January 24, 2013

"There was dancing now on the canvas in the garden; old men pushing young girls backward in eternal graceless circles..."

"... superior couples holding each other tortuously, fashionably, and keeping in the corners — and a great number of single girls dancing individualistically or relieving the orchestra for a moment of the burden of the banjo or the traps."

Tortuously, fashionably... on the canvas in the garden, keeping in the corners (of the canvas)...

So there's a big square of canvas, maybe on top of the grass, that makes a dance floor, and the couples, with the women going backwards, don't overstep the boundary, whether they're young and pushed by old men or part of a couple of superior dancers. And then there are the females who dance alone. Individualistically or... what? They are bending over the knees of the drummers in the orchestra and allowing themselves to be strummed or beaten upon like a banjo or a drum. Or do you think they oust the band-member and do some drumming or strumming themselves? I'm thinking the latter. But the first image I got from today's "Great Gatsby" sentence was of single ladies becoming the instruments, offering up their voluptuous buttocks as a substitute for conventional instruments. On reflection, I merely see them grabbing an instrument and pretending to be a member of the band.

51 comments:

Terry said...

The key phrase, I think, is "on the canvas".

traditionalguy said...

Great party scene. Old men like me dancing with young girls is as good as it gets. We are supposed to lead them in eternal waltz steps while they do it backwards in heels.

Nick must not know how to dance. I bet Jordan would be willing to teach him if he asks.

All the world's as dance stage and Jay's party heats up awaiting its target, Ms. Daisy.

chickelit said...

"Individualistically" sounds awkward. Why not individually or uniquely?

edutcher said...

What, Scotty was into spanking?

I was thinking more of the symbolism of emancipated womanhood after WWI. They seem to have done the same thing with it as many of the Gloria Steinbrenner wannabes.

McTriumph said...

Old men pushing canvasbacks around on canvas.
Professor Ann, your first thought was musicians using the girls as instruments? You should write a novel, "Fifty Shades of Banjo".

Comanche Voter said...

You've been reading too many bodice ripper novels Ann--voluptuous buttocks--my fat fanny!

edutcher said...

Maybe she realizes men can like what's below the waist as much as what's above it.

wyo sis said...

It made me think of They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

Craig said...

Tortuous or torturous? Tortious or tortiose?

betamax3000 said...

Naked Andy Kaufman Robot says:

I have pushed many women gracelessly backwards on canvas. It has been both tortuous and fashionable, leaping high from the corners of the ring onto the contestant below: in that moment there is Truth, Sweat and Cheers. Many people assume the urge to wrestle women is sexual. As a wrestler of women I can definitively say that this is untrue. Mostly. In the main it is about the defining moment of being Superior, of recognition of the Pinner and the Pinnee..

A few moments on Etiquette.

A sportsman never uses the Banjo or the Traps on a female wrestler. While he is allowed to use the Piledriver it is not to be done from a height greater than a women's modest skirt: below the knees only, gentlemen.

Danny DeVito did not understand. He would ask "Andy, why don't you stop wrestling women?" and I would reply "Danny, why don't you stop being so short and disheveled?"

Shirt tucked or not, in the ring Danny would've been able to stand as tall as his Courage would allow him to be, but -- sadly --he did not understand.

Tony Danza would argue "I'm a boxer. What would be so different if I boxed women?"

I could only shake my head. He did not comprehend the difference between wrestling and fighting. A punch is anger, but only through grappling do we experience the common ground between the sexes: the canvas ring is where the true colors are painted, like a woman's red nails or a man's 1969 orange Camaro.

I once wrestled a woman who smelled of avocado. In the midst of our grappling a moment was frozen as that scent overpowered my senses, psychically and spiritually. Was the avocado Fear or Power? How could I pin this woman down, this woman who smelled of avocado? How could I keep her soul and buttocks confined beneath me when the Avocado was everywhere? In the end I won the match, but the avocado defeated me on a far grander level.

Every woman has the Avocado inside her -- this, a true wrestler knows -- knows and respects...

McTriumph said...

wyo sis said...
It made me think of They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

Well, both have a band, dancing and someone gets shot at the end.

betamax3000 said...

Naked Andy Kaufman Robot says:

The first time I wrestled a woman was practically a religious experience. At the end I laid on the canvas pinned, defeated and euphoric: through my bell-rung eyes I saw God through the rafters wink at me. I do not remember her name but I remember the look of Victory in her eyes and how I peed a little.

betamax3000 said...

