In a previous blog I mentioned some of the references in The Dalai Lama’s Cat to one of my all time favourite novels, The Great Gatsby (see: http://davidmichie.com/blog/2013/12/03/the-dalai-lamas-dog/) In this blog I’d like to share a little snippet about the exchanges between the Dalai Lama’s Cat (HHC) and Mambo, her love interest.
Mambo is a tabby cat from ‘the wrong side of town’ who wants to win the affections of HHC. With her sapphire blue eyes and cream coat, she is, very obviously, a feline of exquisite breeding. When he asks her for advice on how to win her, she quotes the epigraph from The Great Gatsby:
‘Then wear the gold hat, if that will move her,
If you can bounce high, bounce for her too,
Till she cry, ‘Lover, gold-hatted, high-bouncing lover,
I must have you!’
These few lines summarise the dynamic of Jay Gatsby’s courting of Daisy. A young man from the wrong side of the tracks who returns from the Second World War in Europe, Gatsby discovers that the love of his life, Daisy, is now married to one of her own kind, a member of the wealthy elite. In an attempt to win Daisy back, he does whatever he can to try to lure her, making money through clandestine means, buying a house across the bay from hers, and throwing massive, open parties. In The Dalai Lama’s Cat, Mambo makes several references to going out to get a gold hat. These are intended as a playful reference to Fitzgerald’s epigram and the themes it conveys.
As it happens, the stated author of the epigraph, Thomas Parke D’Invilliers, was not a person Fitzgerald’s readers had ever heard of. Fitzgerald would sometimes get letters from people seeking to quote the unknown poet. It was only when his later novel This Side of Paradise was published that the identity of D’Invilliers was revealed – as one of the characters in the book. Both the poet and his lines were a fiction!
Fiction and non-fiction, reality and illusion were themes that preoccupied Fitzgerald – and are of enduring importance to Buddhists. They also play out in The Dalai Lama’s Cat series in which, whatever the conventional reality of the characters, their stories are intended to explore the same ultimate truth.
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