Rear View Mirror – My Week in Review

Are you subscribed to Brainpickings.org? You really absolutely should. What is better than getting an occasional email that breaks it down for you, makes the classics accessible, and shows you that knowing history is really more important than knowing pop culture. Here is an excellent example:

Why Haters Hate: Kierkegaard Explains the Psychology of Bullying and Online Trolling in 1847

Celebrated as the first true existentialist philosopher, Danish writer and thinker Søren Kierkegaard (May 5, 1813–November 11, 1855) may have only lived a short life, but it was a deep one and its impact radiated widely outward, far across the centuries and disciplines and schools of thought. He was also among the multitude of famous writers who benefited from keeping a diary and nowhere does his paradoxical blend of melancholy and idealism, of despair about the human condition and optimism about the purpose of life, shine more brilliantly than in The Diary of Søren Kierkegaard (public library) — a compendium of Kierkegaard’s frequently intense, always astoundingly thoughtful reflections on everything from happiness and melancholy to writing and literature to self-doubt and public opinion.

In an immeasurably insightful entry from 1847, 34-year-old Kierkegaard observes a pervasive pathology of our fallible humanity, explaining the same basic psychology that lurks behind contemporary phenomena like bullying,trolling, and the general assaults of the web’s self-appointed critics, colloquially and rather appropriately known as haters.

Kierkegaard writes:

There is a form of envy of which I frequently have seen examples, in which an individual tries to obtain something by bullying. If, for instance, I enter a place where many are gathered, it often happens that one or another right away takes up arms against me by beginning to laugh; presumably he feels that he is being a tool of public opinion. But lo and behold, if I then make a casual remark to him, that same person becomes infinitely pliable and obliging. Essentially it shows that he regards me as something great, maybe even greater than I am: but if he can’t be admitted as a participant in my greatness, at least he will laugh at me. But as soon as he becomes a participant, as it were, he brags about my greatness.

That is what comes of living in a petty community.

It is unlikely that Kierkegaard was aware of what would become known as the Benjamin Franklin Effect — the Founding Father formulated his famous reverse-psychology trick for handling haters — and yet he goes on to relay an anecdote that embodies it perfectly. He recounts coming upon three young men outside his gate who, upon seeing him, “began to grin and altogether initiated the whole gamut of insolence.” As he approached them, Kierkegaard noticed that they were smoking cigars and turned to one of them, asking for a light. Suddenly, the men’s attitude took a dramatic U-turn — the seemingly simple exchange had provided precisely that invitation for participation in greatness:

Instantly, all three doffed their hats and it would seem I had done them a service by asking for a light. Ergo: the same people would be happy to cry bravo for me if I merely addressed a friendly, let alone, flattering word to them; as it is, they cry pereat [he shall perish!] and are defiant… All it amounts to is play-acting. But how invaluably interesting to have one’s knowledge of human psychology enriched in this way.

The Diary of Søren Kierkegaard may be short in both pages and lifetime covered, but it is a treasure trove of equally penetrating insights into the human experience. Complement it with Kierkegaard on our greatest source of unhappiness, then revisit Anne Lamott’s brilliant modern manifesto for handling haters.

It’s been a few weeks since I have done a weekly round up of all my internet activities. I think it is mostly because Sundays are busy for me now and I don’t have the extra time, unless I preload it Saturday night.

Last week on Waldina, I celebrated the birthdays of Harris Glenn Milstead (Divine), George C. Scott, Montgomery Clift, Rita Hayworth, Jean Arthur, Angela Lansbury, Linda Darnell, Oscar Wilde and Ed Wood.

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Happy Birthday F. Scott Fitzgerald

Today is the 118th birthday of Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald.

NAME: F. Scott Fitzgerald
OCCUPATION: Author
BIRTH DATE: September 24, 1896
DEATH DATE: December 21, 1940
EDUCATION: Princeton University, St. Paul Academy, Newman School
PLACE OF BIRTH: St. Paul, Minnesota
PLACE OF DEATH: Hollywood, California

BEST KNOWN FOR: American short-story writer and novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald is known for his turbulent personal life and his famous novel The Great Gatsby.

