halls and salons and verandas are gaudy with primary colors” / “sea-change of faces and voices and color”


Post-party color. After the party, the next section begins with the last direct reference to color in ch.3 : “In the early morning the sun threw my shadow westward as I hurried down the white chasms of lower New York to the Probity Trust.” White as palette cleanser.


Irony. “Jordan invited me to join her own party who were spread around a table on the other side of the garden. . . . ‘Let’s get out [of this group of people],’ whispered Jordan, after a somehow wasteful and inappropriate half hour.” / It takes the rest of the novel for Nick to realize that the entire experience he lived through in the novel from start to finish was wasteful.


Visitation from the gods? ch1 : “The eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg . . . look out . . . from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles” / ch3 : “A stout, middle-aged man with enormous owl-eyed spectacles . . . staring . . . at the shelves of books [in the library].” / Fitzgerald sets up this Situation, and the pay-off is here :


Symbolic Automobile. At the end of the party, a crashed car appears as a multi-resonant symbol. Examples of meaning : (1) The crashed car conveys the disastrous dead-end of our wrecked culture. (2) The crashed car is an image of Implacable Fate (e.g., the catastrophe awaiting Gatsby as a result of a car accident). (3) The crashed car implies the death of the Spiritual—It is the drunken “owl-eyed” man from the library who causes the automobile accident.


More automobile symbolism. “[Jordan Baker and I] had a curious conversation about driving a car. . . .” The conversation conveys much more than the surface matter, just as in : “Let me drive for you.” PT, 44:55.


Twins. Nick at end of ch2 : “half asleep in the cold lower level of the Pennsylvania Station” / Gatsby’s general vibe in ch3 : “Gatsby, standing alone on the marble steps”






Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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Raindrop Impact : The Oppenheimer (2023) phenomenon


“Glory is like a circle in the water”


Shot 1 echoes Oppenheimer’s final page : “I watch raindrops make circles on the surface of the pond.” (197)


Dings of rain droplets in a puddle =

unities entering into commonality =

the audience entering into the film.

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Genius Moves : The Great Gatsby, ch4


Whatever soaring limits of the first-rate that GG has already crested by the end of ch3, what follows in ch4 is an upgrade of the genius. We are breathing the atmosphere of an ultimate first-rate English-language artwork of the twentieth century. An American knocked it out of the park—for a grand slam.



On Sunday morning while church bells rang in the villages alongshore, the world and its mistress returned to Gatsby’s house and twinkled hilariously on his lawn.

“He’s a bootlegger,” said the young ladies, moving somewhere between his cocktails and his flowers. “One time he killed a man who had found out that he was nephew to von Hindenburg and second cousin to the devil. Reach me a rose, honey, and pour me a last drop into that there crystal glass.”




The first line is an evocation and encapsulation of the history of English literature. The vibe of the line, how it works, is classic English poetry from 1200s on.


Genius Move : It’s a (wistful?) nod to a Great Tradition of Literature of which GG is at the almost-end.

Genius Move : Its reminiscence of an antique style is similar in spirit to the character of Nick’s memoir, which is a look back at things from a considerable distance.

Genius Move : The quaint naive charm of the line’s antique nature conveys (perversely) the calculatedly bland and blasé naivety of Gatsby’s guests, as we are about to hear in paragraph 3 :


A Henry James Positive-Negative Statement : “those who accepted Gatsby’s hospitality . . . paid him the subtle tribute of knowing nothing whatever about him.”




“He’s a bootlegger,” said the young ladies, moving somewhere between his cocktails and his flowers. “One time he killed a man who had found out that he was nephew to von Hindenburg and second cousin to the devil. Reach me a rose, honey, and pour me a last drop into that there crystal glass.”


Vacuous talk with a chilling depth to it : these chatterers are inhuman. They happily, drunkenly, amorally idle among the flowers of an apparently terrible criminal—and have no compunction about bragging about it in their insipid self-regarding manner. It doesn’t matter if what they say has an iota of truth to it; no one there cares what they say. As long as the free booze and all the rest of the luxury are provided free of charge, the inhumans flock to Gatsby’s like zombies to brains. These freeloaders feel superior to their host because they are freeloading!




High Contrast. Paragraphs 1 to 2—a stark transition from nostalgic naivety to nihilism. Is this transition similar in surprise to the Bone Cut in 2001 : A Space Odyssey?


High Contrast. The church bells of nihilism.




What follows is a comic treatment of “society talk” for 687 words. // Examples of society talk : Nabokov, Lolita, 1.18 / Mailer, An American Dream, ch. 5 / King, The Shining, ch. 18, “The Scrapbook” / Cafe Society (2016), 1:05:41–1:06:42.


GG’s audience moves, within the space of one page, from the significance of charming, stately childhood to nihilism and inane gossip.


Extracts from the next eight paragraphs, a comic treatment of society talk :


Once I wrote down on the empty spaces of a time-table the names of those who came to Gatsby’s house that summer. It is an old time-table now . . . headed . . . “July 5th, 1922.” . . . From East Egg, then, came the Chester Beckers and the Leeches and a man named Bunsen whom I knew at Yale and Doctor Webster Civet who was drowned last summer up in Maine. . . . Clarence Endive was from East Egg, as I remember. He came only once, in white knickerbockers, and had a fight with a bum named Etty in the garden. . . . From West Egg came the Poles and the Mulreadys and Cecil Roebuck and Cecil Schoen and Gulick the state senator and Newton Orchid who controlled Films Par Excellence and Eckhaust and Clyde Cohen and Don S. Schwartze (the son) and Arthur McCarty, all connected with the movies in one way or another. . . . and G. Earl Muldoon, brother to that Muldoon who afterward strangled his wife. . . . and Henry L. Palmetto who killed himself by jumping in front of a subway train in Times Square. . . . Benny McClenahan arrived always with four girls. . . . Faustina OBrien came there at least once and the Baedeker girls and young Brewer who had his nose shot off in the war and. . . . Miss Claudia Hip with a man reputed to be her chauffeur. . . . All these people came to Gatsby’s house in the summer.


Genius Move : Here, Nick is himself charmingly naive. Compare his writing of insipidités on a time-table with the young Gatsby writing important life resolves for himself on the last page of a notebook. (ch9)


But it is Gatsby who is accused of being the pre-eminently shallow one?






Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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The musical “Death Car” : The Great Gatsby ch4


Beginning of 4.1


On Sunday morning while church bells rang in the villages alongshore, the world and its mistress returned to Gatsby’s house and twinkled hilariously on his lawn.


Beginning of 4.2


At nine o’clock, one morning late in July Gatsby’s gorgeous car lurched up the rocky drive to my door and gave out a burst of melody from its three noted horn.


By means of Fitzgerald’s associative structure, the solemnity and hope of the venerable church is now supplanted by a secular, mechanized horror—a new-made, luxurious, cream-yellow Rolls-Royce—that will implicate Gatsby in his eventual Fate.




Marvel at the Dream Condensation!


