WEIRDLAND: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Luxury goods, Tinseltown

Friday, November 21, 2014

F. Scott Fitzgerald, Luxury goods, Tinseltown

F. Scott Fitzgerald was so much the professionally successful American author trying to beat the old masters, was so poisonously bright and yet so fluently and vulnerably self-absorbed, that he flattered every writer of his own generation into feeling old and wise. But he was American youth writing— with a miraculously intact belief in romantic love that made the critics see through the college exhibitionism in This Side of Paradise. They were naturally generous and enthusiastic in a way serious critics of fiction are not today. They recognized that Fitzgerald was better than he allowed himself to be. He was the shining boy, already the Chatterton of our literature, who even at college had known that he wanted to be “one of the greatest writers who have ever lived.” Glenway Wescott was to say at the time of his death, “he had the best narrative gift of the century.” These “writing friends” were his nearest critics, his most loyal —from Wilson and John Peale Bishop at college to Gertrude Stein, Hemingway, Lardner, Dos Passos, and others; how clearly he was their “darling,” their “genius,” just as he was only too soon to become their “fool.” Peter Monro Jack thought Fitzgerald might have been the Proust of his generation, that his misfortunes were due to a lack of constructive and helpful criticism. Of course no writer ever gets enough of this—perhaps not even a Maupassant working directly under Flaubert, or an Eliot revising and cutting The Waste Land under the tutelage of Ezra Pound. Even when Fitzgerald was sick and desperate, he worked his way through the open anxieties of Tender Is the Night to the biting authenticity of The Last Tycoon, some of whose pages have the eerie clarity of a man writing from hell.

He said it all in a letter to his daughter written a few months before his death: “… I wish now I‘d never relaxed or looked back—but said at the end of The Great Gatsby: ‘I‘ve found my line—from now on this comes first. This is my immediate duty— without this I‘m nothing.‘” To be a Proust you have, at the very least, to give up the world and give in to the “tyrant” of your intelligence, even if it threatens to devour you. Far from giving up his world—he was about as metaphysical in his tastes as Franklin D. Roosevelt—he could never make up his mind (until it was made up for him, by the nearness of death) whether he was Jay Gatsby trying to win back the love of his life from the rich, or Dick Diver bestowing his “trick of the heart” on the shallow fashionables along the Riviera, or Monroe Stahr trying to do an honest inside job in Hollywood. And it is to be noticed that richer and subtler as the novels become, the heroes grow progressively more alone, became more aware—Fitzgerald‘s synonym for a state near to death.

That fear of awareness and aloneness is in our culture; Fitzgerald‘s critics could not have helped him there. For as they emphasize here over and again, he wanted two different things equally well—and though his art found its “tensile balance” in this conflict, it certainly exhausted him as a man. There was a headlong fatality about him which, in the long silence between The Great Gatsby and Tender Is the Night, the critics could only watch in amazement, some in derision. Fitzgerald‘s collapse served the critics of the thirties only too well. It was a time when many who sat in judgment over him showed that they actually feared fresh individual writing. Only a few reviewers, notably John Chamberlain and C. Hartley Grattan, publicly recognized the emotional depth and active social intelligence of Tender Is the Night as well as its more obvious neuroticism.

There is ill-concealed exasperation even in some of the more affirmative essays written after The Last Tycoon and The Crack-up. One reason for this is Fitzgerald‘s “romanticism.” This term has always been meaningless when applied to our literary history, but it has a special sting now both in our hardboiled culture (Time, for example, once disposed of Fitzgerald as “the last U.S. Romantic") and in our academic literary culture. Serious criticism of fiction in America today has no sense of assisting a creative movement; it footnotes the old masters. It insists on explanations of the creative achievement in fiction even when there may be none easily forthcoming, and tends to distrust, just a little, a writer who constantly crossed and recrossed the border line between highbrow and popular literature in this country, and who actually wrote some of his best stories for the smooth-paper magazines.

But Fitzgerald is one of those novelists whom it is easier to appreciate than to explain, and whom it is possible, and even fascinating, to read over and over—it has often been remarked that Tender Is the Night grows better on each re-reading—without always being able to account for the sources of your pleasure. American critics return again and again to the fact that in a land of promise, “failure” will always be a classic theme. And that the modern American artist‘s struggle for integrity against the foes in his own household shows its richest meaning in a writer like Fitzgerald, who found those foes in his own heart. These late essays round out an historical cycle—not simply from war to war, or from success to neglect to revival, as it is now the fashion to do, we are so hungry for real writers—but from American to American, from self to self. -"F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Man and his Work" (1951) by Alfred Kazin

A bare 0.004 percent of the world's adult population controls nearly $30 trillion in assets, 13 percent of the world's total wealth, according to a new study released Thursday. And perhaps unsurprisingly, the study by the Swiss bank UBS and luxury industry consultant Wealth-X said the concentration of money in the hands of the ultra-rich is growing. The report said 211,275 million people qualify as "ultra-high net worth" (UHNW) -- those with assets above $30 million. Of them, 2,325 have more than $1 billion.

As F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, the rich are different. The average UHNW-er spends $1 million a year on luxury goods and services. Yet, the study points out, luxury items can be "part and parcel of their lifestyle and are not necessarily considered a 'luxury.'" Source:

F. Scott Fitzgerald (Letter to Zelda, April 1938): "You are not married to a rich millionaire of thirty but to a pretty broken and prematurely old man who hasn't a penny except what he can bring out of a weary mind and a sick body. I have heard nothing from you and a word would be reassuring because I am always concerned about you."

The Day of the Locust meets The Devil in the White City and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil in this juicy, untold Hollywood story. By 1920, the movies had suddenly become America’s new favorite pastime, and one of the nation’s largest industries. Yet Hollywood’s glittering ascendency was threatened by a string of headline-grabbing tragedies—including the murder of William Desmond Taylor, the popular president of the Motion Picture Directors Association, a legendary crime that has remained unsolved until now. Along the way, Mann brings to life Los Angeles in the Roaring Twenties: a sparkling yet schizophrenic town filled with party girls, drug dealers, religious zealots, newly-minted legends and starlets already past their prime—a dangerous place where the powerful could still run afoul of the desperate.

In his unfinished novel The Last Tycoon, F. Scott Fitzgerald would write that Hollywood could only be understood “dimly and in flashes.” Fewer than half a dozen people, he said, had “ever been able to keep the whole equation of pictures in their heads.”

Zukor was one of those few. Not until 1948 did the government finally force the movie studios —all of them, not just Paramount— to divest themselves of their theater chains. By then Zukor was happily ensconced as Chairman Emeritus. In 1953 he published a memoir, The Public Is Never Wrong, which he dedicated to his wife Lottie. Of the Taylor case, Zukor said it made for “good reading,” and recalled the fodder it gave to “dozens of special correspondents” who painted Hollywood as “a wicked, wicked city.” Of William Desmond Taylor’s papers, or the actions he’d taken after reading them, Zukor said nothing. He took that secret with him to the grave. On Hollywood Boulevard, the locusts now ruled. Movie premieres had been replaced with drug deals. And across the backlots of the once thrumping movie studios, a terrible silence prevailed. The system Adolph Zukor and Marcus Loew had worked so diligently to create was in its final days. -"Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood" (2014) by William J. Mann

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