F. Scott Fitzgerald was born Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald on September 24, 1896, in St. Paul, Minnesota. His namesake (and second cousin three times removed on his father’s side) was Francis Scott Key, who wrote the lyrics to the “Star-Spangled Banner.” Fitzgerald’s mother, Mary McQuillan, was from an Irish-Catholic family that had made a small fortune in Minnesota as wholesale grocers. His father, Edward Fitzgerald, had opened a wicker furniture business in St. Paul, and, when it failed, he took a job as a salesman for Procter & Gamble that took his family back and forth between Buffalo and Syracuse in upstate New York during the first decade of Fitzgerald’s life. However, Edward Fitzgerald lost his job with Procter & Gamble in 1908, when F. Scott Fitzgerald was 12, and the family moved back to St. Paul to live off of his mother’s inheritance.

“I want to give a really BAD party. I mean it. I want to give a party where there’s a brawl and seductions and people going home with their feelings hurt and women passed out in the cabinet de toilette. You wait and see.” – Tender is the Night

Fitzgerald was a bright, handsome and ambitious boy, the pride and joy of his parents and especially his mother. He attended the St. Paul Academy, and when he was 13, he saw his first piece of writing appear in print: a detective story published in the school newspaper. In 1911, when Fitzgerald was 15 years old, his parents sent him to the Newman School, a prestigious Catholic preparatory school in New Jersey. There, he met Father Sigourney Fay, who noticed his incipient talent with the written word and encouraged him to pursue his literary ambitions.

”Youth is like having a big plate of candy. Sentimentalists think they want to be in the pure, simple state they were in before they ate the candy. They don’t. They just want the fun of eating it all over again.” – This Side of Paradise

After graduating from the Newman School in 1913, Fitzgerald decided to stay in New Jersey to continue his artistic development at Princeton University. At Princeton, he firmly dedicated himself to honing his craft as a writer, writing scripts for Princeton’s famous Triangle Club musicals as well as frequent articles for the Princeton Tiger humor magazine and stories for the Nassau Literary Magazine. However, Fitzgerald’s writing came at the expense of his coursework. He was placed on academic probation, and, in 1917, he dropped out of school to join the U.S. Army. Afraid that he might die in World War I with his literary dreams unfulfilled, in the weeks before reporting to duty, Fitzgerald hastily wrote a novel called The Romantic Egotist. Though the publisher, Charles Scribner’s Sons, rejected the novel, the reviewer noted its originality and encouraged Fitzgerald to submit more work in the future.

Fitzgerald was commissioned a second lieutenant in the infantry and assigned to Camp Sheridan outside of Montgomery, Alabama. It was there that he met and fell in love with a beautiful 18-year-old girl named Zelda Sayre, the daughter of an Alabama Supreme Court judge. The war ended in November 1918, before Fitzgerald was ever deployed, and upon his discharge he moved to New York City hoping to launch a career in advertising lucrative enough to convince Zelda to marry him. He quit his job after only a few months, however, and returned to St. Paul to rewrite his novel.

The novel’s new incarnation, This Side of Paradise, a largely autobiographical story about love and greed, was centered on Amory Blaine, an ambitious Midwesterner who falls in love with, but is ultimately rejected by, two girls from high-class families. The novel was published in 1920 to glowing reviews and, almost overnight, turned Fitzgerald, at the age of 24, into one of the country’s most promising young writers. One week after the novel’s publication, he married Zelda Sayre in New York. They had one child, a daughter named Frances Scott Fitzgerald, born in 1921.

F. Scott Fitzgerald eagerly embraced his newly minted celebrity status and embarked on an extravagant lifestyle that earned him a reputation as a playboy and hindered his reputation as a serious literary writer. Beginning in 1920 and continuing throughout the rest of his career, Fitzgerald supported himself financially by writing great numbers of short stories for popular publications such as The Saturday Evening Post and Esquire. Some of his most notable stories include “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “The Camel’s Back” and “The Last of the Belles.”

