Friday, September 24, 2010

Happy 114th, Scott

Though the poor sonofabitch is not here to see it, today is Scott Fitzgerald's birthday. Scott is one white Irishman who makes up for a whole passel of crazy ones like Hannity and O'Reilly and Buchanan (the latter of whom I inexplicably have a soft spot for). I'm gonna link to a really fine article about Scott that I read at another blog, with some interesting ideas about Zelda, and a really superb letter Max Perkins wote to Scott about Gatsby. I will link to this, though, after the jump, so I can make a few pithy personal observations first—so understand I expect your attention 'til then.

Scott Fitzgerald shook me up pretty good, first time I read him (this is not the jump I was talking about. It's coming soon, just hold your fucking horses, okay?). I was 13, and I was sick at home—so sick I missed two days of football practice, the first time (in six years, at the time) I'd ever missed it. I lay on the couch those two days, and read This Side of Paradise, riveted and changed by the experience. This was a book written by a romantic young man for other romantic young men. Looking at the book today, it is not nearly as together as his other novels—it is uneven, sometimes overly dramatic, and often verges on being contrived, even precious—which could be a description of me, and any number of my friends, at that age. I was terribly impressed by Amory Blaine, and especially by his philisophical-socialist soliloquy in the last chapter, and by his epithet, at the end: "I know myself, and that is all." Of course, I didn't know myself, and that was far from all, but the book began a life-long love of Fitzgerald, as well as many other associations born from it. It also began the slow undoing of my life as "football player", although I would play several more years. My hair would grow longer, my thinking more radical, and coaches would no longer dominate the hierarchy of influences that governed my thought and behavior. As WWI liberated Amory's thinking, he had liberated mine. Gatsby is my favorite novel, and I come to it over and again, but when I was a teenager, I liked the book, but did not love it. Amory crowded (and clouded) my perception, and I really couldn't see the difference until I read both books again later, when I was in my early twenties.

At any rate, here's to Scott Fitzgerald, a great Irish-American novelist, who knew a thing or two about idealism, and youth. Here's the link I promised, a really good read.

(That was the jump. You may leave now)

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