Ten Story Ideas from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Notebooks

Unusual death—man pierced by his own belt buckle.

Boobs Bones Mistaken for John The Baptist

Story: A man who wanted an elephant, or some such one of the wisest of beasts who could not talk. Then began to try to teach him to talk.

The Dancer Who Found She Could Fly

Words

A famous writer fakes his own death but things make him come back.
Or else he can’t.

G. men as Samurai class.

Piggy Back Voyage

Girl whose ear is so sensitive she can hear radio. Man gets her out of insane asylum to use her.

Book: It might have been me. My old idea of half truth half lie, including all notes and everything. Shoot the works.

From F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Notebooks.

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Some Really Lovely Books Acquired, 1.21.2014 (Thanks Ryan!)

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I was pleasantly surprised to get a box of great stuff in the mail from Ryan Mihaly, a frequent contributor to this blog (check out the second part of his interview with translator Ilan Stavans). Inside the handsome Penguin Classics Goethe was this little card:

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I had never even heard of The Thoughtbook, Fitzgerald’s boyhood diary. Sample:

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Tom Clark is The Best.

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And always Hell.

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Thanks again, Ryan!

“A Luckless Santa Claus” — F. Scott Fitzgerald

“A Luckless Santa Claus” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Miss Harmon was responsible for the whole thing. If it had not been for her foolish whim, Talbot would not have made a fool of himself, and–but I am getting ahead of my story.

It was Christmas Eve. Salvation Army Santa Clauses with highly colored noses proclaimed it as they beat upon rickety paper chimneys with tin spoons. Package laden old bachelors forgot to worry about how many slippers and dressing gowns they would have to thank people for next day, and joined in the general air of excitement that pervaded busy Manhattan.

In the parlor of a house situated on a dimly lighted residence street somewhere east of Broadway, sat the lady who, as I have said before, started the whole business. She was holding a conversation half frivolous, half sentimental, with a faultlessly dressed young man who sat with her on the sofa. All of this was quite right and proper, however, for they were engaged to be married in June.

“Harry Talbot,” said Dorothy Harmon, as she rose and stood laughing at the merry young gentleman beside her, “if you aren’t the most ridiculous boy I ever met, I’ll eat that terrible box of candy you brought me last week!”

“Dorothy,” reproved the young man, “you should receive gifts in the spirit in which they are given. That box of candy cost me much of my hard earned money.”

“Your hard earned money, indeed!” scoffed Dorothy. “You know very well that you never earned a cent in your life. Golf and dancing–that is the sum total of your occupations. Why, you can’t even spend money, much less earn it!”

“My dear Dorothy, I succeeded in running up some very choice bills last month, as you will find if you consult my father.”

“That’s not spending your money. That’s wasting it. Why, I don’t think you could give away twenty-five dollars in the right way to save your life.”

“But why on earth,” remonstrated Harry, “should I want to give away twenty-five dollars?”

“Because,” explained Dorothy, “that would be real charity. It’s nothing to charge a desk to your father and have it sent to me, but to give money to people you don’t know is something.”

“Why, any old fellow can give away money,” protested Harry.

“Then,” exclaimed Dorothy, “we’ll see if you can. I don’t believe that you could give twenty-five dollars in the course of an evening if you tried.”

“Indeed, I could.”

“Then try it!” And Dorothy, dashing into the hall, took down his coat and hat and placed them in his reluctant hands. “It is now half-past eight. You be here by ten o’clock.”

“But, but,” gasped Harry.

Dorothy was edging him towards the door.

“How much money have you?” she demanded.

Harry gloomily put his hand in his pocket and counted out a handful of bills.

“Exactly twenty-five dollars and five cents.”

“Very well! Now listen! These are the conditions. You go out and give this money to anybody you care to whom you have never seen before. Don’t give more than two dollars to any one person. And be back here by ten o’clock with no more than five cents in your pocket.”

“But,” declared Harry, still backing towards the door, “I want my twenty-five dollars.”

“Harry,” said Dorothy sweetly, “I am surprised!” and with that, she slammed the door in his face.

“I insist,” muttered Harry, “that this is a most unusual pro- ceeding.”

He walked down the steps and hesitated.

