F Scott Fitzgerald

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F Scott Fitzgerald

Post  eddie on Sat Jan 21, 2012 5:10 pm

'Don't worry about flies' - F Scott Fitzgerald's advice to his daughter

A sweet list of pointers for his 11-year-old child is also a sad reminder of the lessons the author himself never learned


F Scott Fitzgerald: didn't take his own advice ... Photograph: Rex Features

Fascinating snippet over on the ever-marvellous Lists of Note, whose mission statement runs thus: "Lists are created, and have been for many centuries, for all manner of reasons. It's my aim to feature some of the most notable examples right here". Today's list is my favourite in a while; taken from the end of a 1933 letter from F Scott Fitzgerald to his 11-year-old daughter, Scottie, it lays out the things FSF believes she should "worry about, not worry about, and simply think about".

A nice parental mix of the serious ("Worry about courage. Worry about cleanliness. Worry about efficiency") and the diverting ("Don't worry about mosquitoes. Don't worry about flies. Don't worry about insects in general"), history does not record the list's effect on its intended recipient, but the chief interest for us, reading them well over half a century after they were written, is the light they cast on Fitzgerald's own misgivings and motivations. "Don't worry about failure," Fitzgerald advises his daughter, "unless it comes through your own fault"; this from the author whose wife had recently been hospitalised for schizophrenia in part induced by their turbulent marriage, and who was himself a year away from publishing Tender is the Night, a novel steeped in and driven by the most profound personal and matrimonial failure. Likewise, his injunction that Scottie ask herself "Am I trying to make my body a useful instrument or am I neglecting it?" rings painfully hollow; Fitzgerald had struggled with alcoholism for years, and his health was already suffering.

But the most poignant moment comes at the end of the "don'ts" list. "Don't worry," Fitzgerald enjoins his daughter, "about disappointments. Don't worry about pleasures. Don't worry about satisfactions." By suggesting that Scottie ought not to trouble herself with these things, Fitzgerald appears to be to be recommending that she withdraws, pretty much, from life; a queer, deadening form of protection. It's understandable advice from a man whose pursuit of pleasure and obsession with disappointment had brought him to his knees and kept him there – but you've got to hope Scottie didn't follow it too closely.

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Re: F Scott Fitzgerald

Post  eddie on Sun Feb 05, 2012 11:32 am

Great Scott! Fitzgerald is enjoying a third act

New stage and film adaptations of The Great Gatsby attest to Scott Fitzgerald's enduring brilliance and his relevance to our boom and bust age

Robert McCrum

The Observer, Sunday 5 February 2012


Bruce Dern, Mia Farrow and Robert Redford in 1974's The Great Gatsby. Photograph: Allstar/Cinetext/Paramount

In one of his most famous and personal obiter dicta, F Scott Fitzgerald once bitterly observed: "There are no second acts in American lives." The author of The Great Gatsby, arguably the supreme American novel of the 20th century, knew what he was talking about.

Few writers have ever enjoyed a more brilliant first act. Fitzgerald's 1925 debut was sensational in a way that's only possible in a feverish, self-inventing society such as the US. This Side of Paradise was a first novel whose language, characters and attitude haunted the Jazz Age (Fitzgerald's phrase) like a hit song. A five-year creative spree followed, culminating in the book originally titled "Trimalchio in West Egg". As The Great Gatsby, it was a novel that had awestruck critics, led by the young TS Eliot, fighting for superlatives.

Great art can come from tantalisingly brief moments of creativity. Gatsby was followed by an artistic rallentando, a long struggle with successive drafts of Tender is the Night, then a decade of indigence and alcoholism in Hollywood. In 1940, when Fitzgerald died from a massive heart attack, aged just 44, his work was neglected and his fame in tatters. The Love of the Last Tycoon, an uncompleted manuscript, was published posthumously as The Last Tycoon. On the stock exchange of reputation, his friend and rival Ernest Hemingway must have looked like a much better bet.

But literary afterlives are capricious. Lately, Fitzgerald's long career has been enjoying a remarkable third act. His friendship with Hemingway and the American expat community in France after the Great War inspired Woody Allen's Oscar-nominated Midnight in Paris. That delightful script, with its delicious in-jokes, is a kind of belated homage to Fitzgerald, a writer who not only seems to step from a golden age, but is also symbolic of boom and bust.

Last year, the show Gatz, "the most remarkable achievement in theatre this decade", according to the New York Times, was a word-for-word presentation of Gatsby. New York audiences were swept up in the heady rush of Fitzgerald's hypnotic prose: "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past." Gatz became the hottest ticket off Broadway.

Perhaps the zeitgeist favours Fitzgerald. There's a new film version of The Great Gatsby, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, in the offing. Look out for flapper fashion creeping into high street couture. I hear that Sarah Churchwell is writing about Gatsby. Across the US today, Fitzgerald's masterpiece has become a high school and college campus staple.

Fitzgerald's third act is a parable of the literary life in other ways, too. So much attention has been lavished on Gatsby that the more poignant parts of his legacy have been overlooked. That last, lost decade in Hollywood, struggling with his wife Zelda's schizophrenia and enduring the indignities of hack work for the studios, is every bit as compelling as his celebrity years. To my taste, The Last Tycoon is quite the equal of the early work. The scene in which Monroe Stahr conjures the spirit of the movies from a nickel and a box of matches is a page of genius, speaking as much about America as its art.

The US began with an extraordinary promotion – the Declaration of Independence – and its greatest writers are never more than half a sentence away from advertising. Fitzgerald never ceased to mythologise his crisis as an artist. In 1936, he published (in US Esquire) The Crack-Up, one of the most eviscerating self-analyses ever written, in which he subjected his personal tragedy to forensic scrutiny.

Fitzgerald opens with the characteristically brilliant observation that "the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function". These "opposed ideas" are an inner conviction of failure at odds with the determination to succeed, "the contradiction between the dead hand of the past and the high intentions of the future".

This ruthless self-portrait was later collected by his friend and classmate, the critic Edmund Wilson, into a remarkable volume of essays and letters ablaze with wit and insight. Shockingly, in Britain today, The Crack-Up is out of print.

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Re: F Scott Fitzgerald

Post  pinhedz on Sun Feb 05, 2012 12:12 pm

He looked different in the movie--and spoke German. scratch


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