“the world and its mistress”. In 4.1, “mistress” is a poetic metaphor for the sun. But in GG the word “mistress” also recalls Tom’s mistress, Myrtle Wilson. In ch7, Gatsby’s car knocks down Myrtle, an accident leading to Gatsby’s final Fate. In ch7, the yellow Rolls-Royce, “gorgeous” and melodious and associated symbolically with the sunlight of the church—if only as antithesis—is described as the “death car”.


Do the math. (“mistress”) + (“gorgeous car”) = (“death car”)


Do the math. Remember Doctor T. J. Eckleburg, symbol of a godless world? And the character associated symbolically with him, the “owl-eyed” drunk who smashes his (symbolic) car in ch3?


(Eckleburg) + (“owl-eyed” drunk) + (the drunk’s car crash) − (the church) = (the Fate encoded in Gatsby’s car). 




three noted”—time for Scroob to trot out τριπλαῖς ἁμαξιτοῖς.

three noted”—Gatsby, Daisy, and their go-between, Nick.




Contributing to the musicality of the opening of 4.1—a line identified in an earlier post as a summation of English literature—is its 10-syllable-line metrical stucture.


On Sunday morning while church bells rang

in the villages alongshore, the world

and its mistress returned to Gatsby’s house

and twinkled hilariously on his lawn.


(The “extra-metrical”. English poetry convention—e.g., Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, Keats—very often elides either a mid-word “i” or final “y” or “-ed”—so that the last line here is quantified as ten syllables. See Robert Bridges, Milton’s Prosody.)




Foreshadowing. Might the church bells signify not only a call to prayer, but also a death knell?


(e.g., Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 : “Fate knocking at the door.”)




Another hint of Fate. Note the word in bold : “late in July”. By the time Gatsby drives up to Nick’s door, it’s already too late for him—his Fate is sealed.





Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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The Great Gatsby and Oppenheimer (2023)


In GG ch6, Nick describes the teenage James Gatz (the incipient glittering Gatsby) :


But his heart was in a constant, turbulent riot. The most grotesque and fantastic conceits haunted him in his bed at night. A universe of ineffable gaudiness spun itself out in his brain while the clock ticked on the wash-stand and the moon soaked with wet light his tangled clothes upon the floor. Each night he added to the pattern of his fancies until drowsiness closed down upon some vivid scene with an oblivious embrace. For a while these reveries provided an outlet for his imagination; they were a satisfactory hint of the unreality of reality, a promise that the rock of the world was founded securely on a fairy’s wing.


Oppenheimer (4) :





I was homesick. Emotionally

immature. . . troubled by visions of

a hidden universe.


In what year was the historical J. Robert Oppenheimer twenty-one years old? 1925—publication date of The Great Gatsby.

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Daisy, Daisy : The Great Gatsby, ch5


So Gatsby knew Daisy five years earlier. They had a love dalliance; then it ended. Now he steps back into her life, and it turns out that, according to Jordan Baker, “Gatsby bought that [enormous] house so that Daisy would be just across the bay.”


1. Daisy brings back the past.


While the rain continued it had seemed like the murmur of their voices, rising and swelling a little, now and then, with gusts of emotion. But in the new silence I felt that silence had fallen within the house too. . . .  And inside as we wandered through Marie Antoinette music rooms and Restoration salons I felt that there were guests concealed behind every couch and table, under orders to be breathlessly silent until we had passed through. As Gatsby closed the door of “the Merton College Library” I could have sworn I heard the owl-eyed man break into ghostly laughter.


cf. Stephen King, The Shining, ch 50 (“Redrum”) :


Half an hour ago, the sounds had ceased. All of them, all at once. The elevator, the party, the sound of room doors opening and closing. . . . In that new silence, as Danny had been falling asleep, she had fancied she heard low, conspiratorial voices coming from the kitchen almost directly below them. At first she had dismissed it as the wind, which could mimic many different human vocal ranges, from a papery deathbed whisper around the doors and window frames to a full-out scream around the eaves.


2. Daisy brings echoes.



“I hate that word hulking,” objected Tom crossly, “even in kidding.”

Hulking,” insisted Daisy.



[Gatsby] opened for [Daisy and me] two hulking patent cabinets which held his massed suits and dressing-gowns and ties, and his shirts. . . .


A monumental pay-off to ch5’s reuse of “hulking”—a direct link between the character of Tom and the symbolism of Gatsby’s shirts—is observed at the end of this post, in “Genius Move”.


3. Daisy brings foreshadowing.


[Daisy] turned her head as there was a light, dignified knocking at the front door. I went out and opened it. Gatsby, pale as death, with his hands plunged like weights in his coat pockets, was standing in a puddle of water glaring tragically into my eyes.


Why “tragically” and “pale as death”? Because Daisy is personally implicated in Gatsby’s final Fate.


And the following related moment, at the end of ch5—is both contrast and irony at once!


she said something low in his ear . . . that voice was a deathless song.


4. Daisy brings contrasts.


[Daisy] turned her head as there was a light, dignified knocking at the front door. I went out and opened it. Gatsby, pale as death, with his hands plunged like weights in his coat pockets, was standing in a puddle of water glaring tragically into my eyes.


This contrast conveys Gatsby’s dramatic whirl of emotions (whirling through the whole chapter).


[Daisy] turned her head as there was a light, dignified knocking at the front door. I went out and opened it. Gatsby, pale as death, with his hands plunged like weights in his coat pockets, was standing in a puddle of water glaring tragically into my eyes.


This contrast conveys Gatsby’s humiliation, both now and finally, at the hands of Daisy Buchanan.


5. Daisy brings us an All-Time Genius Move.


[Gatsby] took out a pile of shirts and began throwing them, one by one before us . . .

“They’re such beautiful shirts,” [Daisy] sobbed, her voice muffled in the thick folds. “It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such—such beautiful shirts before.”


Why is Daisy sobbing over “beautiful shirts”? Obviously she’s not sobbing because of beautiful shirts.


(1) Daisy sobs because of the awkward moment of Gatsby humiliating himself.

(2) Daisy sobs over her lost past and her horrible present (horrible husband Tom).

(3) Daisy sobs because she already knows materialism isn’t happiness.

(4) Daisy sobs over the emotional shock of her past reappearing—


“We haven’t met for many years,” said Daisy. . . .

“Five years next November.”

The automatic quality of Gatsby’s answer set us all back at least another minute.


This moment recalls Oppenheimer (2) :


STRAUSS : “It was years ago.”

SENATE AIDE : “Four years ago—”

STRAUSS (automatically) : “Five.”


(5) Daisy sobs in bewilderment because she still feels an attraction to Gatsby.


(6) Daisy sobs for herself.

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Maximum Perverse : The Great Gatsby



About this time an ambitious young reporter from New York arrived one morning at Gatsby’s door and asked him if he had anything to say.


“anything to say”? This is Fitzgerald at maximum perverse. Welcome to chapter 6 of GG.



