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  1. Since it came up in conversation, here's a little essay about Fitzgerald. I'll begin with an aside, a detour. There are three typos in my latest, not too shabby in over 103,000 words, about the same rate of goofs as Atlas Shrugged in Signet paperback 50 years ago. I wrote to Kalberman and stuck my tongue out, promptly blackballed for it. As much as I enjoy tall tales, I wasn't inspired by Rand or RLS. Who's inspired by hamburger and pickles? The author of first rank in my heart without second or third was Scott Fitzgerald, which should not require explanation. But since you haven't read him, I'll idle a while on the subject. His third novel, The Great Gatsby, was not representative; a little commercial ditty in the opened bleeding vein -- a thundering condemnation of the rich -- most compelling in his second novel, The Beautiful And Damned, the story of Anthony Patch, heir to a vast pile of wealth, far more than a thousand men could waste in a thousand lifetimes. Anthony Patch came to luxury early in life on a small allotment of bond coupons, until his grandfather should die and make Anthony a baron of truly global rank. The elder Patch lived too long, and his estate was tied up in court for a decade, time enough for Anthony to marry, drink himself into a useless stupor, and to lose what little mind he had. THAT was the power Fitzgerald possessed, not only in subject but a truly unique writing style no one could touch, then or since. His last novel, Tender Is The Night, took ten years to write. Wealth repulses, then attracts and destroys a youthful, charismatic medical doctor specializing in the emerging art of psychiatry. It was written with all of Fitzgerald's heartache in full focus -- again, with incomparable text that no on else could begin to impersonate. I gave up trying, had to make do with far simpler work. Some are born to write. Others do it in good faith with blunt instruments. Hemingway was one of those, a carpenter with foolish grammar and shabby concerns. Fitzgerald gave him an introduction to Max Perkins, launched the lesser Hemingway, who subsequently ridiculed the man who gave him life. I think it made him insane and explains why Hemingway refused recognition and killed himself. He could not forgive or forget the wrong he did to far greater talent, the man who wrote "from God's point of view" as awed, literate Fitzgerald readers remarked. They were few, of course. Most agreed with Hemingway's sneering slander, that Fitzgerald was a pansy, a Jazz Age lightweight, a smear that succeeded splendidly. The Roaring 20s were unlike anything America had seen before or since, and Fitzgerald was more than a documentarian, although he had tremendous gifts of observation and rendered Naturalistic reality in all its crudity, incredibly penetrating to the ultimate meaning of it. He showed us Hollywood, New York, Paris and the Riviera, of course, but also rural Georgia and Minnesota, Switzerland, Italy, a tropical paradise ("The Offshore Pirate") and an impossibly hilarious mountain redoubt ("A Diamond As Big As The Ritz"). Many of his Saturday Evening Post stories traveled in time, told parables of cruelty and redemption and lost innocence. I could have ignored it all, I suppose, but for the character of Anthony Patch -- beautiful, lazy, incompetent, vain, drunken heir to an immense Wall Street fortune hoarded by a cutthroat who ruined dozens of good men. Filthy money that damned everyone who touched it. I could have ignored it, but for the power of Fitzgerald as a master of excellence. Meh. Who needs excellence nowadays? No one alive to read it, in a world of viral pix, two sentences misspelled, bitching about tweets written for ten-year-olds. "May Day" and "The Rich Boy" would be wasted on tweeters and chatters, The Beautiful And Damned a boring slog from an alien land where people were stunned by x-ray vision in the written word. Hamburger and pickles is plenty, thanks, munched in 16x9 with a beer and a burp. Let's talk about Garp... Robin Williams, right? Nanu nanu!