Enjoy Thanksgiving with our menu of literary recipes:
Christmas Bonus: George Orwell’s Recipes for Plum Cake and Christmas Pudding
Enjoy Thanksgiving with our menu of literary recipes:
Christmas Bonus: George Orwell’s Recipes for Plum Cake and Christmas Pudding
- Art invariably grows out of a period when in general the artist admires his own nation and wants to win its approval. This fact is not altered by the circumstances that his work may take the form of satire for satire is the subtle flattery of a certain minority in a nation. The greatest artists grow out of these periods as the tall head of the crop. They may seem not to be affected but they are.
- Great art is the contempt of a great man for small art.
- The queer slanting effect of the substantive, the future imperfect, a matter of intuition or ear to O’Hara, is unknown to careful writers like Bunny and John.
- When the first rate author wants an exquisite heroine or a lovely morning, he finds that all the superlatives have been worn shoddy by his inferiors. It should be a rule that bad writers must start with plain heroines and ordinary mornings, and, if they are able, work up to something better.
- Man reads good reviews of his book so many times that he begins finally to remodel his style on them and use their rhythms.
- Realistic details like Dostoiefski glasses
- The two basic stories of all times are Cinderella and Jack the Giant Killer—the charm of women and the courage of men. The 19th century glorified the merchant’s cowardly son. Now a reaction.
- The Steinbeck scene. Out of touch with that life. The exact observation there.
- The episodic book, (Dos P. + Romaine etc.) may be wonderful, but the fact remains that it is episodic, and and such definition implies a limitation. You are with the character until the author gets tired of him—then you leave him for a while. In the true novel, you have to stay with the character all the time, and you acquire a sort of second wind about him, a depth of realization.
- In a short story, you have only so much money to buy just one costume. Not the parts of many. One mistake in the shoes or tie, and you’re gone.
- Play—For Act II. Something happens that to audience, changes entire situation, such as significant suitcase to country, or old terror apparently buried in Act I.
—From F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Notebooks.
- D. H. Lawrence great attempt to synthesize animal and emotional—things he left out. Essential pre-Marxian. Just as I am essentially Marxian.
- When Whitman said “Oh Pioneers” he said all.
- Byron’s mountains warm.
- Reporting the extreme things as if they were the average things will start you on the art of fiction.
- Work out my hard luck season—my most productive seasons, etc
- Conrad’s secret theory examined.He knew that things do transpire about people. Therefore he wrote the truth and transposed it to parallel to give that quality, adding confusion however to his structure. Nevertheless there is in his scheme a desire to imitate life which is in all the big shots. Have I such an idea in the composition of this book?
- Conrad influenced by Man Without a Country
- No English painting because of their putting everything into words.
- List of Zelda’s faults and virtues as a writer.
- Chapter in slow motion.
- Right to Pretty heroines
- Tie up with Faulkner—Lord Fauntleroy.
–From F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Notebooks.
- Nothing is any more permitted in fiction like stage convention of keeping people on stage by coincidences.
- Must listen for conversation style a la Joyce
- Nevertheless value of Ernest’s feeling about the pure heart when writing—in other words the comparatively pure heart, the “house in order.”
- Resent the attempt of the boys and girls who tried to bury me before I was dead.
- Books are like brothers. I am an only child. Gatsby my imaginary eldest brother, Amory my younger, Anthony my worry. Dick my comparatively good brother but all of them far from home. When I have the courage to put the old white light on the home of my heart, then—
- Shakespeare—whetting, frustrating, surprising and gratifying.
- Forebearance, good word.
- I can never remember the times when I wrote anything—This Side of Paradise time or Beautiful and Damned and Gatsby time for instance. Lived in story.
- That Willa Cather’s poem shall stand at beginning of Mediaval and that it shall be the story of Ernest.
- Just as Stendahl’s portrait of a Byronic man made Le Rouge et Noir so couldn’t my portrait of Ernest as Phillipe make the real modern man.
- There never was a good biography of a good novelist. There couldn’t be. He is too many people if he’s any good.