The Sheer Damned Random.


James Gatz—that was really, or at least legally, his name. He had changed it at the age of seventeen and at the specific moment that witnessed the beginning of his career—when he saw Dan Cody’s yacht drop anchor over the most insidious flat on Lake Superior. It was James Gatz who had been loafing along the beach that afternoon in a torn green jersey and a pair of canvas pants, but it was already Jay Gatsby who borrowed a row-boat, pulled out to the Tuolomee and informed Cody that a wind might catch him and break him up in half an hour.


As a result of “loafing about” one day, midwesterner James Gatz, impecunious itinerant son of “shiftless” and “unsuccessful” farmers, reconceives himself as the glittering Gatsby of the East.



Narrator Nick, Patron Saint of Hypocrites?


The truth was that Jay Gatsby, of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself. He was a son of God—a phrase which, if it means anything, means just that—and he must be about His Father’s Business, the service of a vast, vulgar and meretricious beauty. So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen-year-old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end.


“vulgar and meretricious”—Nick’s one to talk! One Unstated in GG that remains for the audience to explore : How clearly does Narrator Nick see himself?


If he sees it all (so to speak), Nick is heroic in his objectivity. He has no care if some phrases redound unpleasantly on himself. Working in the service of Truth, the narrator is content to tear himself down along with the rest of human society.


But if Nick is repeatedly “missing something” on this or that page, then even this last-ditch effort of his of making something of himself by writing a memoir, is a sort of failure—because in his casual judgments here and there he humiliates himself.

Sometimes Nick might reveal his true colors, consciously or otherwise. For example, he remarks late in ch6 :


It is invariably saddening to look through new eyes at things upon which you have expended your own powers of adjustment.


Might he be thinking, among other things, of his own personal hypocrisy and failure?



Same But Different?


Doesn’t Nick follow a trajectory similar to Jay Gatsby’s? Nick also travels east, and his dreams die, too. In Nick’s case, he slinks away from his failure, and returns to the—Midwest!



The Holier-Than-Thou Contradiction.


While Narrator Nick may or may not be blind to himself throughout GG, during the perverse quagmire of ch6 he has no problem identifying self-blindness in Daisy :


She was appalled by West Egg, . . . by the . . . fate that herded its inhabitants along a short cut from nothing to nothing. She saw something awful in the very simplicity she failed to understand.


“failed to understand”—because Daisy herself is on the road to nowhere, moving from nothing to nothing? Q : Is it cringeworthy to criticize one’s own faults in others?





Though ditzy Daisy is “appalled” by the people around her, she remarks to Tom at the end of the night :


“At least they’re more interesting than the people we know,” she said . . .



“They were careless people . . .”


They were a party of three on horseback—Tom and a man named Sloane and a pretty woman in a brown riding habit who had been there previously.

“I’m delighted to see you,” said Gatsby standing on his porch. “I’m delighted that you dropped in.”

As though they cared!


(1) As though they cared about his place

(2) As though they cared about what Gatsby thought of them

(3) As though they cared about him!



Casual Comment of Doom.


Gatsby’s polite questions to the “party of three” are at the same time a dark foreshadowing of his own Fate :


“Did you have a nice ride?” [Gatsby asks]

“Very good roads around here.”

“I suppose the automobiles—”






Two tangential characters express their thanks for something at different times in ch6. At both times Fitzgerald adds that they expressed their thanks—“without gratitude.”



Late-Cronenbergian Psychodynamics.


Moved by an irresistible impulse, Gatsby turned to Tom . . .

“I believe we’ve met somewhere before, Mr. Buchanan.”

“Oh, yes,” said Tom, gruffly polite but obviously not remembering. “So we did. I remember very well.”

“About two weeks ago.”

“That’s right. You were with Nick here.”

“I know your wife,” continued Gatsby, almost aggressively.





“By God,” [said serial-adulterer Tom], “I may be old-fashioned in my ideas, but women run around too much these days to suit me.”



Surreal Truth.


Ch6 is so skewed, so weird, so surreal that the idiotic Tom Buchanan actually interprets something correctly :


“Who is this Gatsby anyhow?” demanded Tom suddenly. “Some big bootlegger?”

“Where’d you hear that?” I inquired.

“I didn’t hear it. I imagined it. A lot of these newly rich people are just big bootleggers, you know.”


And it is Narrator Nick who is going awry!


“Not Gatsby,” I said shortly.



God’s lonely man.


Gatsby throws parties all summer long but ch6 reveals him as lonely—which puts him in a sadly sympathetic light, or as looking pathetic. 


“Well, you come,” [the pretty woman] urged, concentrating on Gatsby. . . .

“I’ll have to follow you in my car,” [said Gatsby]. “Excuse me for just a minute.”

[ . . . ]

“Come on,” said Mr. Sloane to Tom, “we’re late. We’ve got to go.” And then to me: “Tell him we couldn’t wait, will you?”

Tom and I shook hands, the rest of us exchanged a cool nod and they trotted quickly down the drive, disappearing under the August foliage just as Gatsby with hat and light overcoat in hand came out the front door.


Picture a child running excitedly out of his house only to find an empty front lawn—his friends have abandoned him.



Hell is other people.


Fitzgerald intensifies the sharpness of his cinematic lens for the party of ch6. He employs an ancient concept to describe the vacuous partygoers : the dead in the otherworld as a collection of shadows (σκιά / umbra).


Sometimes a shadow moved against a dressing-room blind above, gave way to another shadow, an indefinite procession of shadows, that rouged and powdered in an invisible glass.


The spirits of the dead wanting to look “rouged and powdered” recalls Ovid’s Underworld, where the shadows are “devoting themselves to some work practice in imitation of their former life.” (Meta., IV.432–445)



Fatal Attraction.


Nick simply cannot help himself. Daisy is an aimless inhuman, yet her outward charms captivate him regardless. Fitzgerald shows us the inexplicable uncertainty of attraction.


Daisy began to sing with the music in a husky, rhythmic whisper, bringing out a meaning in each word that it had never had before and would never have again. When the melody rose, her voice broke up sweetly, following it, in a way contralto voices have, and each change tipped out a little of her warm human magic upon the air.


This particular theme of GG—the “warm human magic” of careless deadly Daisy and the seemingly level-headed Nick’s involuntary attraction to her—gains an additional sense for the reader who knows of Fitzgerald’s tumultuous marriage to Zelda, whose long-term psychiatric troubles ended grimly.  



Genius Move : ominous color


At the end of the party in ch6 :


A breeze stirred the grey haze of Daisy’s fur collar.


Soon, Daisy in the cream-colored Rolls will spell the death of Gatsby. Now recall the “waste land” of “rising smoke” that opens ch2—Under the blank watchful eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg


                              a line of grey cars crawls along . . .


Such intricate Dream Condensation! This is wordsmith Fitzgerald at his most subtle.



Total Eclipse.