In 1922, Fitzgerald published his second novel, The Beautiful and the Damned, the story of the troubled marriage of Anthony and Gloria Patch. The Beautiful and the Damned helped to cement his status as one of the great chroniclers and satirists of the culture of wealth, extravagance and ambition that emerged during the affluent 1920s—what became known as the Jazz Age. “It was an age of miracles,” Fitzgerald wrote, “it was an age of art, it was an age of excess, and it was an age of satire.”

Seeking a change of scenery to spark his creativity, in 1924, Fitzgerald moved to France, and it was there, in Valescure, that Fitzgerald wrote what would be credited as his greatest novel, The Great Gatsby. Published in 1925, The Great Gatsby is narrated by Nick Carraway, a Midwesterner who moves into the town of West Egg on Long Island, next door to a mansion owned by the wealthy and mysterious Jay Gatsby. The novel follows Nick and Gatsby’s strange friendship and Gatsby’s pursuit of a married woman named Daisy, ultimately leading to his exposure as a bootlegger and his death.

With its beautiful lyricism, pitch-perfect portrayal of the Jazz Age, and searching critiques of materialism, love and the American Dream, The Great Gatsby is considered Fitzgerald’s finest work. Although the book was well-received when it was published, it was not until the 1950s and ’60s, long after Fitzgerald’s death, that it achieved its stature as the definitive portrait of the “Roaring Twenties,” as well as one of the greatest American novels ever written.

After he completed The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald’s life began to unravel. Always a heavy drinker, he progressed steadily into alcoholism and suffered prolonged bouts of writer’s block. His wife, Zelda, also suffered from mental health issues, and the couple spent the late 1920s moving back and forth between Delaware and France. In 1930, she was briefly committed to a mental-health clinic in Switzerland, and, after the Fitzgeralds returned to the United States in 1931, she suffered another breakdown and subsequently entered the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.

”I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.” – The Great Gatsby

In 1934, after years of toil, Fitzgerald finally published his fourth novel, Tender is the Night, about an American psychiatrist in Paris, France, and his troubled marriage to a wealthy patient. Although Tender is the Night was a commercial failure and was initially poorly received due to its chronologically jumbled structure, it has since gained in reputation and is now considered among the great American novels.

After another two years lost to alcohol and depression, in 1937 Fitzgerald attempted to revive his career as a screenwriter and freelance storywriter in Hollywood, and he achieved modest financial, if not critical, success for his efforts. He began work on another novel, The Love of the Last Tycoon, in 1939, and he had completed over half the manuscript when he died of a heart attack on December 21, 1940, at the age of 44, in Hollywood, California.

F. Scott Fitzgerald died believing himself a failure. None of his works received anything more than modest commercial or critical success during his lifetime. However, since his death, Fitzgerald has gained a reputation as one of the pre-eminent authors in the history of American literature due almost entirely to the enormous posthumous success of The Great Gatsby. Perhaps the quintessential American novel, as well as a definitive social history of the Jazz Age, The Great Gatsby went on to become required reading for virtually every American high school student, and has had a transportive effect on generation after generation of readers.

”Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning — So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” – The Great Gatsby

scott and zelda

Author of books:
This Side of Paradise (1920, novel)
Flappers and Philosophers (1920, short stories)
The Beautiful and Damned (1922, novel)
Tales of the Jazz Age (1922, short stories)
The Great Gatsby (1925, novel)
All the Sad Young Men (1926, short stories)
Tender Is the Night (1934, novel)
Taps at Reveille (1935, short stories)
The Last Tycoon (1941, novel)
The Crack-Up (1945, collection)

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Happy Birthday Maxwell Perkins

Today is the 130th birthday of Maxwell Perkins.  My first exposure to him was from reading a book of correspondence between him and F. Scott Fitzgerald.  He was Fitzgerald’s editor at the time and they would write back and forth keeping each other informed on how new works were progressing and finished works were being published.  I have gone on the read the Scott Berg biography on him and that rounded out the picture for me.  You should always read a Scott Berg biography.  I think I have read them all.

maxwell perkinsNAME: Maxwell Perkins
OCCUPATION: Editor
BIRTH DATE: September 20, 1884
DEATH DATE: June 17, 1947
EDUCATION: St. Paul’s School, Harvard University
PLACE OF BIRTH: New York, New York
PLACE OF DEATH: Stamford, Connecticut

BEST KNOWN FOR: Maxwell Perkins was an influential editor who worked with such authors as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe.