- And such condescension toward the creative life— Tolstoi caught the sense of the Napoleonic wars out in the street from the man in the street; his comments on fiction which would make any old 1864 copy of Leslie’s more humanly valuable than The Red Badge of Courage—the idealization of all that passes through his empty mind; his hatred of all people who formed the world in which he lives—a political Oscar Wilde peddling in the provinces the plums he took from our pudding; his role of Jesus cursing. You can see him going from prize fight to first night to baseball game-maybe even to women—trying to put back into movement the very things Lenin regretted that he might have destroyed—gracelessness and ugliness for its own sake. Gentlemen, proletarians—for a prize skunk I give you Mr. Forsite.
—From F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Notebooks.
In Chapter 4 of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, narrator Nick Carraway recounts the names of the rich, shallow, parasitic guests who attended Gatsby’s parties. Nick tells us the list comes from “an old time-table” of names he originally recorded in July 5th—significantly, the day after Independence Day: the day after the hopes and dreams of a new country. From the chapter—-
Once I wrote down on the empty spaces of a time-table the names of those who came to Gatsby’s house that summer. It is an old time-table now, disintegrating at its folds, and headed “This schedule in effect July 5th, 1922.” But I can still read the gray names, and they will give you a better impression than my generalities of those who accepted Gatsby’s hospitality and paid him the subtle tribute of knowing nothing whatever about him.
From East Egg, then, came the Chester Beckers and the Leeches, and a man named Bunsen, whom I knew at Yale, and Doctor Webster Civet, who was drowned last summer up in Maine. And the Hornbeams and the Willie Voltaires, and a whole clan named Blackbuck, who always gathered in a corner and flipped up their noses like goats at whosoever came near. And the Ismays and the Chrysties (or rather Hubert Auerbach and Mr. Chrystie’s wife), and Edgar Beaver, whose hair, they say, turned cotton-white one winter afternoon for no good reason at all.
Clarence Endive was from East Egg, as I remember. He came only once, in white knickerbockers, and had a fight with a bum named Etty in the garden. From farther out on the Island came the Cheadles and the O. R. P. Schraeders, and the Stonewall Jackson Abrams of Georgia, and the Fishguards and the Ripley Snells. Snell was there three days before he went to the penitentiary, so drunk out on the gravel drive that Mrs. Ulysses Swett’s automobile ran over his right hand. The Dancies came, too, and S. B. Whitebait, who was well over sixty, and Maurice A. Flink, and the Hammerheads, and Beluga the tobacco importer, and Beluga’s girls.
From West Egg came the Poles and the Mulreadys and Cecil Roebuck and Cecil Schoen and Gulick the state senator and Newton Orchid, who controlled Films Par Excellence, and Eckhaust and Clyde Cohen and Don S. Schwartze (the son) and Arthur McCarty, all connected with the movies in one way or another. And the Catlips and the Bembergs and G. Earl Muldoon, brother to that Muldoon who afterward strangled his wife. Da Fontano the promoter came there, and Ed Legros and James B. (“Rot-Gut.”) Ferret and the De Jongs and Ernest Lilly — they came to gamble, and when Ferret wandered into the garden it meant he was cleaned out and Associated Traction would have to fluctuate profitably next day.
A man named Klipspringer was there so often and so long that he became known as “the boarder.”— I doubt if he had any other home. Of theatrical people there were Gus Waize and Horace O’donavan and Lester Meyer and George Duckweed and Francis Bull. Also from New York were the Chromes and the Backhyssons and the Dennickers and Russel Betty and the Corrigans and the Kellehers and the Dewars and the Scullys and S. W. Belcher and the Smirkes and the young Quinns, divorced now, and Henry L. Palmetto, who killed himself by jumping in front of a subway train in Times Square.
Benny McClenahan arrived always with four girls. They were never quite the same ones in physical person, but they were so identical one with another that it inevitably seemed they had been there before. I have forgotten their names — Jaqueline, I think, or else Consuela, or Gloria or Judy or June, and their last names were either the melodious names of flowers and months or the sterner ones of the great American capitalists whose cousins, if pressed, they would confess themselves to be.
In addition to all these I can remember that Faustina O’brien came there at least once and the Baedeker girls and young Brewer, who had his nose shot off in the war, and Mr. Albrucksburger and Miss Haag, his fiancee, and Ardita Fitz-Peters and Mr. P. Jewett, once head of the American Legion, and Miss Claudia Hip, with a man reputed to be her chauffeur, and a prince of something, whom we called Duke, and whose name, if I ever knew it, I have forgotten.