Even the party Gatsby hosts in ch6 has a “quality of oppressiveness,” Nick reports. . . . “I felt an unpleasantness in the air, a pervading harshness that hadn’t been there before.” .  .  . “I’d enjoyed these same people only two weeks before. But what had amused me then turned septic on the air now.”

At the end of the party, Nick notes the usually-sparkling Gatsby in a mood of “unutterable depression” . . . “walk[ing] up and down a desolate path of fruit rinds and discarded favors and crushed flowers.”


At the end of ch1, Gatsby was holding out his hands in eager hope toward the direction of Daisy. Now : “He looked around him wildly, as if the past were . . . just out of reach of his hand.”


Then when Gatsby opens up and speaks sensitively of the defining moment in his adult life—the moment he kissed Daisy five years earlier and “she blossomed for him like a flower”—Narrator Nick has the audacious effrontery to describe the Situation as “appalling sentimentality”.


Fitzgerald has said goodbye to a tender strain of human gentleness running through the entirety of English literature. The Great Gatsby is as dark a novel as anything produced before, then, or since. It is a goodbye to everything human; a greeting to darkness, my old friend.


Slowly the long shadow of Fate entirely darkens the book over the duration of ch6.


. . . So no surprise that ch7 begins with :


It was when curiosity about Gatsby was at its highest that the lights in his house failed to go on one Saturday night.


. . . but before the beginning of ch7 comes :


Maximum Darkness. The final lines of ch6 :


For a moment a phrase tried to take shape in my mouth and my lips parted like a dumb man’s, as though there was more struggling upon them than a wisp of startled air. But they made no sound and what I had almost remembered was uncommunicable forever.


The narrative’s wordsmith finds himself in a curious position—unable to find the words. In ch6, Fitzgerald is as upbeat and cheery as Sophocles. Art has degraded to silence.





Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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The Oppenheimer (2023) phenomenon


Shot 1. The raw material.

                                                        thou from the first

Wast present, and with mighty wings outspread,

Dove-like sat’st brooding on the vast Abyss,

And mad’st it pregnant :


Shot 2. The Creator who shapes.



“How long did he testify?”(1)


cf. the dark twist of the knife in the word in :


                                                                       that strife

Was not inglorious, though th’ event was dire,

As this place testifies, and this dire change,

Hateful to utter.




“I’d rather not put it into words.”




Helen.                                                 Those ships

took Odysseus away to a terrible fate,

to an evil city not to be named.


Penelope.                                      So now I shall go

upstairs to my chambers, and lie down on my bed

of sighs, forever bathed with tears for my husband,

ever since he went to that horrible place

that is not to be named.




Blind Οἰδίπους.




“How long did he testify?” 180 minutes 9 seconds + whatever duration of concentration the Spectator subsequently devotes to the phenomenon. The effort expended either falls short of revelation, or reaches it. Top Tip : Constant thinking makes one human. 


Art is the interval in which clarity is visible. “Constant thinking” (about Art) is “self-education”. Education reveals the face in the text that is the door to revelation. Education reveals the face that saves.




Constant thinking makes one human, yet :


“poor poetry, which, from almost the highest estimation of learning, is fallen to be the laughing-stock of children” (1595; posthumous)




It takes a running start of thinking, a build-up of a head-of-steam of thinking, to break out of blindness, and come to see and know. Say, 180 minutes 9 seconds + ?




Room 2022 : Bresson / Joan of Arc. “An ordeal.” (2)—“A trial in which a person is subjected to a test, overcoming of which is taken as divine proof of innocence (frequently in ordeal by fire)”


An ordeal—of the duration of 180 minutes 9 seconds + ?

An ordeal—a build-up of a head of steam of thinking.

ordeal by fire—“Keep up the fires of thought, and all will go well.”


The on-button of constant thinking is Art.


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Oedipus and Travis : “Why this cry of sickness?”



ὦ τέκνα, Κάδμου τοῦ πάλαι νέα τροφή,

τίνας ποθ᾽ ἕδρας τάσδε μοι θοάζετε

ἱκτηρίοις κλάδοισιν ἐξεστεμμένοι;



O children, of old Cadmus the latest born,

why are you sitting before me in this way,

with suppliant olive branches wrapped in leaves?


Sophocles opens the play with Oedipus addressing the theatre audience—the latest-born descendants of the original founder of the state—just as a cinema character, by staring into the lens, integrates the Spectator into the thematic Situation of a film. It’s as weird and surreal as that. In fact, what Oedipus has just said is even weirder than that.


ἱκτηρίοις = olive-branch held by suppliant as symbol of their condition

κλάδοισιν = branch of a tree

ἐξεστεμμένοι = wrapped around with garlands


Let’s hold up. Line 3 of Oedipus the play is composed of only three words. By now the Kind Reader should hear critical alarm bells ringing when it observes such simplicity in Sophocles.



(looks and) sounds similar to

ἰᾱτρικός = medicinal (i.e., “iatric”)



is related etymologically to (and echoes the sound of)

κλαίω = to cry, wail, lament



derives from

ἐκστέφω :

ἐκ = out

στέφω = (1) to put round, (2) to encircle, to crown, to wreathe


ἐξεστεμμένοι carries a strong sense of “the removal of the crown”.


A creepily apt expression from Oedipus?


(cf. Lady Macbeth describes the kingly crown as “the golden round", while Macbeth himself describes it as “the round and top of sovereignty.")


So right off the start the Unconscious of Oedipus asks himself and the audience :


“Why this cry of sickness and the toppling of the crown?”


Right off the start, Oedipus explains to himself what is already happening to him unawares. He clearly expresses the Fate he cannot escape. Somewhere inside him he already knows what is going to happen to him.


(cf. Natural Born Killers—“Twenty years ago I saw the demon in my dreams. I was waiting for you.”)


“Why this cry of sickness and the toppling of the crown?”


Dramatic irony? No—It is the first manifestation of the perverse element of the triple-tone of Oedipus. By line 3, Oedipus the character already reveals the truth of his condition, and his fate. It is an uncanny self-revelation that is not heard as such. So what happens? The rational part of Oedipus proceeds to get a beating for the rest of the play, until Oedipus comes to understand—but much too late.


It’s as if Travis Bickle’s first lines

“I can’t sleep nights. . . . Ride around nights mostly. . . . Anytime, anywhere.”

are heard as

“Why this cry of sickness and the toppling of my sanity?”




Travis Bickle = “Travelling sick”


Oedipus = “sick-footed” (i.e., sick at the core—“foot” as metrical unit of poetry).


“Why this cry of sickness and the toppling of the crown?”

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The Oppenheimer (2023) phenomenon


Two examples of extreme personalising of the source material of Oppenheimer :


Rabi : “That’s his thing—me and horses? I don’t think so.” (16)


This extreme conversational in Rabi, in its contrast to the poise of Heisenberg and Oppenheimer, embodies character in Rabi. The extreme conversational returns, for example, here :


Lawrence : “Is Frank okay?” Oppenheimer : “Yeah. He just has a s***** brother.” (30)


The extreme conversational helps to humanize a character. The world audience of Oppenheimer responded to everything in the film with wondrously favourable word-of-mouth.


