F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Fitzgerald
Of course we asked our friends what they thought and they said it was a perfect house—though not even the California claret could induce them to admit that it was the sort of place they would have lived in. The idea was to stay there until the sheets were shredded away and the bed springs looked like the insides of broken watches: then we wouldn’t have to pack any more—the usages of tune would have set us free. We could travel again in a suit-case, and not be harassed by bills from a storage warehouse. So we gathered our things from here and there; all that remained from fifteen years of buying, except some faded beach umbrellas we had left at the American Express five years ago in Cannes. It was to have been very edifying to have only the things we were fond of around us again and maybe we’d like the new place so well that we’d never move any more but just sit behind the wistaria and watch the rhododendron disintegrate beneath the heat of June, July and August, and the fanfare of the dogwood over the hills.
Then we opened the packing cases.
Lot 1. The first case is oblong and enormous and about the right shape to have contained enormous family portraits—it holds a mirror bought a long time ago for practising ballet-dancing at home. It once decorated the wall of a bordello. Any bids? No! Take it to that little room in the attic.
Lot 2. A smaller crate of the same shape containing fifty photographs of ourselves and drawings of the same by various artists and pictures of the houses we lived in and of our aunts and uncles and of where they were born and died. In some of the pictures we are golfing and swimming and posing with other people’s animals, or tilting borrowed surfboards against the spray of younger summers. There are also many impressive photographs of old and very dear friends whose names we have forgotten. These faces were very precious to us at the time, and now those times are very precious, though it is hard to imagine how we came to ask from life such an exaggerated head of Mae Murray. It must have been that summer day in Paris when we watched the children bowl the summer sun along the paths of the Jardin des Plantes—we might, late that afternoon, have begged for the photograph. And one of Pascin, whom we met over a pebble-rocked table watching the elegant ladies circle the Rondpoint attending upon the natural functions of Pekinese—Pascin already enveloped in tragedy and pursued by a doom so powerful that he could well afford the nonchalance in which lay his sombre charm. And one of Pearl White that she gave us in a spring when she was buying the Paris nights in clusters. Any bidders? No? The little room in the attic, Essie.
Lot 3. A pornographic figurine bought with great difficulty in Florence twelve years ago. “Une statue sale—no, we don’t mean salle that way—we mean sale.” Slightly damaged—any bidders? All right take this, too, Essie, while you’re going up. It seems a shame after all the lascivious gesticulation it took to obtain it. Continue reading ““Auction—Model 1934” — F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Fitzgerald” →
Katherine Anne Porter in her Paris Review interview:
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.
Just finished reading this great 1982 Paris Review interview with famed poet, journalist, and tastemaker Malcolm Cowley; he talks Faulkner, Hemingway, Stein, drinking, sanity, poetry, publishing and more. Here, he shares an anecdote about F. Scott Fitzgerald—
Do you see a relationship between unhappiness and poetic creativity?
To the extent that poems may be born from a straining of one’s senses and imagination to a degree to which they couldn’t be strained in ordinary life. I was reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s correspondence the other day. Scott and Zelda’s difficulties were ones that I never had to face; I never had to drive myself to drink in order to get my imagination working. Actually, I found my imagination worked best on fatigue. That’s another form of intoxication . . . to set yourself writing, and keep on writing until after two or three hours the subconscious takes over. It’s certainly safer than alcohol. The trouble with alcohol is that you can’t keep it up.
I went to visit the Fitzgeralds when they were living outside of Baltimore—a place called “La Paix.” Scott said to me, “I’m on the wagon, but I got you a pint of whiskey from my bootlegger; I’m on water.” So we talked, or mostly he talked, and every once in a while he’d go out to the kitchen to get another glass of water. His talk became more belligerent, sometimes incoherent, until finally he said, “You know, that water I’ve been drinking all evening—it’s half grain alcohol.” I said to myself, “Oh . . . surprise!”