All these people came to Gatsby’s house in the summer.
[Ed. note: The following citations come from one-star Amazon reviews of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby. While I think that Gatsby is probably the most overrated book in the American canon, I do think it's an important book (overrated ≠ bad). I've read it many, many times and used it in the classroom. Some of the selections here are silly, some actually make valid points, all intrigued me. I've preserved the reviewers' unique styles of punctuation and spelling. (More one-star samplers: Orwell's 1984, Melville's Moby-Dick, Joyce's Ulysses and Markson's Wittgenstein's Mistress)].
Gatsby was obviously drunk, or smoking marijuana when he was writing this book, and must have thougth that this book was pretty clever.
Hey everyone! Lookit me! I’m a rich little snot and I can throw a big party in my mansion!
O.K. the first red flag was that this book isn’t part of any series. In my experience if a book isn’t part of a series it probably didn’t turn out too well and the author probably didn’t really know what he was doing. I’m sorry, but if something’s good people want more, you know? Like Fiddle Faddle (5 Stars!) Or Vicodin.
All the characters did was moan about their lives and do stupid things.
It was too “wordy”.
Lets just say that I created my own “Valley of Ashes”, its called a burnt up copy of The Great Gatzby in my dumpster outside my house.
Gatsby is the miz an and daisy is a sliz to the iz ut. Scott Fitzgerald i wish u were alive so i could kill u.
I hated this book with a passion.
The love story was predictable and the characters were obnoxious.
The Great Gatsby is a soap opera with depth.
There are murders, but not very unique ones.
(Nick Carraway; even his >name< is mediocre)
What’s “great” about this Gabsty fellow exactly? Write something about people who work for a living, not this junk.
As anyone who’s read this book knows, it’s a relatively short book.
The language is vulgar and archaic, with words such as “gay” and “excitement” used completely erroneously.
I don’t understand. This book is called the Great Gatsby, but everyone in the book treats Gatsby like he’s regular size.
Maybe it’s a book for an older crowd, I don’t know, but it was a complete waste of my time.
IT IS VERY COMPLICATED TO UNDERSTAND AND THERE ARE A LOT OF CHARACTERS.
I AM STILL READING THE BOOK SO MAYBE IT WILL GET BETTER.
this booke is very stupid, just like all the other secular writers out in the world.
Gatsby is living a seventeen-year-old’s dream whichwould be fine, if he were seventeen rather than thirty, but is total folly at his age.
The secret is: the author was a drunk.
it was so “boring”, that I failed my test on the computer!
So it’s a great story about the Jazz era. It wasn’t that great an era.
There is also plenty of *PREJUDICE* and *RACISM* in this book.
I think a bunch of divorced intellectuals have perpetuated this book through time and perpetrated it upon young adults.
Walking into a room of pseudo-intellectuals and proclaiming “Gatsby sucks!” isn’t the best idea these days, it seems.
This books its for people who stand 1 ft tall. incredibly small book….it should say so in the title!!!!!!
If I wanted to read about lame, rich, full of themself people going to parties, I’d pick up People magazine.
omg i really had no sympathy for any of the characters, especially Gatsby. honestly, he had it coming. i’m sure a lot of older people will enjoy this book but if your under 21 i’d stay far far away
Mr. Fitzgerald just got lazy and decided to end the book at that.
I’d give it negative infinity stars if i could.
The plot line resembles an episode of Beverly Hills 90210 (namely “Let’s sit around and whine about being rich. Next we’ll get drunk and call each other names, fight, and run each other over!” SHUT UP ALREADY!)
I think I misunderstood the main point of the book. Since i found there to be none.
If you are rich and money if no object to you then you would see it as a non-fiction story. But if you are like the majority of other people around the United States, then it would be fiction. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote this “great” novel that everyone proclaims it to be, which by some and sometimes many will tell you the opposite.
Gatsby was a very wealthy man.
Boring! Boring! Boring! Boring! Boring! Boring! Boring! Boring! Boring! Boring! Boring! Boring! Boring! Boring! Boring! Boring! Boring! Boring! Boring! Boring! Boring! Boring! Boring! Boring! Boring! Boring! Boring! Boring! Boring! Boring! Boring! Boring! Boring! Boring! Boring! Boring!
but i have to read it for school so what can you do?