An example of extreme conversational in The Master, the Kind Reader may recall : “I like Kools. Minty flavor.”


Example from Seneca, Medea :


                           noctis aeternae chaos,

aversa superis regna manesque impios

dominumque regni tristis et dominam fide

meliore raptam (voce non fausta precor).

nunc, nunc adeste, sceleris ultrices deae . . .


Medea, in the middle of belting out an extravagantly violent energy-gathering monologue, comments (coolly) to herself, (“This is no favourable prayer.”)


Example from Macbeth :


Seyton!—I am sick at heart,

When I behold—Seyton, I say!


Macbeth, after belting out a pack of lines of loud extravagance, comments (coolly) to himself.


“himself”? Oedipus’ ghost : one part stops speaking, another starts. How many speakers inside each of us? How many spectators? But one sovereign holds sway over all, false. The Inhuman is mimicry. Mimicry is thoughtless. Constant thinking makes one human.


Humanism is the essence of Art. Or, Art is the essence of the human. / “Poetry is of all human learnings the most ancient . . . from whence other learnings have taken their beginnings.” (1595) / “The origin of the work of art is [the faculty of] art.” (1950)





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Halloween fun in plain speech :

Joan of Arc vs. England

a screenplay of 1.1–2 of

1 Henry 6 by Shakespeare

engineered by Scrooby

morning of 31 Oct 2023




Solemn funeral procession of effeminate English noblemen alongside the coffin of King Henry V. The vibe is hushed, reverent, and pathetic.



All light has fallen out of the sky. Our day is now a night.

Too good to live, our king is dead.



He was the first of our leaders worth the name. His look

alone was enough to send our enemies to flight. He never

lifted up his hand, but conquered.


The mood turns increasingly heated.



How weak and worthless are all these words! The man is

dead and not coming back! How pathetic is this? Enough

of following the corpse around like dung beetles! Let’s 

drench these mourning blacks in blood!



He was a king blessed of the most holy, and the battles he

fought were for God. The church and his prayers alone gave

him strength, and virtue.



The church? Look at what the church and God have done

for him! It’s what the church hopes to see in us—weakness!



So says Gloucester, whose every move is at the decision

of his wife! She’s more prideful than any churchman or

God might deservedly be. You speak of weakness?



You speak of the church? Who ever sees you in here?

—except when praying for the death of your enemies!



Enough! Quiet, everyone! Let us proceed to the altar.


The mood returns to reverent.


BEDFORD (cont’d)

Come, let us offer up our weapons.


Each man lays down his sword by the coffin.


BEDFORD (cont’d)

Now shall come our wretched years. Our island has turned

womanly, and none but women shall be left to wail our



The mourners, some sad, some angry, stand with heads bowed.


BEDFORD (cont’d)

(loudly praying)

Glorious Henry! We call on you for help! Look on our

kingdom! Keep us safe from—





Honourable lords, I bring terrible news! The enemy French

is now strong in slaughter, and we grow ever-richer in

suffering. Guienne, Champagne, Rheims, Orleans, Paris,

Guysors, Poictiers—all are lost.



What are you saying?



Paris is lost? Is Rouen yielded up?



How were they lost? What treachery was used?



No treachery. We lack men, and we lack leadership.


Awake, English nobility! The horrors you’ve birthed have

eaten half your shield away!



Now let the tears flow. Shall we keep losing till there is

nothing left to lose?


BEDFORD tears his mourning robes off his body.



Bring me my armour! France is mine. I shall go.





Lords, I bring letters of catastrophe! France has risen up

in revolt, and the prize seems lost to us. They’ve crowned

Dauphin Charles king. The Bastard of Orleans is with him.

Reignier, Duke of Anjou, stands with them, as does the

Duke of Alencon.



All fly to him—while we creep along in misery!



No one is “creeping”—except up to our enemies’ throats.

Bedford, if you don’t cut them, I will.



You doubt me, Gloucester? Already I’ve designed my army

in my mind—





Gracious lords, I bring news of a dismal fight between

Lord Talbot and the French.



What? Talbot overcome?



No. Not overcome, but overthrown. At the head of his army

he sent hundreds to hell. But then the French surrounded his

men in wreck and massacre, and Talbot received a spear in

his back.



Is he dead?



No. He lives, but as prisoner; along with many other lords—all

those who weren’t slaughtered.



I’ll pay his ransom—four heads of theirs for every one of ours!


BEDFORD raises his sword up from the altar.


BEDFORD (cont’d)

                                          I’m going, and I’m taking ten thousand soldiers with me.



You’ll need them, sir. Orleans is besieged, and the English army

is grown weak and faint. We lack leaders, and we lack supplies.

Our men—those who are left—are one breath away from mutiny.


All the mourners have now retaken their weapons from the altar and are arming themselves.



Remember, lords, our fallen king’s strength! We must crush

Dauphin Charles! Kill him, or bring him to his knees!



And I would forget that? I go!


BEDFORD exits.



I’ll to the Tower immediately and assess our artillery and

munition. Only then I’ll announce young Henry king.





I’m to Eltham, where the young king is. I’ll provide for his



EXETER exits. The funeral service breaks up in a hubbub. The BISHOP is left alone with the coffin.



They rush off, thinking my job finished. But I have not

yet begun my work. I shall have young Henry vanished

from Eltham. Soon I shall myself be standing at the head

of the state!




Fighting fanfare. CHARLES, ALENCON, REIGNIER, with their mighty military force. To the martial sounds of drums and trumpets the French are organizing into striking position.



The fortunes of war now smile on us; and the starving English

look like the pale ghosts they shall soon become. Do they

trouble us even one hour a month?



They’re desperate for their porridge and beef. We should feed

them like mules before they look weaker than drowned mice.



Let’s attack them now! Talbot, once their strength, is now ours; and

their Salisbury has neither men nor money to face us in war. Why

do we sit so idly here?



Do it. Raise the alarm. We will rush on them!


Fighting fanfare.



(loudly to soldiers)

Now for the honour of the French! I forgive him who kills

me when he sees me retreat one single foot!


The French army attacks the town. BATTLE! The English army rises to the occasion. The French are beaten back, with great loss.



What the hell was that? Where are the men in all my soldiers?!

Dogs! Cowards!


I myself would never have retreated, but I was left alone amid

my enemies.



Salisbury fights like a madman when fighting for his life. And

all his others follow him like hungry lions rushing their prey.



Skinny weak imbeciles! Who’d have thought they had such




Hunger is strengthening the hare-brained slaves! Let’s withdraw

from the town.



We’ll let them alone.



Be it so.





Where’s the Prince Dauphin? I have news for him.



Bâtard d’Orléans, welcome.



God, you all look so miserable! Is all your good cheer lost?

