New Year’s Resolutions, The Empire Strikes Back, and The Great Gatsby 

A close up shot of Yoda with his eye closed and one hand out in front of him, all in greens and blues.

By Eric L.

Well, it’s the new year!

The last two years have been a bit of a…(Fill in the blank with whatever you’d like here). Personally, I’ve spent the last two weeks at home since my spouse and kids have all had very mild cases of COVID, thankfully! That said, I like a new beginning, and I’ve always liked the idea of a new year as a new start, even if the calendar year is all a human construct. Over the years around this time, I’ve read the articles about new year’s resolutions. Normally the crux of these pieces is how and why they fail, recipes for how to set “achievable” goals, and the like. Frankly, I find all these articles pessimistic. I won’t allow anyone to convince me it’s not a constructive endeavor to try to improve something about one’s life. Moreover, I’m certainly going to dismiss the platitudes espoused in certain George Lucas films about “do, or do not, there is no try.” (It is good film by the way, and you can borrow it from us. Although I’d argue that the best scenes involve the raw guttural noises and acting of Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca.).

At any rate, trying is really important in my opinion! For example, let’s say you want to exercise more and get in great “shape” (a common new year’s resolution). I think if you start walking around your neighborhood, and don’t end up on the cover of some fitness magazine, that’s an improvement over sitting on your couch streaming the latest TV series for hours, and you’re exercising. A secondary benefit is that you might meet some of your neighbors. It could happen.

Here’s my list of things I’d like to do in 2022:

  • Get back to the gym (it’s been a tough two years for that).
  • Make the time to visit some out-of-state friends.
  • Hike more than my usual trails.
  • Ride my bike more (I feel as though I slacked this year).
  • Drink less wine (we’ll see).
  • Be calmer.
  • Judge less.
  • Read more, and diversify my title selections more.

Some of these are goals that come up year after year. Perhaps I won’t achieve these things, but I’m not about to hear that there is “no try.”

The future and the New Year bring to mind the combination of optimism and pessimism expressed by Nick, the narrator of The Great Gatsby, at the very end. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s writing of conflicted feelings of pity for and admiration of Jay Gatsby’s optimism is poetic, in my opinion:

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter-tomorrow we will run faster, stretch our arms out further…and one fine morning-” (180).

And although the book ends disastrously, The Great Gatsby‘s commentary on the American dream has always resonated with me. I think it’s the complicated nature of the belief that anything is possible, and America in general. So maybe if you’ve not read The Great Gatsby, or it’s been a bit, try it out, it’s great.

There have been many, but the fairly recent film adaptations are also great. I’m a fan of both the Robert Redford 1974 and the 2013 Leonardo DiCaprio adaptations. The latter we own, the former you can request via Interlibrary Loan.

If you’ve read it, or you’re just not into Gatsby, we have some other recommended titles for you this month. Also, please consider the HCLS Winter Reading Challenge, now through February 28 – pick your own books or use our challenges to inspire your Winter Reading!

Lastly, come see us in the branches and speak with us about the books we like in January.

Happy New Year!

Eric is a DIY Instructor and Research Specialist at the Elkridge branch. He enjoys reading, films, music, doing nearly anything outside, and people.