I’ve never belonged to any group or huddle of any kind. You cannot be an artist and work collectively. Even the fact that I went to Mexico when everybody else was going to Europe—I went to Mexico because I felt I had business there. And there I found friends and ideas that were sympathetic to me. That was my entire milieu. I don’t think anyone even knew I was a writer. I didn’t show my work to anybody or talk about it, because—well, no one was particularly interested in that. It was a time of revolution, and I was running with almost pure revolutionaries!
And you think that was a more wholesome environment for a writer than, say, the milieu of the expatriated artist in Europe at the same time?
Well, I know it was good for me. I would have been completely smothered—completely disgusted and revolted—by the goings-on in Europe. Even now when I think of the twenties and the legend that has grown up about them, I think it was a horrible time: shallow and trivial and silly. The remarkable thing is that anybody survived in such an atmosphere—in a place where they could call F. Scott Fitzgerald a great writer!
You don’t agree?
Of course I don’t agree. I couldn’t read him then and I can’t read him now. There was just one passage in a book called Tender Is the Night—I read that and thought, “Now I will read this again,” because I couldn’t be sure. Not only didn’t I like his writing, but I didn’t like the people he wrote about. I thought they weren’t worth thinking about, and I still think so. It seems to me that your human beings have to have some kind of meaning. I just can’t be interested in those perfectly stupid meaningless lives. And I don’t like the same thing going on now—the way the artist simply will not face up to the final reckoning of things.
I reviewed the first full trailer for Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby back in early summer of last year. The film, originally slated for a Christmas 2012 release, was delayed supposedly to finish effects, add new music (featured in this trailer), and give the film a higher-profile summer release.
I certainly enjoyed myself. The chow was all good, mostly, but the butter was rancid. The bed was hard but uncomfortable. The talk was over my head but there was some made sense—that part about my being a great guy for instance.
I got home sick at the stummuck but I do not blame you at all.
Will you tell the servents next time I like my soup hot and more of a sharp edge when they press my pants.
You said I only had to pay one buck for board but even that is too much when the service is not good. That black bean soup was rancid too, and mine had a beetle in it. Besides there wasn’t enough blankets and the only good one was stale like it had been used for a baby or something.
I liked all the people I met except that woman I had to slug at dinner. Tell her I hope she found her teeth in the tomato soup when they emptied it out. No gentleman should have done a thing like that but I cannot stand a warm stocking on my ankle under the table.
I’m sorry I shot the horse and dog but they kep me awake 1/2 the night and I come there for a rest. You will find a lot of cigar stubs in the refrigidaire as I did not know where to put them. I do not want them however so give them to one of the negro servants, you know the colored ones, not your uncle or aunt or anybody like that. The black ones.
I’ll tell you when I can come down again and we will have more of that fun in the dumb waiter—hey kid, you know? Only I’m sorry I left you between floors when I went to bed. I thot it would give you more time to cool off so you could get some sleep too.
All right kid and goodby and I know now you are not such a dumb cluck as you look like.
P.S. If you called that thing a cocktail then listerine is the Holy Grail.
From F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Notebooks.
“The Offshore Pirate” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
This unlikely story begins on a sea that was a blue dream, as colorful as blue-silk stockings, and beneath a sky as blue as the irises of children’s eyes. From the western half of the sky the sun was shying little golden disks at the sea—if you gazed intently enough you could see them skip from wave tip to wave tip until they joined a broad collar of golden coin that was collecting half a mile out and would eventually be a dazzling sunset. About half-way between the Florida shore and the golden collar a white steam-yacht, very young and graceful, was riding at anchor and under a blue-and-white awning aft a yellow-haired girl reclined in a wicker settee reading The Revolt of the Angels, by Anatole France.
She was about nineteen, slender and supple, with a spoiled alluring mouth and quick gray eyes full of a radiant curiosity. Her feet, stockingless, and adorned rather than clad in blue-satin slippers which swung nonchalantly from her toes, were perched on the arm of a settee adjoining the one she occupied. And as she read she intermittently regaled herself by a faint application to her tongue of a half-lemon that she held in her hand. The other half, sucked dry, lay on the deck at her feet and rocked very gently to and fro at the almost imperceptible motion of the tide.
