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Suburban Island

White Curtains and F. Scott
Thursday, May. 08, 2003, 6:55 p.m.

Question: Where are my white curtains and cool breeze?

What I Learned: Great literature sticks with you.

Do you remember the scene in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby where he describes the billowing curtains lifting on the breeze? It seems like a small detail but his description of those curtains lifting and moving in the cross breeze has stuck in my mind since I first read that book in high school. It seems to have stuck in other people's minds too because when I saw an A&E adaptation of the novel a couple of years ago, there were those white curtains just lifting and falling like crazy in that made-for-TV breeze. I think Fitzgerald’s description of those curtains is one of the most beautiful descriptions of a simple thing I have ever read. My daughter is reading The Great Gatsby now for school and she read the curtain part to me last night. I was just amazed when I heard it - it was even better than I remembered.

And it made me think - Why don’t my curtains do that? Could they – with the proper handling?

I was so impressed by F. Scott's curtains that I thought about this question a lot. I started looking around my house for some window treatment that might allow me to create a similar effect come a nice breezy day. Here is what I found:

  • a bunch of standard white Venetian blinds - I think they would make more clatter than a bunch of tiny reindeer on an old tin roof given half a chance;
  • a couple small shades of various quality and composite - more flapping than floating potential here;
  • some larger bamboo shades that roll up like a carpet - I'd have to wait for a small hurricane;
  • floor to ceiling vertical blinds - I can barely keep them straight now in the draft creating by a single air-conditioning vent;
  • a pair of shutters over the kitchen sink – no romance there just dishes.

Finally, I located the only set of curtains with any billowing potential in the entire house – blue ones, which slightly skews the effect. And they are lacey rather than gauzy but at this point why quibble over details. They do have float potential – the key component in the billowing curtains recipe.

I ponder the blue lace curtains for only a moment before ruling them out. Their location in my daughter’s room means that they are of no use to me whatsoever, as she is currently not interested in F. Scott effects.

For now, a ceiling fan must be my breeze, and the papers it blows off my desk and hopelessly scatters across my floor is the best bit of floating white that is going to occur in my life right now. It’s not Fitzgerald but I still kind of like it.

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