My husband is my greatest inspiration. I know you’ll say, “you’re just saying that,” but I’m not. Ten years have gone by and still, his ability to write and captivate an audience gives me the chills. He’s always on point, whether he’s making up a story about zombies or talking about his relationship with our dog (“Who saved who? Obviously, we saved him”).
It just so happens that the Mister, much like myself, immensely enjoyed re-reading the Great Gatsby. Coincidence? I think not. Here’s what he had to say:
How I Met Fitzgerald By Way of Kaufman
by Jim LeChase, Jr.
In my younger and more vulnerable years I saw a man who didn’t want to be himself read the entirety of one of the greatest novels ever written while standing in front of an angry crowd that wanted him to be somebody else. I’ve been turning that moment over in my head ever since.
You don’t get many “lightning bolt” moments in a lifetime. I’ve had a couple that pass muster and qualify as being earth shaking occurrences that rest, solidified in the amber of my memories, but not a whole lot.
There was the first time I saw my wife’s face.
There was the last time I saw my mother’s.
There was the moment I saw Andy Kaufman reading The Great Gatsby with a vaguely English accent while flipping through stations on basic cable. I was 11 years old. It was the moment I knew, deep down, that I wanted to be “that guy” up on stage.
I began to mimic Mr. Kaufman in front of my friends and I always began with the opening line of Gatsby while standing a little awkwardly with one leg thrust out, one hand in the air and, naturally, a vaguely British lilt to my tone of voice. Nobody liked it. Nobody “got it.” Worst of all, nobody laughed. Except me. I laughed every time I did it.
Several years later my favorite English teacher of all time, Mr. Boone, heard me doing this routine in the hallway and asked me how I had memorized The Great Gatsby. I looked at him like he had three heads and, sadly, explained that I had no idea what the hell he was talking about. “I’m doing Andy Kaufman, you ever heard of him?” I said. Mr. Boone had, indeed, heard of Andy Kaufman. Mr. Boone also dragged me into his classroom by my sport coat and, once I was seated opposite him, threw his copy of Gatsby at me.
“Read this so you don’t look like an idiot next time a guy like me asks you that question. We’re not reading it for a little while, but read it. Now.” Mr. Boone was great like that. He pushed me and pushed me and sat with me and helped me learn all the symbolism in Fitzgerald’s writing. “The green means envy or money… sometimes it’s hard to tell with this book,” he told me after class one day. It was like there was an earthquake rumbling through my entire mind.
Before then I loved writing, but I had no idea why. I’d stuck to comic books and light novels and some minor philosophical discourses that I thought made me look smart (but didn’t understand at the time). Then along comes Gatsby and a patient English teacher and all of a sudden my world was completely different and much, much better.
Now, 16 years later, I’ve read Gatsby at least 10 times and I’m still turning it over in my head. Lightning strikes almost every time. All thanks to a goofy so and so named Andy Kaufman whose boat beats ceaselessly against the current of my mind.