The second half-lemon was well-nigh pulpless and the golden collar had grown astonishing in width, when suddenly the drowsy silence which enveloped the yacht was broken by the sound of heavy footsteps and an elderly man topped with orderly gray hair and clad in a white-flannel suit appeared at the head of the companionway. There he paused for a moment until his eyes became accustomed to the sun, and then seeing the girl under the awning he uttered a long even grunt of disapproval.
If he had intended thereby to obtain a rise of any sort he was doomed to disappointment. The girl calmly turned over two pages, turned back one, raised the lemon mechanically to tasting distance, and then very faintly but quite unmistakably yawned.
“Ardita!” said the gray-haired man sternly.
Ardita uttered a small sound indicating nothing.
“Ardita!” he repeated. “Ardita!”
Ardita raised the lemon languidly, allowing three words to slip out before it reached her tongue.
“Oh, shut up.”
“Will you listen to me—or will I have to get a servant to hold you while I talk to you?”
The lemon descended very slowly and scornfully.
“Put it in writing.”
“Will you have the decency to close that abominable book and discard that damn lemon for two minutes?”
“Oh, can’t you lemme alone for a second?”
“Ardita, I have just received a telephone message from the shore——”
“Telephone?” She showed for the first time a faint interest.
“Yes, it was——”
“Do you mean to say,” she interrupted wonderingly, “‘at they let you run a wire out here?”
“Yes, and just now——”
“Won’t other boats bump into it?”
“No. It’s run along the bottom. Five min——”
“Well, I’ll be darned! Gosh! Science is golden or something—isn’t it?”
“Will you let me say what I started to?”
“Well it seems—well, I am up here—” He paused and swallowed several times distractedly. “Oh, yes. Young woman, Colonel Moreland has called up again to ask me to be sure to bring you in to dinner. His son Toby has come all the way from New York to meet you and he’s invited several other young people. For the last time, will you——”
“No,” said Ardita shortly, “I won’t. I came along on this darn cruise with the one idea of going to Palm Beach, and you knew it, and I absolutely refuse to meet any darn old colonel or any darn young Toby or any darn old young people or to set foot in any other darn old town in this crazy state. So you either take me to Palm Beach or else shut up and go away.”
“Very well. This is the last straw. In your infatuation for this man.—a man who is notorious for his excesses—a man your father would not have allowed to so much as mention your name—you have rejected the demi-monde rather than the circles in which you have presumably grown up. From now on——”
“I know,” interrupted Ardita ironically, “from now on you go your way and I go mine. I’ve heard that story before. You know I’d like nothing better.”
“From now on,” he announced grandiloquently, “you are no niece of mine. I——”
“O-o-o-oh!” The cry was wrung from Ardita with the agony of a lost soul. “Will you stop boring me! Will you go ‘way! Will you jump overboard and drown! Do you want me to throw this book at you!”
“If you dare do any——”
Smack! The Revolt of the Angels sailed through the air, missed its target by the length of a short nose, and bumped cheerfully down the companionway.
The gray-haired man made an instinctive step backward and then two cautious steps forward. Ardita jumped to her five feet four and stared at him defiantly, her gray eyes blazing.
“How dare you!” he cried.
“Because I darn please!”
“You’ve grown unbearable! Your disposition——”
“You’ve made me that way! No child ever has a bad disposition unless it’s her fancy’s fault! Whatever I am, you did it.”
It’s a fine novel [For Whom the Bell Tolls], better than anybody else writing could do. Thanks for thinking of me and for your dedication. I read it with intense interest, participating in a lot of the writing problems as they came along and often quite unable to discover how you brought off some of the effects, but you always did. The massacre was magnificent and also the fight on the mountain and the actual dynamiting scene. Of the sideshows I particularly liked the vignette of Karkov and Pilar’s Sonata to death—and I had a personal interest in the Moseby guerilla stuff because of my own father. The scene in which the. father says goodbye to his son is very powerful. I’m going to read the whole thing again.
