Blogging The Great Gatsby: Part 3 (The One Where Gatsby Meets Nick & Calls Him "Old Sport" Five Times Immediately)
Catch up on the first two installments of Blogging Gatsby right here!
New around these parts? Hi! I’m reading The Great Gatsby and "blogging" about it, with "blogging" loosely defined as "occasionally drop-kicking this book out an open window because of all the foreshadowing."
To give you a brief summary of what happened in chapter 2, Nick hooked up with a dude, Tom face-punched his way out of an argument, and then something happened with cake. Onto the next, shall we?
Chapter 3 opens with Nick going to a Gatsby party. Whoops. That’s inaccurate. I meant to say the chapter opens with Nick describing a Gatsby party from the outside looking in, presumably while staring moodily out the window and saying he didn’t want to go anyway.
Related: you don’t really need an invite to go to a Gatsby party. You just show up. Not Nick, though, because he’s the horseman of his own apocalypse and he likes to suffer. After many moons of probably staring listlessly at the wall and refusing meals, Nick finally receives a formal invitation from Gatsby’s chauffeur. Nick believes he is "one of the few guests who had actually been invited," and then he mentions this twice more just to make sure we get it. I relate. Once a boy invited me to a party, and I asked all my friends if they thought it meant something.
I would now like to take the opportunity to examine all the ways in which Nick is basically me at any social gathering:
- Feels out of place.
- Doesn’t know anyone.
- Considers getting "roaring drunk from sheer embarrassment."
- Runs into a familiar face, Jordan Baker, and attaches himself to her indefinitely.
- Also here’s his greeting to Jordan: "Hello!" I roared, advancing toward her. My voice seemed unnaturally loud across the garden.
With pro golfer and potential love interest Jordan Baker at his side, Nick starts to mingle. Sorry. Inaccurate again. He actually just watches Jordan mingle, like a creepy weirdo. They chat with two girls who are playing the "Let's Guess How Gatsby Made His Millions" game, but their guesses are uninspired. They involve Gatsby being a German spy during the war and killing a man in cold blood. Boring. Here’s how it’s really done:
- Lots of dumpster diving.
- Found a copy of the Declaration of Independence at Goodwill, sold it on eBay.
- Actually a serial killer who murders millionaires and takes their money. And their faces.
Nick and Jordan set out to locate Gatsby. They happen across a drunk man in the library who’s having a wonderful time. This will be important later, but for now the quest continues.
After all the hype surrounding the mythical Gatsby, I was expecting one hell of a character introduction. I was expecting him to arrive in a helicopter Nick Fury-style, or burst through the wall like the Kool-Aid Man, or descend from the ceiling on a chandelier completely naked. Here’s how it actually goes down:
RANDOM, COMPLETELY UNOBTRUSIVE STRANGER: Hi. You look familiar. I think we were in the war together.
NICK: That sounds just vague enough to be plausible.
RANDOM STRANGER: Cool.
NICK: I’ve been at this party for ten whole minutes and I still haven’t met this Gatsby guy. How rude is that? I bet he’s ugly.
RANDOM STRANGER: I’m, uh... I'm Gatsby, actually.
Gatsby then smiles at him, and Nick ascends to another dimension. He also gleans a lot of information from that smile. Like, a lot. It’s a "rare smile with a quality of eternal reassurance in it," the likes of which you only come across "four or five times in life," which is weirdly specific, but sure. It’s one of those smiles that just seems to focus on you with an "irresistible prejudice in your favor." It’s one of those smiles that understands you, "but just so far as you wanted to be understood." It assures you. It believes in you. You know. Just one of those smiles.
Jordan observes this and asks Nick if he’s "having a gay time now." I know it’s the 1920s and she’s just asking if sad sack Nick is having any fun yet, but let me have this.
Also of note: Gatsby uses the term "old sport" like it’s providing oxygen. We’ve so far gone two entire Gatsby-less chapters with nary an old sport to speak of, but now he seems to be making up for lost time. He fires off a quick one before Nick even knows who he is, and then three more just for good measure.
Gatsby gets called away to go and be mysteriously important somewhere else. Nick turns to Jordan and demands, "Who is he? Who is this gorgeous paragon of masculine perfection? Where did he come from? Was he miraculously birthed from the loins of the gods?" Jordan doesn’t know, so Nick proceeds to track Gatsby’s movements like any normal, barely curious person would. He notes that Gatsby is often standing by himself, that he’s not drinking, that he doesn’t have a date, and that his tan is attractive. As the party is winding down, Gatsby’s butler tells Jordan that Gatsby wants to speak with her. When she returns, she tells Nick that Gatsby just told her "the most amazing thing," but she can’t tell Nick what it is, which is annoying. Come on, Jordan! Let’s get the plot moving!
Jordan then yawns gracefully, which I admire but also hate. I don’t want to believe that anyone can yawn gracefully. When I yawn, my face morphs into something unseemly. Nick apologizes to Gatsby for not recognizing him earlier; Gatsby says not to worry about it. And then this exchange happens, literally word for word:
GATSBY: Good night.
NICK: Good night.
GATSBY: Good night. (He pauses. Presumably a wink ensues.) Good night, old sport… good night.
I mean, I get it. One time someone introduced me to a hot boy, and I said, "Hi," and then he said, "Hi," and then I was so flustered that I said hi again.
Suddenly, the drunk man from earlier crashes a car into a ditch with his friend just outside the party. They’re both unhurt, and neither seems aware of the consequences of their irresponsible actions. I sure hope this doesn’t foreshadow anything.
At this point in the narrative, Nick wants to make it abundantly clear that he’s not obsessed with Gatsby. He’s not, okay? He does other stuff. He even dates a girl from Jersey City for a brief time. He then begins seeing Jordan Baker, and he realizes something about her: she’s a big fat liar. One time she left a borrowed car out in the rain with the top down and then lied about it, and another time she maybe cheated in a golf tournament. This gives Nick an opportunity to get up on his high horse and claim that he’s the only person who has never told a lie, ever.
While they’re on a date, Jordan claims to be a careful driver. Nick says she’s not. Jordan shrugs and says, "Well, other people are." There’s that wacky car motif again! I wonder if it’s building up to an impending disaster.
Nick thinks if he’s going to start hanging out with Jordan Baker in a sexy way, he should probably stop signing letters to that girl back home with "Love, Nick." He then has the gall to say he’s one of the "few honest people" he has ever known, and I rolled my eyes so hard that I think my soul left my body for a moment.
Old sport count: 5. Does anyone want to guess how many old sports we’ll be up to by the end? I’m going to guess 40. I don’t think he has enough self-control to just do 30, but 50 seems aggressive. Does Gatsby even know Nick’s name? Who knows? Maybe next week we’ll find out!