Well, I bring good news—a saviour is at hand. I have with me 

a young woman who calls herself a holy soul. She says visions

sent from heaven will help her save us. She promises to drive

England from our borders once and for all. She says she knows

all of what is past and what’s to come. Shall I bring her forth?



Bring her here.




CHARLES (cont’d)

To test her skill, you, Regnier, stand as myself in my place.

Question her proudly. Let your looks be stern and

forbidding. In this way we shall see what sight she has.





Girl, what is it you say of these wondrous feats of yours?



Reignier, you try to trick me? Where is the Dauphin? Come

out from behind there. I know you well, though I have never

seen you before. Don’t be surprised. Nothing is hid from me.

You and I must speak in private. Stand back, you lords, and

give us space awhile.



Thus far she plays her part well.


CHARLES nods, and the others retreat.



I am Joan, a farmer’s daughter with no other education.

But heaven has shined down on me. God’s mother appeared

to my eyes in a vision, and said I must free my country from

disaster. She promised me strength, and assured me success.

The beauty I am now blessed with, new to me, and which you can

see, is the fruit of her love. Ask me whatever you like, and I shall

answer straight. Test my courage by combat, if you dare. You will

find I fight like no farm girl. If you resolve on this, and receive me

as an ally, you and France shall be fortunate.



Your words astonish me. Now let us see your deeds. You and I shall

face off in single combat. If you overcome me, your words are true.

Otherwise you shall receive no further trust.



I am prepared. Here is my sword, which I plucked from some old iron

in Saint Katharine’s churchyard.



Then come, in God’s name! I fear no woman!



While I live, I’ll fly from no man!


They fight, sword to sword! JOAN beats the hell out of CHARLES!



Stop! Hold your hand!


JOAN steps back and lowers her sword.



The Virgin Mary helps me. Otherwise I’d be too weak.



Whoever helps you, now you must help me.


CHARLES kneels before her.


CHARLES (cont’d)

You’ve weakened my hands—and my heart.


CHARLES takes her hand.


CHARLES (cont’d)

Excellent Joan, let me not rule you, but serve you. The

master of the French asks you this.


JOAN removes her hand from his.



I cannot give in to your love, not when my work has come

from Heaven. But once the enemy is gone from our land,

then I will think of a reward.


REIGNIER and ALENCON come forward.



My lord, what are our orders? Shall we retreat from Orleans,

or no?



No! We fight till the last breath! I will protect you.



What she says I confirm. We’ll fight it out.



I have been sent to tear down the wretched English. I will lead

the attack tonight. Now that I have come and entered into these

wars, expect the sweetness of summer days.



Angel on earth!



Do what you will then, woman, to save us. Drive out the English

from Orleans, and live in everlasting fame.



We’ll try anyway. If she proves wrong, trust no prophet. Let’s

get about it.





Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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A dark and murmurous Halloween night

Forty years back, in a small U.S. town,

Michael Myers gave the good folk a fright

When with a knife he cut his sister down.

He was just a boy. The cold murderer

Was locked away for evaluation,

And succeeded in striking his doctor

Bone-cold, prolonging incarceration.

But Myers escaped from the loony house

When a storm mucked up organization.

Stealing a car, he homed in on the place

Of his old bloody abomination.

       Fated with a compulsion to repeat

       That primal horror of his long-dead past.

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Jeffrey Beaumont returns to Lumberton,

His hometown, to comfort his sick father

Girt in a weird medical contraption

In the hospital. Walking home after

A visit, Jeffrey finds a human ear

Dropped in the grass in an overgrown field.

“Snipped clean off with scissors,” the coroner

Speculates, frowning at the eerie find,

Adding that it may not have come from someone dead.




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Canto I



                       Frozen wild at the bottom of the world,

                              ANTARCTICA, blind-white tracts of snow stand

                              Dismal, bland, inhospitable, bone-cold,

                              Lonely : a continent-sized hinterland

                              Of bald mountain rock and barren snow thick-packed

                              Underfoot (a firm footing that could melt

                              Away, like one’s certainty and concord

                              Facing an inexplicable event).

     Twelve men have come, hired by the U.S. government.


                       Twelve men staff a science research station

                               Of small, cramped buildings, a pre-fab outpost

                               Huddled tight against the glaciation

                               All round; blistering winds scour this endmost

                               Place constantly, whiting the daylight out

                               To a nothingness restricting work done

                               Outside: the first day of winter has passed.

                               The task schedule for this bitter zone

                       Is about to be scotched by events unforeknown.


                       Twelve men, twelve characters, some strong, some weak :

                               An ensemble of clashing dynamics;

                               Tempers flare, jibes fly, yet they’ve made it work

                               In this dismal backend place: there’s Clark, Fuchs,

                               Garry, Norris, Palmer, Nauls, Childs, Bennings,

                               Radioman Windows, the Doctors Blair

                               And Copper, each with his issues and tics;

                               Then there’s MacReady, long-haired, bearded, fair-

                       Minded, a gruff loner: the copter pilot there.


                       Most sat in the rec room, a comfy stop

                               Offering many amusements : take your pick :

                               The pock-pock of ping pong, the clack and drop

                               Of balls in billiard pockets, (music

                               Underscoring idle chat; electronic

                               Noise from video games); some simply sat

                               Stoned, or turning the pages of a book;

                               Poker chips were stacked, cards shuffled and dealt :

                       No man yet witting of the danger in their midst.


                       From afar came the sound of a chopper :

                               A dark shape cresting a high, distant ridge :

                               Against a field of snow, a helicopter :

                               Hard to see, it still as small as a midge,

                               But it was coming near. Was it chasing

                               A snow-dog, the breed that pulls sleds along?

                               The dog was humping through the snow, throwing

                               Knowing glances back toward the pursuing

                       Black helicopter: there came the sound of shooting.


                       A rifleman, half out of the cockpit,

                               One foot perched on a skid, points his weapon

                               At the swift dog and squeezes off a shot :

                               Why murder a healthy dog with a gun?

                               But the dog’s smart, a fair match for these men,

                               Veering round the snow-plain so they can’t keep

                               Him in their cross-hairs; now where’s the thing gone?

                               There! Missed shots pock the snow : losing his grip,

                       The pilot’s hollering in panicked comradeship.


                       The Thing, indeed. An alien lifeform

                               Crashed here a hundred thousand years ago

                               When man’s brain was reaching its present form;

                               Whatever it looked like (we’ll never know),

                               The Thing emerged from its wrecked space craft, though

                               It didn’t get far in the snowy waste

                               Before it stopped. It would wait. Time would grow

                               Long before it was found and then thawed out :

                       Nineteen-eighty-two was the year this came about.


                       The dog raced on, mastering the snow pack,

                               Four paws flinging powdery puffs upward

                               As it leapt along; the fraught men in black

                               Began tossing grenades : they endeavored

                               To destroy it whatever the method,

                               For this was no mere dog: this was The Thing;

                               Problem was, their lethal primed grenades missed,

                               The sly dog veering from every bomb flung :

                       All life was threatened if this creature stayed living.


