Columnist

If you were shopping for a used, dog-eared copy of “The Great Gatsby” in Montgomery County recently, you may have been in for a disappointment. Someone was snapping the books up.

That person was Mark Kelner, the Nelson Bunker Hunt of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel. (It was Bunker Hunt, you will recall, who in the 1970s tried, with his brothers, to corner the silver market.)

“They know me at Second Story Books in Rockville and Wonder Book in Gaithersburg,” Mark said. “I’d be buying up ‘Gatsby’ right and left.”

Mark didn’t want to read Fitzgerald’s classic tale, even though he gathered 50 copies. Like many of us, he read it in high school. Rather, he wanted to shred the books, soak them in water, grind them into a gray slurry and turn that slurry into a large, rectangular piece of thick, deckle-edged handmade paper.

And on that paper, Mark wanted to screen-print the last line of “The Great Gatsby”: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

That’s exactly what he did. The finished work is on display at the Fenwick Gallery at George Mason University, part of an exhibit called “Locale” that features the paper-centric works of 15 area artists.


Mark Kelner stands near buckets full of shredded copies of “The Great Gatsby.” (Photo by Daniel Rios)

Although he went to GMU and lives in the District, Mark, 41, is borne back ceaselessly to Rockville, Md., where he spent his formative years.

Fitzgerald will spend eternity there. He and his wife, Zelda, are buried in the cemetery of St. Mary’s Church, at the intersection of Rockville Pike and Veirs Mill Road.

Mark’s piece is the exact same size as the stone that covers the Fitzgeralds’ grave. He copied the text by rubbing charcoal over a piece of paper.

Mark could have bought paper or made his own out of something else, but he feels that the process was as important as the result.

His wife — a surgeon — gave him a hard time about shredding the books. “She was like, ‘Look, this is the worst thing I’ve heard of,’ ” Mark said. “But the books are still there. They’re just in a different form.”

A tasty melting pot

I heard from many readers after my column last week on giving four strangers a ride downtown during the Metro shutdown. I especially liked the note from Kathryn K. Ioannides of Centennial, Colo., who said the column reminded her of a trip she took to the Soviet Union in 1979.

One night, she was with a diverse group of lawyers unwinding in a hotel bar. Wrote Kathryn: “Our group had lively conversation, laughter, depth and plenty of diversity: an older couple of Eastern European descent (Latvian?, perhaps in their 70s); two fashionable women attorneys in their 30s or 40s, one black, the other of Filipino descent; a tall white man in his 30s; my aunt (white, walked with a cane, turned 65 on the trip); and me (a white 30-year-old).

“I remember that evening in particular for what a stranger asked. Coming up to our group, he simply said, ‘You’re from America, aren’t you.’ We asked how he knew, and his answer: ‘Because you all look different.’

“For me, that summed up the beauty of my country, and it is how I think of it today.”

Not the MVA

Melanie Fosnaught of Takoma Park, Md., is troubled by the expression “DMV,” employed to mean the District, Maryland and Virginia.

Wrote Melanie: “The millennial kids in the office suddenly started tossing this one around recently, and now I hear car dealerships using it in radio ads, and cub reporters using it in local news stories. But I always thought, ‘Ok, well, but they’re not from here. They’ll fall for anything.’

“As a native and nearly lifelong resident of this area, I never heard the term before this January. We called our area the Washington Metropolitan Area, the Greater Washington Area, the D.C. area — I’ve even heard it called the National Capital area or region. But ‘the DMV’? When was that ever real? It’s like referring to National Airport as ‘Reagan.’ Instantly marks you as an out-of-towner.

“Or so I thought. Imagine my horror at seeing the term in your March 9 column. And you, a local guy around my own age. Is it really a Thing, then?”

It is. I like it because it’s short and sweet. You’ll never hear me call the airport “Reagan National,” but The Post’s stylebook insists that, on first reference, it appear that way in print.

Fly like an eagle

Everyone’s excited about the bald eagle family at the U.S. National Arboretum, currently appearing via webcam. For now, the two eaglets in the nest are being referred to as DC2 and DC3. What will they be named, and when?

Not so fast, says Mark Delligatti of Alexandria. He jokes that they shouldn’t be named until a new president is elected.

Twitter: @johnkelly

For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.