I never got to tell you how I like To Have and to Have Not either. There is observation and writing in that that the boys will be imitating with a vengeance—paragraphs and pages that are right up with Dostoiefski in their undeflected intensity.
Congratulations too on your new book’s great success. I envy you like hell and there is no irony in this. I always liked Dostoiefski with his wide appeal more than any other European—and I envy you the time it will give you to do what you want.
With Old Affection,
P.S. I came across an old article by John Bishop about how you lay four days under dead bodies at Caporetto and how I flunked out of Princeton (I left on a stretcher in November—you can’t flunk out in November) … What I started to say was that I do know something about you on the Italian front, from a man who was in your unit—how you crawled some hellish distance pulling a wounded man with you and how the doctors stood over you wondering why you were alive with so many perforations. Don’t worry—I won’t tell anybody. Not even Allan Campbell who called me up and gave me news of you the other day.
P.S. (2) I hear you are marrying one of the most beautiful people I have ever seen. Give her my best remembrance.
(November 8, 1940; republished in New Directions’ edition of The Crack Up).
Hotel Pernollet Belley (Ain) Belley, le 22 May, 192- 
My dear Fitzgerald:
Here we are and have read your book and it is a good book. I like the melody of your dedication and it shows that you have a background of beauty and tenderness and that is a comfort. The next good thing is that you write naturally in sentences and that too is a comfort. You write naturally in sentences and one can read all of them and that among other things is a comfort. You are creating the contemporary world much as Thackeray did his in Pendennis and Vanity Fair and this isn’t a bad compliment. You make a modern world and a modern orgy strangely enough it was never done until you did it in This Side of Paradise. My belief in This Side of Paradise was alright. This is as good a book and different and older and that is what one does, one does not get better but different and older and that is always a pleasure.. Best of good luck to you always, and thanks so much for the very genuine pleasure you have given me. We are looking forward to seeing you and Mrs. Fitzgerald when we get back in the Fall. Do please remember me to her and to you always
(From New Directions’ edition of The Crack-Up).
Why Scott—you poor miserable bastard, it was damn handsome of you to write me. Had just heard about your shoulder and was on the edge of writing when I got your letter. Must be damned painful and annoying. Let us know how you are. Katy sends love and condolences. We often talk about you and wish we could get to see you.
I’ve been wanting to see you, naturally, to argue about your Esquire articles [The Crack-Up]—Christ, man, how do you find time in the middle of the general conflagration to worry about all that stuff? If you don’t want to do stuff on your own, why not get a reporting job somewhere. After all not many people write as well as you do. Here you’ve gone and spent forty years in perfecting an elegant and complicated piece of machinery (tool I was going to say) and the next forty years is the time to use it—or as long as the murderous forces of history will let you. God damn it, I feel frightful myself—I have that false Etruscan feeling of sitting on my tail at home while etcetera etcetera is on the march to Rome —but I have two things laid out I want to finish up and I’m trying to take a course in American history and most of the time the course of world events seems so frightful that I feel absolutely paralysed—and the feeling that I’ve got to hurry to get stuff out before the big boys close down on us. We’re living in one of the damnedest tragic moments in history—if you want to go to pieces I think it’s absolutely O. K. but I think you ought to write a first rate novel about it (and you probably will) instead of spilling it in little pieces for Arnold Gingrich—and anyway, in pieces or not, I wish I could get an hour’s talk with you now and then, Scott, and damn sorry about the shoulder. Forgive the locker room peptalk.
(1936; republished in New Directions’ edition of The Crack-Up).
I don’t know where you are living and I’ll be damned if I’ll believe anyone lives in a place called “The Garden of Allah,” which was what the address on your envelope said. I am sending this on to the old address we both know so well.
The unexpected loquaciousness of your letter struck me all of a heap. I was surprised to hear from you but I don’t know that I can truthfully say I was delighted. Your bouquet arrived smelling sweetly of roses but cunningly concealing several large-sized brick-bats. Not that I resented them. My resenter got pretty tough years ago; like everybody else I have at times been accused of “resenting criti[ci]sm” and although I have never been one of those boys who break out in a hearty and delighted laugh when someone tells them everything they write is lousy and agree enthusiastically, I think I have taken as many plain and fancy varieties as any American citizen of my age now living. I have not always smiled and murmured pleasantly “How true,” but I have listened to it all, tried to profit from it where and when I could and perhaps been helped by it a little. Certainly I don’t think I have been pig-headed about it. I have not been arrogantly contemptuous of it either, because one of my besetting sins, whether you know it or not, is a lack of confidence in what I do.
