F. Scott Fitzgerald was born on September 24, 1896, so obviously we all have to take the day off and spend it reflecting upon The Great Gatsby, which, as I make abundantly clear to everyone I meet, is one of the most nearly perfect novels ever written. (I love that awkwardness as Fitzgerald tries to find a way to get in all the information about what really happened at the gas station when his first person narrator wasn’t there; it’s an endearing flaw in the otherwise perfect book.)
To celebrate this big day, I suggest that everyone make an excuse to drink a little bit of gin. I prefer the kind in a martini, but if you’ve got something freshly made in your bathtub, all the better. (Here’s a recipe if you want to give it a try.)
And, since I’ve been writing all week about literary journals, I thought I’d offer a gift in honor of my friend F. Scott: I will buy ONE person a free subscription to one of my favorite literary magazines, The Sun. It’s not exactly a journal, but it’s a richly dark magazine of fiction, poetry, essays, photography, and interviews, and is still independently published, with no advertising. Send me an email with a header of “The Sun” and your full mailing address by 5 pm EST Saturday, September 26, 2009, and I’ll randomly select one person to get a 12-month subscription. You must include your address or I’m going to have to exclude you from the drawing. No fine print—no sharing of even one smidge of your information—just 12 free issues of The Sun for one person in honor of Scott's birthday!
And now, in case you need a quick reminder of why we all love Scott so dearly:
“I began to like New York, the racy, adventurous feel of it at night and the satisfaction that the constant flicker of men and women and machines gives to the restless eye. I liked to walk up Fifth Avenue and pick out romantic women from the crowd and imagine that in a few minutes I was going to enter into their lives, and no one would ever know or disapprove. Sometimes, in my mind, I followed them to their apartments on the corners of hidden streets, and they turned and smiled back at me before they faded through a door into warm darkness. At the enchanted metropolitan twilight I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes, and felt it in others—poor young clerks who loitered in front of windows waiting until it was time for a solitary restaurant dinner—young clerks in the dusk, wasting the most poignant moments of night and life.” ~from The Great Gatsby
Here’s a picture of the house in St. Paul where Fitzgerald was born and some tidbits about the neighbors: “This was the home of one of Scott's best friends, Marie Hersey. Scott fell in love with her cousin, Ginevra King, when he was eleven, and he kept in contact with both girls through college. When Scott and Zelda were first married, Scott objected to Zelda's fluffy Southern style wardrobe. He asked Marie to help Zelda choose clothing more appropriate to New York City.”
And here’s a funny story about when Fitzgerald met James Joyce:
“…in 1928 Sylvia Beach hosted a dinner party in order that F. Scott Fitzgerald, who "worshipped James Joyce, but was afraid to approach him," might do so. Out of nervousness or champagne, Fitzgerald greeted his hero by dropping down on one knee, kissing his hand, and declaring, "How does it feel to be a great genius, Sir? I am so excited at seeing you, Sir, that I could weep."”
And that’s how I feel about you, Mr. Fitzgerald…Sir, I could weep!