"Self-Made Boys" by Anna-Marie McLemore, Chapters 7–14

October 28, 2022
Based on the classic novel The Great Gatsby, this work follows the story of Nicolás Caraveo, a seventeen-year-old transgender boy who moves to New York and meets his mysterious neighbor Jay Gatsby, another transgender boy with an extravagant and decadent lifestyle.

Here are links to our lists for the novel: Letters–Chapter 6, Chapters 7–14, Chapters 15–22, Chapters 23–28, Chapters 29–40
It means that underneath 
everything that’s ever moved you or that you’ve ever loved, there’s something real and irrefutable. There’s a lattice of numbers proving that it’s true, that it’s really there, that you didn’t just imagine all of it.
He looked at me so strangely then. It was such a queer, enraptured look that I thought he might be about to kiss me, but what a thought that was.
“Nick, you’ve just met the woman with the most distinguished palate ever known to New York,” Gatsby said. “Martha can taste anything.”
“I meant she’s a connoisseur. A gourmet. You give her the most complicated cocktail, she can tell you what’s in it. A cup of tea, she’ll name every herb and leaf. Pour her a glass of champagne, she’ll tell you what was growing in the fields near the grapes. She’s famous for it, the envy of every collector and every show-off with a wine cellar.”
The bright whir of Gatsby’s party was as intoxicating as cordial, and I was still stumbling out of it.
“He’s a painter,” Gatsby said. “ Abstract forms. You’ll see a hundred forgeries of Tableau I by the time the summer’s through. But what you need to know is the colors. The black and white, scarlet red, blue, yellow. Primary colors are everywhere this year, and that’s part of why.”
Gatsby had bought this mansion—and created the lavish grandeur of these parties—to pull at Daisy’s heart from across the bay and to show her, in brilliant gardens and brass bands, what he’d made of himself.
Gatsby told me, in a near mumble, how he’d heard about it all after the fact, how in the intervening time, Daisy had wanted her life settled and decided.
No wonder Tom left the East Egg estate to Daisy while he stayed in the city. It was the easiest gallantry in the world.
They each had a kind of beauty made severe through winnowing down and then building back up.
“Daisy, Daisy, Daisy.” The name turned mincing on Myrtle’s tongue.
Myrtle was still in her wheedling song, “Daisy, Daisy, Daisy,” and Tom was still in this room with a woman who wasn’t my cousin.
Any number of thieves—none of whom would be suspected because they were all from such storied families—carefully unhitching the clasps and then guiding her toward the edge.
After the three-note trill of the horn, the bell of my cousin’s voice rang out.
“Do you like it? I’ve almost gotten the knack of my hair-waving iron. It took me ages to perfect my Elizabeth Arden face.”
“Don’t you just love their paintings?” she asked.
“I thought they were a little cloying,” I said.
“I forgot you don’t have a stitch of romance in you,” she said.
“Aren’t your dreams any loftier than that?”
“You know all about me,” I said. “A quiet life is a lofty dream in itself.”
“You devious thing.” She lightly slapped my arm, and I held my center to keep the boxes from toppling. “You didn’t tell me you put in a tulip border.”
Thanks to Jay Gatsby, the cottage had become an arboretum.
I felt the strength of the muscle under the robin’s-egg blue of the fabric. Every sinew beneath my palms seemed tensed.
His smile was a needle of sun piercing a gray scrim of clouds.
I was just like everyone else in those gardens, entranced by the brilliant enigma that was Jay Gatsby.
I was no different from the party guests speculating that he’d made his fortune in the Nevada silver fields or in Montana copper or contraband gin.
“I’m going to go out for some”—I grasped for an innocuous item—“milk.”
They sat on the brocade sofa (Or was it damask? Jacquard? Daisy knew the differences; I didn’t, and she was forever trying to teach me).
They sat on the brocade sofa (Or was it damask? Jacquard? Daisy knew the differences; I didn’t, and she was forever trying to teach me).
When they did notice me, they flinched back from each other, their smiles all mischief and propriety, like an adult had just walked into the room.
He nearly convinced me that my presence was for some other purpose than buffering Daisy against scandal.
Her fingertips counted every one of his folded shirts, and he unfurled them like bolts of uncut cloth. Apple green and monogrammed blue and coral flew through the room.
“You were always the most beautiful boy,” Daisy said, snatching a mauve shirt from above her.
At the time, I wasn't in much of a state to find anything beautiful, not even that albatross of a pearl necklace.
I think I’m almost certain that I’m going to marry Tom, soon as he asks me. I just think I need to spend a little time with Jay. Nothing untoward, of course. I’d simply like to know him a bit better now that we have the chance.
She reveled in making glamorous messes, and he followed after her, quietly cleaning them up.
You see, Mr. Buchanan’s such a spendthrift that his grandfather insisted the family put him on an allowance. And he torches it fast every month.
And I got to thinking that maybe she’s trying to protect her beau. But maybe she doesn’t know everything about him.

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