So I’m not sore at you or sore about anything you said in your letter. And if there is any truth in what you say— any truth for me—you can depend upon it I shall probably get it out. It just seems to me that there is not much in what you say. You speak of your “case” against me, and frankly I don’t believe you have much case. You say you write these things because you admire me so much and because you think my talent unmatchable in this or any other country and because you are ever my friend. Well Scott I should not only be proud and happy to think that all these things are true but my respect and admiration for your own talent and intelligence are such that I should try earnestly to live up to them and to deserve them and to pay the most serious and respectful attention to anything you say about my work.
I have tried to do so. I have read your letter several times and I’ve got to admit it doesn’t seem to mean much. I don’t know what you are driving at or understand what you expect or hope me to do about it. Now this may be pig-headed but it isn’t sore. I may be wrong but all I can get out of it is that you think I’d be a good writer if I were an altogether different writer from the writer that I am.
This may be true but I don’t see what I’m going to do about it. And I don’t think you can show me and I don’t see what Flaubert and Zola have to do with it, or what I have to do with them. I wonder if you really think they have anything to do with it, or if this is just something you heard in college or read in a book somewhere. This either—or kind of criticism seems to me to be so meaningless. It looks so knowing and imposing but there is nothing in it. Why does it follow that if a man writes a book that is not like Madame Bovary it is inevitably like Zola. I may be dumb but I can’t see this. You say that Madame Bovary becomes eternal while Zola already rocks with age. Well this may be true—but if it is true isn’t it true because Madame Bovary may be a great book and those that Zola wrote may not be great ones? Wouldn’t it also be true to say that Don Quixote or Pickwick or Tristram Shandy “become eternal” while already Mr. Galsworthy “rocks with age.” I think it is true to say this and it doesn’t leave much of your argument, does it? For your argument is based simply upon one way, upon one method instead of another. And have you ever noticed how often it turns out that what a man is really doing is simply rationalizing his own way of doing something, the way he has to do it, the way given him by his talent and his nature, into the only inevitable and right way of doing everything—a sort of classic and eternal art form handed down by Apollo from Olympus without which and beyond which there is nothing. Now you have your way of doing something and I have mine, there are a lot of ways, but you are honestly mistaken in thinking that there is a “way.” I suppose I would agree with you in what you say about “the novel of selected incident” so far as it means anything. I say so far as it means anything because every novel, of course, is a novel of selected incident. There are no novels of unselected incident. You couldn’t write about the inside of a telephone booth without selecting. You could fill a novel of a thousand pages with a description of a single room and yet your incidents would be selected. And I have mentioned Don Quixote and Pickwick and The Brothers Karamazov and Tristram Shandy to you in contrast to The Silver Spoon or The White Monkey as examples of books that have become “immortal” and that boil and pour. Just remember that although Madame Bovary in your opinion may be a great book, Tristram Shandy is indubitably a great book, and that it is great for quite different reasons. It is great because it boils and pours—for the unselected quality of its selection. You say that the great writer like Flaubert has consciously left out the stuff that Bill or Joe will come along presently and put in. Well, don’t forget, Scott, that a great writer is not only a leaver-outer but also a putter-inner, and that Shakespeare and Cervantes and Dostoevsky were great putter-inners—greater putter-inners, in fact, than taker-outers and will be remembered for what they put in—remembered, I venture to say, as long as Monsieur Flaubert will be remembered for what he left out.