Maxwell Perkins was born on September 20, 1884, in New York City, at his family’s home on the corner of Second Avenue and 14th Street. After high school, Perkins attended Harvard University, as had many members of his family before him. After graduation (1907), Perkins was a reporter for a short period at The New York Times, but in 1910 he landed a job as an advertising manager with Charles Scribner’s Sons, the publishing house where he would truly make his mark. (This was the same year Perkins married Louise Saunders, with whom he went on to have five daughters.)

Scribner’s was a traditional publishing house, with a serious if staid stable of writers (e.g., Henry James and Edith Wharton). When Perkins joined the editorial staff in 1914, little did he know he would end up revolutionizing the company and American literature.

Four years after moving into editorial, Perkins began his upward push when a manuscript called The Romantic Egoist hit his desk. It was the first novel by a 22-year-old Princeton graduate, and it came with a host of negative comments from others who had already perused its pages. But something about it caught Perkins’ eye, and he contacted the writer to make some edits. The writer was F. Scott Fitzgerald, and while arguing the merits of Fitzgerald’s book, Perkins said, “If we aren’t going to publish a talent like this, it is a very serious thing . . . . we might as well go out of business.”

Fitzgerald rewrote the work twice before Scribner’s agreed to publish it, under the name This Side of Paradise (1920). The book was a huge success, and it launched Fitzgerald to international literary stardom. Perkins was also instrumental in shaping Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, called by some the greatest American novel ever written.

Four years later, Fitzgerald pointed Perkins in the direction of another up-and-coming American writer living in Paris: Ernest Hemingway. Perkins made contact, and two years later Scribner’s, under Perkin’s guidance, published the 27-year-old Hemingway’s first novel, The Sun Also Rises. As had This Side of Paradise, Hemingway’s first book caused literary waves around the world, and a new movement was under way, with Perkins at its heart. Perkins would work on subsequent books by both Fitzgerald and Hemingway, as well as books by writers such as Ring Lardner, Sherwood Anderson and Martha Gellhorn (who would become Hemingway’s third wife).

In what would mark the beginning of a tumultuous and important literary and personal relationship, in 1928 Thomas Wolfe submitted to Scribner’s his first novel, titled O Lost, a sprawling 1,114-page coming-of-age novel that had already been rejected by a handful of publishers. Perkins and Wolfe spent months editing and restructuring the work, hammering it into what would become known as Look Homeward, Angel (1929), a book that would go on to become a classic. Perkins and Wolfe worked together again, but they eventually had a dramatic falling-out over Perkins’ methods, and Wolfe left Scribner’s.

Perkins, however, has come to represent how important an editor can be for an author. A collection of his correspondence to his authors and others, Editor to Author, was published in 1950, three years after his death at age 62.

Happy Birthday Zelda Fitzgerald

 

Today is the birthday of writer and socialite Zelda Fitzgerald, born Zelda Sayre in Montgomery, Alabama (1900). She was named after the fictional gypsy heroine in Zelda’s Fortune (1874), one of her mother’s favorite books. She was the youngest of five children, and she rebelled against the strict discipline of her father, an Alabama Supreme Court judge. She snuck out of her window at night, smoked cigarettes, bobbed her hair, and wore a flesh-colored swimsuit so that people would think she was swimming nude. She spent her evenings at dances and parties with the officers stationed at nearby Camp Sheridan, and they competed for her attention. One officer performed the full manual of arms drill outside her door, and others took turns trying to outdo each other with fancy airplane stunts in the sky above the Sayre household.

