Handy hints on cracking up

F.Scott-Fitzgerald’s ‘crack-up’ as a model for going on with when needs must and all around have been ripping each other to shreds in a mass fraternal suicide:

‘I must continue to be a writer because that was my only way of life, but I would cease any attempts to be a person—to be kind, just or genierous. There were plenty of counterfeit coins around that would pass instead of these and I knew where I could get them at a nickel on the dollar. In thirty.nine years an observant eye has learned to detect where the milk is watered and the sugar is sanded, the rhinestone passed for diamond and the stucco for stone. There was to be no more giving of myself—all giving was to be outlawed henceforth under a new name, and that name was Waste.

The decision made me rather exuberant, like anything that is both real and new. As a sort of beginning there was a whole shaft of letters to be tipped into the waste basket when I went home, letters that wanted something for nothing—to read this man’s manuscript, market this man’s poem, speak free on the radio, indite notes of introduction, give this interview, help with the plot of this play, with this domestic situation, perform this act of thoughtfulness or charity. The conjuror’s hat was empty. To draw things out of it had long been a sort of sleight of hand, and now, to change the metaphor, I was off the dispensing end of the relief roll forever’ from The Crack-Up (posthumous FSF, edited by Edmund Wilson 1945)

– Gets better as it goes on:

But enough.It is not a matter of levity. If you are young and you should write asking to see me and leam how to be a sombre literary man writing pieces upon the state of emotional exhaustion that often overtakes writers in their prime —if you should be so young and so fatuous as to do this, I would not do so much as acknowledge your letter, unless you were related to someone very rich and important indeed. And if you were dying of starvation outside my window, I would go out quickly and give you the smile and the voice (if no longer the hand) and stick around till somebody raised a nickel to phone for the ambulance, that is if I thought there would be any copy in it for me.

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