                       Detonations disturbed the peaceful day;

                               The helicopter circled the outpost

                               While the cunning dog rushed up the front way.

                               The men of Station 31 came out

                               To witness what the fracas was about :

                               They saw a strange scene : the copter landed,

                               Its pilot pulled a grenade then dropped it :

                               Screaming panicked, digging with hectic dread

                       In the snow to recover it : it exploded.


                       The chopper and the pilot blew apart,

                               Both into flaming debris fragmenting;

                               Fireball rising, the rifleman kept

                               Advancing, his weapon raised toward the dog,

                               Who, cannily, was quickly befriending

                               Bennings, licking his face. The other men

                               Stand dumbfounded : the armed stranger, shouting

                               Fiercely in a foreign tongue, aims his gun :

                       Firing at the animal, missing again.


                       Bennings fell as the bullet grazed his thigh :

                               The panicked men of the outpost scattered

                               From the gunman seeking another try

                               At the dog, who in Clark has found a friend :

                               But a bullet enters the gunman’s head

                               And he drops to the snow, dead, his secret

                               Intent dead with him. Garry had fired

                               The mortal shot, bringing peace to the site,

                       Save for the copter’s crackling flames, which smoldered yet.


                       The twelve men gather in the aftermath,

                               Standing stunned around the burning copter;

                               The dog feigned calm at the words from Clark’s mouth;

                               Bennings nursed his leaking wound; the stranger

                               Lay dead. NORGE was printed on the chopper :

                               Those two black-clad crazies were Norwegian.

                               Mac said it: “First goddamn week of winter.”

                               What had just happened? This to determine,

                       A scouting trip was required to Norge Station.



End of Canto I





Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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John Milton


John Carpenter’s Halloween


No longer suburban security :

Homes encroachable, locked doors fatuous,

For Evil stalks the streets of Haddonfield

Come to sunder the knot of family :

Tender children of parents unsafe now

And helpless, Michael Myers has come home.

Composèd fury, dread Shape of nightmares

Dire, monolithic in hate, hither

Hideous on horrid errand arrived

In blankgreen stationwagon nondescript,

With institutional insignia

Emblemed on doors, FOR OFFICAL USE ONLY;

Sinister vehicle, on erratic

Enterprise violating secure streets

Of ordered peace; no detailed visage

Accessible inside the sombre car

Windows, but darkness engrossed there, obscure

The abysmal inmate. Soon whistling knives

Will shriek through flesh, spider fingers strangling,

Murders vile, incomprehensible

Deformity of fate inescapable

Realised by some, the hapless, his victims

To be. The governmental vehicle

Sharked through neighborhoods, interesting none. . . .

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“You talkin to me?” : Οἰδίπους Τύραννος


Oppenheimer : Genius is no guarantee of wisdom. How could this man who saw so much be so blind?” (46)


Your friendly Scrooby has demolished for all time academia’s nonunderstanding of the Οἰδίπους Τύραννος of Sophocles, though the academic industry continues to pump out the self-congratulatory paperwork. Academia’s hellacious conception of “dramatic irony” with respect to Οἰδίπους Τύραννος is utterly destroyed by, say, line 94, demonstrating that academics cannot even wade through Act 1 without revealing their superior blindness.  


The following sequential lines (76–94) lead to a climax that prompted this post, a climax that coordinates with a post from a few days ago.



ὅταν δ᾽ ἵκηται, τηνικαῦτ᾽ ἐγὼ κακὸς

μὴ δρῶν ἂν εἴην πάνθ᾽ ὅσ᾽ ἂν δηλοῖ θεός.


“When he [Creon] comes, I will be bad if I do nothing in answer to the god’s signs.”


HA! “Be bad”/ “vile” / “unlucky” / “miserable”—All of these definitions of κακὸς are precisely what Oedipus will turn out to become—once he finally does something!



ἀλλ᾽ εἰς καλὸν σύ τ᾽ εἶπας οἵδε τ᾽ ἀρτίως

Κρέοντα προσστείχοντα σημαίνουσί μοι.


“You speak auspiciously, since just now these men are signalling that Creon is coming!”


HA! “Auspiciously”? (“I was going to the worst place in the world and I didn’t even know it yet.”)



ὦναξ  Ἄπολλον, εἰ γὰρ ἐν τύχῃ γέ τῳ

σωτῆρι βαίη λαμπρὸς ὥσπερ ὄμματι.


“Lord Apollo, may he come with good fortune that saves us, like a bright eye!”


HA! Let’s not even go there.



ἀλλ᾽ εἰκάσαι μέν, ἡδύς: οὐ γὰρ ἂν κάρα

πολυστεφὴς ὧδ᾽ εἷρπε παγκάρπου δάφνης.


“If I had to guess, he brings comfort. . . .”


HA! Yeah . . . no. Tell it to Oedipus tearing out his eyeballs beside noose-dangling Jocasta.



τάχ᾽ εἰσόμεσθα: ξύμμετρος γὰρ ὡς κλύειν.

ἄναξ, ἐμὸν κήδευμα, παῖ Μενοικέως,

τίν᾽ ἡμὶν ἥκεις τοῦ θεοῦ φήμην φέρων;


“Soon we shall know; he’s within hearing distance. . . . What is the news from the god?”


HA! What is required for revelation is closer than “hearing distance”, Oedipus my friend. What you need to know is already in your head—you are the sickness and you are the solution—and somehow you already know this, don’t you? HA! “Soon” we shall know?!



ἐσθλήν : λέγω γὰρ καὶ τὰ δύσφορ᾽, εἰ τύχοι

κατ᾽ ὀρθὸν ἐξελθόντα, πάντ᾽ ἂν εὐτυχεῖν.


“Good. I say that hard troubles, if the response is right, will turn out well.”  


HA! “Good.” Oh really? HA! “Turn out well?” Oh really?



ἔστιν δὲ ποῖον τοὔπος; οὔτε γὰρ θρασὺς

οὔτ᾽ οὖν προδείσας εἰμὶ τῷ γε νῦν λόγῳ.


“What is the τοὔπος ? Your words as yet give me neither encouragement nor fear.”


HA! Remember the homophone? “What is the message [τοὔπος]?” / “What is the place [τόπος]?” Oedipus, as usual, is articulating the Truth of what he already knows, but he doesn’t hear it, even from his own mouth! HA! “Your words as yet . . .”—a clear indication of self-blindness, perversely expressed with intelligent self-confidence. Nihilist Sophocles is b****-slapping his character around, because the “words” of the play have already revealed Oedipus’ fate, by line 3!—“Why this cry of sickness and the toppling of the crown?”



εἰ τῶνδε χρῄζεις πλησιαζόντων κλύειν,

ἕτοιμος εἰπεῖν, εἴτε καὶ στείχειν ἔσω.


“If you desire to hear in the presence of all, I am prepared to speak. Or shall we go inside?”