As to the rest of it in your letter about cultivating an alter ego, becoming a more conscious artist, my pleasantness or grief, exuberance or cynicism, and how nothing stands out in relief because everything is keyed at the same emotional pitch—this stuff is worthy of the great minds that review books nowadays—the Fadimans and De Votos—but not of you. For you are an artist and the artist has the only true critical intelligence. You have had to work and sweat blood yourself and you know what it is like to try to write a living word or create a living thing. So don’t talk this foolish stuff to me about exuberance or being a conscious artist or not bringing things into emotional relief, or any of the rest of it. Let the Fadimans and De Votos do that kind of talking but not Scott Fitzgerald. You’ve got too much sense and you know too much. The little fellows who don’t know may picture a man as a great “exuberant” six-foot-six clodhopper straight out of nature who bites off half a plug of apple tobacco, tilts the corn liquor jug and lets half of it gurgle down his throat, wipes off his mouth with the back of one hairy paw, jumps three feet in the air and clacks his heels together four times before he hits the floor again and yells “Whoopee, boys I’m a rootin, tootin, shootin son of a gun from Buncombe County—out of my way now, here I come!”—and then wads up three-hundred thousand words or so, hurls it back at a blank page, puts covers on it and says “Here’s my book!” Now Scott, the boys who write book reviews in New York may think it’s done that way; but the man who wrote Tender Is the Night knows better. You know you never did it that way, you know I never did, you know) no one else who ever wrote a line worth reading ever did. So don’t give me any of your guff, young fellow. And don’t think I’m sore. But I get tired of guff—I’ll take it from a fool or from a book reviewer but I won’t take it from a friend who knows a lot better. I want to be a better artist. I want to be a more selective artist. I want to be a more restrained artist. I want to use such talent as I have, control such forces as I may own, direct such energy as I may use more cleanly, more surely and to better purpose. But Flaubert me no Flauberts, Bovary me no Bovarys. Zola me no Zolas. And exuberance me no exuberances. Leave this stuff for those who huckster in it and give me, I pray you, the benefits of your fine intelligence and your high creative faculties, all of which I so genuinely and profoundly admire. I am going into the woods for another two or three years. I am going to try to do the best, the most important piece of work I have ever done. I am going to have to do it alone. I am going to lose what little bit of reputation I may have gained, to have to hear and know and endure in silence again all of the doubt, the disparagement and ridicule, the post-mortems that they are so eager to read over you even before you are dead. I know what it means and so do you. We have both been through it before. We know it is the plain damn simple truth. Well, I’ve been through it once and I believe I can get through it again. I think I know a little more now than I did before, I certainly know what to expect and I’m going to try not to let it get me down. That is the reason why this time I shall look for intelligent understanding among some of my friends. I’m not ashamed to say that I shall need it. You say in your letter that you are ever my friend. I assure you that it is very good to hear this. Go for me with the gloves off if you think I need it. But don’t De Voto me. If you do I’ll call your bluff.
I’m down here for the summer living in a cabin in the country and I am enjoying it. Also I’m working. I don’t know how long you are going to be in Hollywood or whether you have a job out there but I hope I shall see you before long and that all is going well with you. I still think as I always thought that Tender Is the Night had in it the best work you have ever done. And I believe you will surpass it in the future. Anyway, I send you my best wishes as always for health and work and success. Let me hear from you sometime. The address is Oteen, North Carolina, just a few miles from Asheville, Ham Basso, as you know, is not far away at Pisgah Forest and he is coming over to see me soon and perhaps we shall make a trip together to see Sherwood Anderson. And now this is all for the present—unselective, you see, as usual. Good bye Scott and good luck.
(July 26, 1937; republished in New Directions’ edition of The Crack Up).
FABER AND GWYER LTD. Publishers 24 Russell Square, London, W.C.1. 31st December, 1925
F. Scott Fitzgerald, Esqre., % Charles Scribners & Sons, New York City.
Dear Mr. Scott Fitzgerald,
The Great Gatsby with your charming and overpowering inscription arrived the very morning that I was leaving in some haste for a sea voyage advised by my doctor. I therefore left it behind and only read it on my return a few days ago. I have, however, now read it three times. I am not in the least influenced by your remark about myself when I say that it has interested and excited me more than any new novel I have seen, either English or American, for a number of years.
When I have time I should like to write to you more fully and tell you exactly why it seems to me such a remarkable book. In fact it seems to me to be the first step that American fiction has taken since Henry James….
By the way, if you ever have any short stories which you think would be suitable for the Criterion I wish you would let me see them.
With many thanks, I am,
Yours very truly, T. S. Eliot
P.S. By a coincidence Gilbert Seldes in his New York Chronicle in the Criterion for January 14th has chosen your book for particular mention.