F. Scott Fitzgerald died on December 21, 1940. According to his New York Times obituary, he was felled at 44 by a heart attack that he’d suffered three weeks earlier.
Mr. Fitzgerald in his life and writings epitomized “all the sad young men” of the post-war generation. With the skill of a reporter and ability of an artist he captured the essence of a period when flappers and gin and “the beautiful and the damned” were the symbols of the carefree madness of an age.
An excerpt from The Great Gatsby:
About half way between West Egg and New York the motor road hastily joins the railroad and runs beside it for a quarter of a mile, so as to shrink away from a certain desolate area of land. This is a valley of ashes — a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air. Occasionally a line of gray cars crawls along an invisible track, gives out a ghastly creak, and comes to rest, and immediately the ash-gray men swarm up with leaden spades and stir up an impenetrable cloud, which screens their obscure operations from your sight.
But above the gray land and the spasms of bleak dust which drift endlessly over it, you perceive, after a moment, the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg. The eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg are blue and gigantic — their retinas are one yard high. They look out of no face, but, instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a nonexistent nose. Evidently some wild wag of an oculist set them there to fatten his practice in the borough of Queens, and then sank down himself into eternal blindness, or forgot them and moved away. But his eyes, dimmed a little by many paintless days, under sun and rain, brood on over the solemn dumping ground.
The valley of ashes is bounded on one side by a small foul river, and, when the drawbridge is up to let barges through, the passengers on waiting trains can stare at the dismal scene for as long as half an hour. There is always a halt there of at least a minute, and it was because of this that I first met Tom Buchanan’s mistress.
(via Riley Dog)
Emma Goldman on Maxim Gorky, 1914:
We in America are conversant with tramp literature. A number of writers of considerable note have described what is commonly called the underworld, among them Josiah Flynt and Jack London, who have ably interpreted the life and psychology of the outcast. But with all due respect for their ability, it must be said that, after all, they wrote only as onlookers, as observers. They were not tramps themselves, in the real sense of the word. In “The Children of the Abyss” Jack London relates that when he stood in the breadline, he had money, a room in a good hotel, and a change of linen at hand. He was therefore not an integral part of the underworld, of the homeless and hopeless.
New York Times, October 23, 1994:
These days you can walk into the St. Marks Bookshop and find his second novel, “The Ice Storm,” on the same shelf as James Michener and Cormac McCarthy, thanks to alphabetical order…. [H]e makes nearly all of his income from writing. And lives in a state of at least intermittent dread. “This minute I’m sitting here being interviewed,” he mused, “and in five years I won’t be able to get published.”
Novelist (and former “Jeopardy” champion?) Arthur Phillips talks to Robert Birnbaum:
RB: I haven’t managed to read writers who I now see as cultish-Proust and Wodehouse.
AP: I have enjoyed him enormously. I don’t know that I’d read all 95 or 150 or 300 books or whatever it is-
RB: There’s an example of productivity or hypergraphia.
AP: There is a famous story-I’m going to get the details wrong, but he was in New York for a while and someone asked if he was hanging out at the Algonquin and he said, “I don’t know how those guys get any work done.” That’s the problem with Brooklyn-you have to really try not to meet other writers.
Winners of the 2005 Faux Faulker Contest. Winner: “The Administration and the Fury: If William Faulkner were writing on the Bush White House”.
Why children love Roald Dahl’s stories — and many adults don’t. Danny, The Champion of the World is my favorite Dahl book and I’ve read most of the others as well.
Today is my last day at work. And people keep asking me if I’m sad to be leaving…like I should be, I guess. But I’m not sad at all. Not a bit. All the people I hung out with here, all my good friends, are gone already. I don’t like the atmosphere here anymore. I don’t like working here. There’s no challenge anymore…if there was ever a challenge.
So I’m very happy to be leaving. And moving on with my life. Finally.