Naked Andy Kaufman Robot says:

Women have soft elbows. When you are elbowed in the solar plexus by a woman it is different than a man's elbow: there is Understanding. There is Forgiveness.

betamax3000 said...

When pinned between a woman's headstrong knees a man has no choice but to understand: it is the Silent Conversation, and the chafing will heal.

William said...

"On the canvas"--perhaps that means they were dancing under a canvas pavilion. It was a different era, but it doesn't seem likely that people actually danced on canvas. The sentence has a kind of desultory music about it.

betamax3000 said...

Naked Andy Kaufman Robot says:

To repeat: wrestling a woman is not sexual. Excitement is for the Soul and the Arms and the Thighs, not the Loins. To have an erection in the ring is to give the Devil a Handle.

betamax3000 said...

Naked Andy Kaufman Robot says:

In the wrestling ring a woman is truly her Own. All the bandages and wraps become her. She is the Mother Supreme, fighting to return you to the womb. Only a man's victory signifies his being reborn, pure and manly. It is the Manly Man who wrestles Women and stands anew: a shower awaits.

wyo sis said...

"eternal graceless circles"
sounds like a marathon
just an observation
my grade here doesn't depend on being right

betamax3000 said...

Naked Andy Kaufman Robot says:

In the ring, if a Woman grabs your testicles once it is her Weakness; if she grabs them twice it is your Strength.

betamax3000 said...

Naked Andy Kaufman Robot says:

In the ring, there are the three 'W's: Will, Win and Whisker-burn.

betamax3000 said...

Remember: it is important for a wrestler to "relieve the orchestra" before entering the Ring.

Chip Ahoy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
betamax3000 said...

Naked Andy Kaufman Robot says:

I remember Tony Danza saying he would wrestle a woman only if it was Scott Baio dressed in drag. True story.

betamax3000 said...

Naked Andy Kaufman Robot says:

Robots remember Everything.

betamax3000 said...

Naked Andy Kaufman Robot says:

I once wrestled Marilu Henner to a draw. She had the biggest balls of any female wrestler I know. Big and firm.

Like walnuts.



Robots know no Shame.

Chip Ahoy said...

Later, following the death of Gatz, the same canvas was turned over to modern dance.

But that didn't last. The dancers, bored of dancing set of in pairs to the beach, to break up and pair off again and break up and pair off.

betamax3000 said...

Naked Andy Kaufman Robot says:

Judd Hirsch, a wrestling ring, and a female script supervisor: who do YOU think won?

betamax3000 said...

Naked Andy Kaufman Robot says:

I would've made a great Gatsby.

I had a white suit, even.

betamax3000 said...

Naked Andy Kaufman Robot says:

Hollywood would not take me seriously, simply because I wrestled women. I have felt the hot whips of panic.

betamax3000 said...

Naked Andy Kaufman Robot says:

"There was a ripe mystery about it, a hint of wrestling rings up-stairs more beautiful and cool than other wrestling rings..."

betamax3000 said...

Naked Andy Kaufman Robot says:

I understand Fitzgerald; I would've wrestled Zelda.

Lem said...

This dance can be both individualistic and for couples.

Warning - Orchestra plays a tromnbone.

deborah said...

Maybe it was a low platform covered with canvas, like a boxing ring(?).

deborah said...

""Individualistically" sounds awkward. Why not individually or uniquely?"


Just an anachronistic useage?

Chip Ahoy said...

Do you want to hear something strange? It's vaguely related, it is! Goes like this:

Took the truck for an oil change some 5 short blocks away so I can walk home. You have to make an appointment at this place, and isn't that odd? It's a way for them to sort things but it doesn't prevent backup. They were busy with the phone and their printer malfunctioned so I was not there alone.

"Hi Chip Ahoy!" From behind me.

I turned around and saw a guy with a skateboard who I did not recognize so I faked it.

I think it was the guy who was last see wearing a lab coat and I mentioned this project and his face lit up with glee. I think it was that guy. About 23 years old or so I imagine.

Then today, walking out of the building, I mentioned to a woman in the building's office that my entire tank was siphoned. As update, I hadn't known that before. Then from around the corner where I could not see a male voice said loudly so a person in another room can hear it,

"Is that Chip Ahoy I hear?"

I looked around to see who said that and did not recognize the man, another guy about 25 years old or so. He said,

"Remember the Japanese girl I kept telling you about?"