“Now,” he thought, “Where shall I go?”

He considered a moment and finally started off towards Broad- way. He had gone about half a block when he saw a gentleman in a top hat approaching. Harry hesitated. Then he made up his mind, and, stepping towards the man, emitted what he intended for a pleasant laugh but what sounded more like a gurgle, and loudly vociferated, “Merry Christmas, friend!” Read More

Literary Recipes

Fat Kitchen, Jan Steen

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Enjoy Thanksgiving with our menu of literary recipes:

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Turkey Twelve Ways

Zora Neale Hurston’s Mulatto Rice

Ian McEwan’s Fish Stew

James Joyce’s Burnt Kidney Breakfast

Herman Melville’s Whale Steaks

Ernest Hemingway’s Absinthe Cocktail, Death in the Afternoon

Vladimir Nabokov’s Eggs à la Nabocoque

Thomas Pynchon’s Banana Breakfast

Cormac McCarthy’s Turtle Soup

Robert Crumb’s Macaroni Casserole

Truman Capote’s Caviar-Smothered Baked Potatoes with 80-Proof Russian Vodka

Emily Dickinson’s Cocoanut Cake

Thomas Jefferson’s Vanilla Ice Cream

Charles Dickens’s Own Punch

Ben Jonson’s Egg Wine

Willam Faulkner’s Hot Toddy

Christmas Bonus:  George Orwell’s Recipes for Plum Cake and Christmas Pudding

“The two basic stories of all times are Cinderella and Jack the Giant Killer” and other notes from F. Scott Fitzgerald

  1. 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.
  2. Great art is the contempt of a great man for small art.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Man reads good reviews of his book so many times that he begins finally to remodel his style on them and use their rhythms.
  6. Realistic details like Dostoiefski glasses
  7. 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.
  8. The Steinbeck scene. Out of touch with that life. The exact observation there.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.

“I Am Essentially Marxian” and Other Notes from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Notebooks

  1. D. H. Lawrence great attempt to synthesize animal and emotional—things he left out. Essential pre-Marxian. Just as I am essentially Marxian.
  2. When Whitman said “Oh Pioneers” he said all.
  3. Byron’s mountains warm.
  4. Reporting the extreme things as if they were the average things will start you on the art of fiction.
  5. Work out my hard luck season—my most productive seasons, etc
  6. 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?
  7. Conrad influenced by Man Without a Country
  8. No English painting because of their putting everything into words.
  9. List of Zelda’s faults and virtues as a writer.
  10. Chapter in slow motion.
  11. Right to Pretty heroines
  12. Tie up with Faulkner—Lord Fauntleroy.

–From F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Notebooks.

“Books Are Like Brothers” and Other Notes from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Notebooks

  1. Nothing is any more permitted in fiction like stage convention of keeping people on stage by coincidences.
  2. Must listen for conversation style a la Joyce
  3. Nevertheless value of Ernest’s feeling about the pure heart when writing—in other words the comparatively pure heart, the “house in order.”
  4.  Resent the attempt of the boys and girls who tried to bury me before I was dead.
  5. 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—
  6. Shakespeare—whetting, frustrating, surprising and gratifying.
  7. Forebearance, good word.
  8. 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.
  9. That Willa Cather’s poem shall stand at beginning of Mediaval and that it shall be the story of Ernest.
  10. 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.
  11. There never was a good biography of a good novelist. There couldn’t be. He is too many people if he’s any good.
  12. 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.

 

“This Schedule In Effect July 5th, 1922″ — The Great Gatsby’s House Guests

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.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Handwritten Manuscript for the First Page of Gatsby

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(Via/more).

Selections from One-Star Reviews of Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby

[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.

It’s boring.

It’s futile.

It’s dumb.

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?

Journal of a Pointless Life, and Other Titles from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Notebooks

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Ullyses

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Katherine Anne Porter on F. Scott Fitzgerald (She Wasn’t a Fan)

Katherine Anne Porter in her Paris Review interview:

PORTER

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!

INTERVIEWER

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?

PORTER

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!

INTERVIEWER

You don’t agree?

PORTER

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.

New Trailer for Baz Luhrmann’s Adaptation of The Great Gatsby

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.