Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A worrisome thing that leads you to sing the blues in the night

Let us now praise famous men shift our attention from blue boys and blue periods to the American writer, F. Scott Fitzgerald.

F. Scott Fitzgerald was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1896 and died in Hollywood, California, in 1940. He wrote five novels
(one of them is The Great Gatsby and the other four aren’t, and one of them wasn’t published until after his death) and several collections of short stories (one of them contains the story “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and the others don’t, and one of them wasn't published until -- déjà vu -- after his death).

Fitzgerald’s American credentials were pretty impressive. His second cousin, three times removed, was Francis Scott Key, the chap who is remembered for having written “The Star-Spangled Banner” (although its original title was “Defence of Fort McHenry”) in 1814; and his first cousin, once removed, was Mary Surratt, a woman hanged in 1865 for conspiring to assassinate Abraham Lincoln.

Before we look at one of his works, first you must read this entire article to get a flavor of his life and to understand better what you will be reading later. Then we will proceed.

Finished already?

Today we are going to look at “The Crack-Up”, a series of three non-fiction articles that F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in 1936, late in his career.

Because I like them, that’s why, and this is my blog, after all.

If anyone could be called blue, it was F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1936. His wife Zelda had been admitted to a mental institution and he had not yet met his lover, gossip columnist Sheilah Graham. [Editor’s note. For extra credit, read this. --RWP]

“The Crack-Up” appeared in Esquire magazine in the February, March, and April 1936 issues as a series of three articles. Only the first article was entitled “The Crack-Up” originally. The second article was entitled “Pasting It Together” and the third article was entitled “Handle With Care”.

I know this is a lot of reading for one day, but you will be the better for it.

Here are all three parts of “The Crack-Up”.

One last thing:

This is not Zelda Fitzgerald, nor is it Sheilah Graham.

This is Mary Surratt.

Now maybe you’ll go read that Fitzgerald novel you’ve been meaning to get around to.


  1. Read everything as instructed - now my brain hurts. May I get a glass of water sir?...Never been a big fan of Scott Fitgerald even though "The Great Gatsby" is frequently on the English Literature syllabi of several British exam boards. Give me John Steinbeck or William Faulkner any day above Scott Fitzgerald.

  2. Yorkshire P., I agree with you. I chose this piece of Fitzgerald's as an example of "confessional literature" but I do admire much more the two you mentioned. The only Steinbeck I have read are The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden -- no, wait, I also read Travels With Charley -- but I think I have read every single thing Faulkner ever wrote. I am especially partial to As I Lay Dying and The Sound and the Fury. Flannery O'Connor once wrote, “The presence alone of Faulkner in our midst makes a great difference in what the writer can and cannot permit himself to do. Nobody wants his mule and wagon stalled on the same track the Dixie Limited is roaring down.”

    You get an A+ for the day. Now you may go out and play, maybe take a little hike or something.

  3. My son has just finished reading The Great Gatsby for his English subject, and read Of Mice and Men last year from Steinbeck. Have not read Faulkner but will now on your recommendation. Thanks RWP. P.S. Blue is still rearing it's head I see :)

  4. Sorry, sir, I'm skiving lessons today ... I don't get what the fuss about him is either. You'll find me behind the bike sheds with YP. x

  5. Well now you've given me much to think about there. I'll have a read of all the offerings paved by the links, and I must admit the book 'Intimate Lies' appeals too.

  6. Carol (in Cairns, which is in blah blah blah), what did your son think of The Great Gatsby and Of Mice and Men? Were you able to get him to talk about them, or did he write any papers about them?

    Elizabeth, I'm not familiar with skiving, but I hope you become an expert at is as I suppose the world could always use more skivers or whatever they're called. I do hope it has nothing to do with what my stepmother's Australian friend, Big Dorothy, called "skivvies"....

    All Consuming, I remember seeing Sheilah Graham occasionally on U.S. television back in the 1960s, but didn't know anything about her connection with F. Scott Fitzgerald. I was young and innocent. Now I am not quite so young and not quite so innocent, more's the pity.

  7. RWP, teenage boys talk about anything to do with school? I am his Mum RWP, and teach at the same school that he goes to. I usually get to proofread his papers at the 11th hour. Both papers seem to be on character studies of the novels. I think with Mice and Men, they had to compare the book to the movie. GG is a work in progress at the moment. Thanks for asking :)

  8. I'm so pleased to see that I am not alone in my thoughts on "The Great Gatsby". When it was on my son's reading list many years ago I read it as parents do when they have a child who struggles with literature but found it very uninspiring. Thought it was no wonder boys struggled with literature when this was what they were faced with.
    My interest in "the Jazz Age" was sparked by our visit to ParisI recently and I reread it and came to the same conclusion. I find it hard to fathom Fitzgerald's fame especially when compared to his friend Hemmingway's powerful style.
    I confess that I haven't read anything by William Faulkner as recommended by you and YP so I will look to remedy that in the future.

  9. PS. Do you have a Faulkner I should start with? I liked the look of "As I Lay Dying". What do you recommend?

  10. Helsie, many of William Faulkner's works are set in the fictional town of Jefferson in fictional Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi. The characters and families all seem to run together after a while. It's an unusual place with unusual people and you should get to know them all.

    He wrote his best-known novels in this order: The Sound and the Fury (1929), As I Lay Dying (1930), Sanctuary (1931), Light in August (1932), Absalom, Absalom (1936). You might want to read them in the order Faulkner wrote them.

    But first I think you should read a short story that he wrote in 1930, "A Rose for Emily"....

  11. 'Skiving' is a British term for being absent from school or work without good reason - the same as playing truant or hookey. In reality, I was far to timid and afraid of the consequences to ever carry it out. x

  12. We call it wagging here in AUS, I only ever wagged once to go and see a Lief Garrett movie in the 1970s and still worry my Mum will find out.