One guy recently mentioned learning Japanese through anime but that was it. And that was in response to me mentioning I lived there. He asked for some phrases so I provided them and said he learned phrases too from cartoons, but honestly, I had trouble then seeing how. I do recall that conversation, there was no mention of a girl named Yuri or that would have caught my attention and made sense of his anime learning. Anyway he introduced me to Yuri who will probably be living here.

Penny said...

Can I buy a "Well-endowed Imagination" through the Althouse Amazon Portal?

I mean, Chip Ahoy has always had it going on, and now betamax3000 has it going on.

Surely there must be SOME place to buy imagination like that?

Penny said...

As for the Gatsby sentence...

If Fitzgerald had allowed the band leader to freak out with a more upbeat tempo, we might have got this party started.

Really, can anyone have a good time in a novel when the author is having a bad day?

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Bob_R said...

My initial reaction was of the single girls "relieving" (as in taking) the banjo and drums from the musicians by sitting in and playing. I think that's the intended interpretation, but the Althouse's imagine of the girls as musical instruments brought to mind one of my favorite movie shots: The shadowed picture of Vera Cicero's back with the f-hole tattoos in The Cotton Club. (A terribly flawed movie that I still like very much. The scene mentioned above is an example - you have to ignore the ham-fisted symbolism to enjoy the shot.) The setting is a little later than the setting of Gatsby, but from the perspective of 2013 it's pretty close.

EMD said...

So there's a big square of canvas, maybe on top of the grass, that makes a dance floor,

I think the square of canvas was probably not stretched over the grass, but like a boxing ring, slightly elevated on a wooden box.

Dante said...

I find myself becoming a Gatsby fan!

Just consider the subtle use of the word "Tortuously,"

superior couples holding each other tortuously, fashionably, and keeping in the corners

Now, one might automatically assume he is talking about dancing, using the most main meaning of "Tortuously":

: marked by repeated twists, bends, or turns : winding [a tortuous path]

See, a twisty bending winding dance. But no! It is that they are being held tortuously, which indicates another meaning:

marked by devious or indirect tactics : crooked, tricky [a tortuous conspiracy]

And they are holding each other this way, in that "superior way," in a "conspiracy." Probably against the old men.

That Fitzgerald! See? He is interested in helping us to become better readers, with bigger vocabularies.

creeley23 said...

On reflection, I merely see them grabbing an instrument and pretending to be a member of the band.

None of Ann's scenarios, even the sensible one above, make sense to me. Professional musicians on a gig allowing partygoers to take over their instruments, especially a drum set, and pretend to play? Unlikely. Some dancer might get away with that once, but once only.

My understanding is that the dancers were dancing individualistically, i.e. free-form, or so close to the music and the beat that they conveyed the music well enough that the banjo player or drummer could theoretically take a rest.

In any case, chalk it up as another bad Fitzgerald sentence which is worded so curiously and clumsily that readers can't parse the meaning clearly.

Yes, sometimes writers intend ambiguity but not in straightforward exposition like this.

EMD said...

Professional musicians on a gig allowing partygoers to take over their instruments, especially a drum set, and pretend to play?

Ha. You forget ... these are young presumably attractive women. They can get away with almost anything.

creeley23 said...

EMD: Nah. I thought about that, but I've seen how particular musicians are about people handling their instruments, especially on gigs, and I can't see Ann's scenario playing out more than once.

EMD said...

EMD: Nah. I thought about that, but I've seen how particular musicians are about people handling their instruments, especially on gigs, and I can't see Ann's scenario playing out more than once.

It was a different time.

creeley23 said...

When I was a kid and heard everything on a tiny, tinny radio, I assumed "Bad to Me" was by The Beatles.

It was amazing how The Beatles were so prolifically good they could let strong songs go to others or only to singles release.

creeley23 said...

Oops. Wrong topic.

EMD: I doubt it. Musicians are musicians and musical instruments are delicate and in need of regular tuning and adjustment.

Neither of us can prove our points, though I'd say the burden of proof is upon you.

kentuckyliz said...

Dancing trains women to accept men pushing them backwards.

It's anti-feminist.

EMD said...

Neither of us can prove our points, though I'd say the burden of proof is upon you.

It's fiction. Anything can happen. I win.

Michael said...

Clearly what is meant is that the ladies ask the musicians to dance with them for a while, setting aside their instruments. Your other interpretations are just weird.

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