Anthony Patch

Wolf DeVoon

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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!


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7 hours ago, Wolf DeVoon said:



Who is RLS?

Robert Louis Stevenson?

Apropos, given your endorsement of Fitzgerald, a couple of months or so ago I started a reading him. I read a few things in school and along the years (including Gatsby), but I decided to start fresh and reread them when I came to them.

It was probably a bad idea to start chronologically. I liked "Bernice Bobs Her Hair" and "Head and Shoulders" (the only two short stories I've read recently). I like the role reversal throughlines in them and an undertoned feeling of comeuppance he projects for slights without making it a thing. 

Also, I've read here and there that he uses ancient myths as plot or character templates and symbols, even in these two stories, so there's that. But I had to read literary critiques to see them. I didn't get the same impact as I did with, say, Rand and Atlantis in Atlas Shrugged. It's more of a light underscore in these two stories. It was kind of nice to have them pointed out, but it wasn't something I arrived at from the actual reading, which is the basis of my other observations.

Then I decided to tackle a novel, This Side of Paradise. I got about a third way through and got so bored I had to stop. I just couldn't resonate with the protagonist,  Amory Blaine, the people around him, his love problems, his social problems, not even his schools. At least his mother was quirky. :) 

I don't want to offend you, but the pattern I detected is generate hope in the reader, then piss on it:) I don't mean frustrate the hope, which causes suspense. I mean portray a character wanting something, acting to get it, getting it, then brushing off the outcome as trivial or even ignoring it while moving on. (The business with Amory's first kiss is an example, but there are others.) Or maybe getting something without even wanting it and that's that. Metaphysical snobbishness through affected boredom, so to speak. And that is sooooooo not me.

So my Fitzgerald project has slowed down for a bit, but I intend to pick it back up. I will probably forego the delights of his first novel, though, and just not finish the damn thing. 


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There's the all-time great passage in The Great Gatsby (which brings it to a close):

"Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us ...So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past".

I didn't take much more from the novel. I need characters with more meat on their bones, who have 'real' character (but less than perfect).  What is he/she going to do NOW, in this fix? Daisy and Gatsby looked altogether ephemeral, to me, and the unassertive narrator somewhat in awe of them. I had to ask myself: why "Great"? Not to put anybody off, FSF writes well, tastes vary. 

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There is pure literary ability and there is substance. So far I see the first in FSF, though so far not much to my taste. (And I want more perceived masculinity in the prose. Maybe it will come with more reading.) I assume you've seen substance too, Wolfo.

Don't get me wrong. I just am not much into "literary."


I see no point in comparing writers; Hemingway stands alone; Rand too--imitation means falling short (this problem extends into Objectivism with Ayn Rand imitation by acolytes who think that philosophy and the philosophy of Ayn Rand are the same thing so they objectively drop Objectivism and end up as fourth rate or even tenth rate Philosophy-of-Ayn Randers [I'd rank Nathaniel Branden as a second rater until the 1968 break (Rand was the only first rater) and Leonard Peikoff a third rater until he started degenerating in 1986 and is now an intellectually degenerated third rater] and myself no better than a fifth rater until 1972)

I only know of one first rater of true Objectivism currently working with the philosophy qua philosophy and that is Stephen Boydstun who now posts on Rebirth of Reason and, as far as I know, nowhere else (I suspect he still can't stand Donald Trump and Objectivist Living is mostly pro-Trump)

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