HA! “in the presence of all”see the next line. HA! “inside”—This is what NFL commentators might call “literary trickeration”. Why? Because all of Oedipus’ problems are right there “inside” of him! Oedipus is his own problem! . . . Οἰδίπους χώρας (14) / μίασμα χώρας (97).


And now we have come to the subject of this post :



ἐς πάντας αὔδα:


“Speak out to all!”


HA! “Speak out to all”?!?!


Does Oedipus mean :

The Son?

The Father?

The Husband?

The Baby?

The King?

And so on and so forth. . . .


Just here Oedipus signals his multidimensional self.




Recall, Kind Reader, an earlier question of Scroob’s : How much so-called “dramatic irony” is required before Οἰδίπους Τύραννος must finally be recognized as an exemplar of the triple tone?


Οἰδίπους Τύραννος is serious and funny and perverse all at the same time. Is more evidence required?


The world heard it here first : The trinity of THE TRIPLE TONE.






Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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The Oppenheimer (2023) phenomenon


Storyteller Nolan signals the genre aspect of his narrative early in the film—and thereby puts paid to the concept of the “biopic”—in his allusion to Hitchcock’s North by Northwest during the Niels Bohr/poison apple scene (9; mentioned long ago in this thread).


What if Scrooby said there is also an allusion to Psycho in Oppenheimer?


Page 1 of the Psycho screenplay by Joseph Stefano :


“Above Midtown section of the city. . . . We fly low, heading in a downtown direction. . . . A skinny, high old hotel comes into view. . . . We go to the narrow space between shade and sill, peep into the room.”


This is how Hitchcock envisioned the opening of Psycho : a helicopter shot that the technology of the time was unable to provide for him. But the remake by Gus Van Sant (1998) restored Hitchcock’s original vision for the opening shot.


Storyteller Nolan inserts Hitchcock’s vision for Psycho in the introduction to Werner Heisenberg (15). A helicopter shot glides up to the University of Zurich, as if made to order by the Master of Suspense himself.

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The Oppenheimer (2023) phenomenon


We’re not judges, doctor.” (1) May this Second Voice also refer to the audience?


“The laughing and the tears, and the cruel eyes studying you?” (41:22) Is Norman Bates also speaking of being trapped inside Art—and the eyes of the audience?

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The Oppenheimer (2023) phenomenon


Hollywood one-upsmanship par excellence :


TRUMAN : “You think anyone in Hiroshima or Nagasaki gives a s*** who built the bomb? They care who dropped it. I did. Hiroshima isn’t about you.” (143)


(P.S. Truman speaking with Tricky Dick’s infamously self-recorded potty-mouth!)


“Sunday night, we [screenwriters John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion] had dinner at Chinois in Santa Monica. . . . After dinner, [Disney CEO Michael] Eisner came over. . . . I asked him how his heart was, and Michael said it was fine, he had come through his bypass surgery in good order. You know, I said, I had the same operation, and without missing a beat, Eisner replied, ‘Of course, mine was more serious.’ I have rarely been struck dumb, but this seemed to be mine is bigger than yours, Hollywood style, and I had no snappy comeback. Then I heard Joan exclaim in outrage, ‘It was not!’’’


Dunne, Monster : Living Off the Big Screen (London : Pan Books, 2000), 155–6.




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The Oppenheimer (2023) phenomenon


Pardon Scrooby for mentioning that Scrooby mentioned the concept of lens distance with respect to Oppenheimer some months ago on this thread.


AC : What’s the most abstract you were able to get with Hoyte on this film?


NOLAN : Instead of thinking about composition in terms of a two-dimensional image, we committed to the three-dimensional idea of camera placement—which we call “following the ball”—which lets me draw the audience into a particular character’s point of view. That’s the kind of thing that sounds like abstract, esoteric theory, but it has a very palpable effect on the audience because we’re really thinking about whose point of view we’re trying to put the audience in. For instance, in the color sequences, the camera is physically closer to Oppenheimer, relentlessly pushing in on his face and his eyes. But in the black-and-white sequences, which are from Lewis Strauss’ point of view, the cameras are physically closer to Strauss, and we’re filming Oppenheimer with longer lenses. It’s these seemingly esoteric disciplines that Hoyte executes in a very elegant way.


“Christopher Nolan on Oppenheimer”, American Cinematographer (3 Oct 2023)




“Following the ball.” Nolan knows what all first-rate filmmakers know : ongoing energy transfer lies solely in the human movements from shot to shot.


“You gotta be a student of human moves.”




Let’s continue the theme of lens distance with a look at All the President’s Men (1976).


Cinematographer : Gordon Willis.


Throughout All the President’s Men Gordon Willis mixes extreme CUs of the protagonists (sometimes using split diopters) with extreme wides of city landscapes.


1. Willis is contrasting the small individuality of the protagonists as opposed to the vastitude of the many-peopled establishment they struggle to understand.


2. The extreme wides on the establishment convey vibes of impersonality, uncaringness, labyrinthian complexity, totalitarianism, helplessness, mystery, lostness, inhumanness.


3. Extreme CUs on characters convey humanness and compassion and ethical intention.


4. Extreme CUs convey, at times, tension.


5. Extreme wides on the establishment capture the cold and inhuman.


6a. Friedkin on Sorcerer : “I didn’t realize that the close-up is more important than the wide shot. A shot of Steve’s face was worth more than any landscape I could have shot.”


6b. The geometrical difference in the extreme (protagonist) CUs and the extreme (establishment) wides—the “heroes” and the “enemy”—visually intensifies the dramatic tension of the face-off.


7. The look of Willis’ lensing continues the vibe begun with the actual footage of the American government in action at the start of the film. (The real locations of places notable to the phenomenon bleed narrative creepiness into “real life”—e.g., the Watergate and Hughesian Marina del Rey and CIA-saturated Executive Office Building.) (The vibe that colour transmits may be equated with sound in writing.) (Consider how the humanism of 1970s lensing has transited to Digital, with its CGI and AI.) (The angle is authorial perspective.) (A film needs a visionary director who merges all elements into a first-rate energy transfer—by putting all possible elements to a wondrous use. / “the fullest possible use”) / (An author requires only words, which are more easily cooperative.)


8. Friedkin : “the close-up is more important than the wide shot.” Inversely : Humanity is not about humanity anymore—unless we make it so. First we have to recognize the Situation. A recognition requires a head of steam to achieve revelation, an acceleration requiring a duration of, say : 180 minutes and 9 seconds + ? / 1530 lines of Οἰδίπους Τύραννος.)


9. “We had faces then.” Nolan is alive and working his magic. We who see it should be very happy. Christopher Nolan has brought back the humanism of classic cinema to us . . . in IMAX! The Oppenheimer (2023) phenomenon is unspeakable.


10. Art is the commerce of the Artist’s unconscious with the Spectator’s unconscious. How is this vital, health-giving, energy-gathering process—a foundation of Art since the beginning of time—to take place with CGI and AI?


Oppenheimer contributes to making us human again. The Oppenheimer (2023) phenomenon is unspeakable.






Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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