“Our April Letter” — F. Scott Fitzgerald

This is April again. Roller skates rain slowly down the street
Your voice far away on the phone
Once I would have jumped like a clown through a hoop—
but
“Then the area of infection has increased? …oh …What can I expect after all—I’ve had worse shocks.
Anyhow, I know and that’s something.” (Like hell it is, but it’s what you say to an X-ray doctor.)
Then the past whispering faint now on another phone:
“Is there any change?”
“Little or no change”
“I see”
The roller skates rain down the streets,
The black cars shine between the leaves,
Your voice far away:
“I am going with my daughter to the country. My husband left today. . . No he knows nothing.”
“Good”.
I have asked a lot of my emotions—one hundred and twenty stories, The price was high, right up with Kipling, because there was one little drop of something not blood, not a tear, not my seed, but me more intimately than these, in every story, it was the extra I had. Now it has gone and I am just like you now.
Once the phial was full—here is the bottle it came in.
Hold on there’s a drop left there. . . No, it was just the way the light fell
But your voice on the telephone. If I hadn’t abused words so what you said might have meant something.
But one hundred and twenty stories
April evening spreads over everything, the purple blur left by a child who has used the whole paint-box.

“Our April Letter” is from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Notebooks.

 

“The Camel’s Back” — F. Scott Fitzgerald

“The Camel’s Back” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The glazed eye of the tired reader resting for a second on the above title will presume it to be merely metaphorical. Stories about the cup and the lip and the bad penny and the new broom rarely have anything, to do with cups or lips or pennies or brooms. This story Is the exception. It has to do with a material, visible and large-as-life camel’s back.

Starting from the neck we shall work toward the tail. I want you to meet Mr. Perry Parkhurst, twenty-eight, lawyer, native of Toledo. Perry has nice teeth, a Harvard diploma, parts his hair in the middle. You have met him before—in Cleveland, Portland, St. Paul, Indianapolis, Kansas City, and so forth. Baker Brothers, New York, pause on their semi-annual trip through the West to clothe him; Montmorency & Co. dispatch a young man post-haste every three months to see that he has the correct number of little punctures on his shoes. He has a domestic roadster now, will have a French roadster if he lives long enough, and doubtless a Chinese tank if it comes into fashion. He looks like the advertisement of the young man rubbing his sunset-colored chest with liniment and goes East every other year to his class reunion.

I want you to meet his Love. Her name is Betty Medill, and she would take well in the movies. Her father gives her three hundred a month to dress on, and she has tawny eyes and hair and feather fans of five colors. I shall also introduce her father, Cyrus Medill. Though he is to all appearances flesh and blood, he is, strange to say, commonly known in Toledo as the Aluminum Man. But when he sits in his club window with two or three Iron Men, and the White Pine Man, and the Brass Man, they look very much as you and I do, only more so, if you know what I mean.

Now during the Christmas holidays of 1919 there took place in Toledo, counting only the people with the italicized the, forty-one dinner parties, sixteen dances, six luncheons, male and female, twelve teas, four stag dinners, two weddings, and thirteen bridge parties. It was the cumulative effect of all this that moved Perry Parkhurst on the twenty-ninth day of December to a decision. Continue reading

Mr. Icky, a one-act play by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Mr. Icky

The Quintessence of Quaintness in One Act

by F.Scott Fitzgerald

The Scene is the Exterior of a Cottage in West Issacshire on a desperately Arcadian afternoon in August. MR. ICKY, quaintly dressed in the costume of an Elizabethan peasant, is pottering and doddering among the pots and dods. He is an old man, well past the prime of life, no longer young, From the fact that there is a burr in his speech and that he has absent-mindedly put on his coat wrongside out, we surmise that he is either above or below the ordinary superficialities of life.

_Near him on the grass lies PETER, a little boy. PETER, of course, has his chin on his palm like the pictures of the young Sir Walter Raleigh. He has a complete set of features, including serious, sombre, even funereal, gray eyes—and radiates that alluring air of never having eaten food. This air can best be radiated during the afterglow of a beef dinner. Be is looking at MR. ICKY, fascinated._

Silence. . . . The song of birds.

PETER: Often at night I sit at my window and regard the stars. Sometimes I think they’re my stars…. (Gravely) I think I shall be a star some day….

ME. ICKY: (Whimsically) Yes, yes … yes….

PETER: I know them all: Venus, Mars, Neptune, Gloria Swanson.

MR. ICKY: I don’t take no stock in astronomy…. I’ve been thinking o’ Lunnon, laddie. And calling to mind my daughter, who has gone for to be a typewriter…. (He sighs.)

PETER: I liked Ulsa, Mr. Icky; she was so plump, so round, so buxom. Continue reading

A Bunch of Literary Recipes

Enjoy Thanksgiving with this menu of literary recipes:

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Turkey Twelve Ways

Gordon Lish’s Chicken Soup

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

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.

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!” Continue reading