It was at Camp Sheridan that Zelda met a young officer named Scott Fitzgerald. He was beautiful, like Zelda — they were both petite, with blond hair and light eyes. Years later, in her autobiographical novel Save Me the Waltz (1932), she wrote: “He smelled like new goods. Being close to him with her face in the space between his ear and his stiff army collar was like being initiated into the subterranean reserves of a fine fabric store exuding the delicacy of cambrics and linen and luxury bound in bales.” Scott and Zelda spent a lot of time together, but she didn’t want to commit to him; even though he was confident that he was going to be rich and famous, Zelda was hesitant, and her parents were unconvinced. She wrote to him: “Mamma knows that we are going to be married some day — But she keeps leaving stories of young authors, turned out on a dark and stormy night, on my pillow — I wonder if you hadn’t better write to my Daddy — just before I leave — I wish I were detached — sorter without relatives. I’m not exactlyscared of ‘em, but they could be so unpleasant about what I’m going to do.”

After the publication of Fitzgerald’s first novel, This Side of Paradise(1920), Zelda agreed to marry Scott. They became the most famous couple of the Jazz Age. They were the center of attention at parties, where their drunken exploits became the stuff of legend.

Zelda was a writer in her own right, and Scott borrowed from her ideas and sometimes copied writing from her verbatim. When they were dating in Montgomery, Zelda showed Scott her diary, and he used that and her letters in This Side of Paradise. He had modeled the main character, Rosalind, after a woman he had been in love with at Princeton, named Ginevra King; but after meeting Zelda, he reworked the character of Rosalind until she was a combination of both women.

When Zelda was hired to write a review of The Beautiful and the Damned for the New York Herald Tribune, she wrote: “It seems to me that on one page I recognized a portion of an old diary of mine which mysteriously disappeared shortly after my marriage, and also scraps of letters which, though considerably edited, sound to me vaguely familiar. In fact, Mr. Fitzgerald — I believe that is how he spells his name — seems to believe that plagiarism begins at home.” She also encouraged readers to buy the book so that Scott could buy her a new dress and a platinum ring.

She said, “I don’t want to live — I want to love first, and live incidentally.”

Rear View Mirror – My Week In Review

This week I quit my job. Well, I put in my notice. It felt great. The primary reason is because my work/life balance has been off and I haven’t been able to do anything that I want to do outside of work. I have been so focused on the needs of the store, I have put everything I like to do aside. I could feel myself getting angrier and angrier, grown more resentful of the company. I could feel myself turning into all those unhappy managers we have all experienced. By the time I finally put in my notice, the numerous secondary reasons of why I was looking for another job were just that: secondary. The main reason, my out of balance life, would not change even if they started giving me a manager’s wage, started communicating respectfully, started being supportive, and started providing mentorship and creating a community amongst managers. The bottom line was that the job did not allow for a work/life balance and no amount of money would be able to change that fact.

If anything, it was a lesson to me about my price. I guess this is not something that anyone really learns until they are confronted with it. How much money would someone have to pay me to be unhappy? My answer is I don’t have a price. If I am coming off as ethically superior, I don’t mean to. I am also quitting to take a job at Tiffany & Co. where I have the potential of making a lot more money. But the balance of my life will be restored. I will be going to the gym on a regular basis, working only 8 hour shifts, and getting two full days off a week. My resorted balance will improve my work performance and lead to my and the store’s success. I guess it is the difference of what a 170+ year old company knows and what a 3 year old company has yet to learn.

This week on Waldina, I celebrated the birthdays of the insightfully talented film director Billy Wilder, the beautiful and stylish Wallis Simpson, the hauntingly skilled actress/activist/model Isabella Rossellini, the powerfully moving composer Stravinsky, the tragic and mysterious Anastasia Romanova, and added the Hitchcock classic The Birds to the Required Viewing film series.

The Stats:

Views This Week: 436
All Time Views: 116,071
Total Posts: 1,158
Total Subscribers: 312

This week on Wasp & Pear on Tumblr, I posted more classic Hollywood photos, vintage Seattle, New York City, and Los Angeles photos, photos of abandoned places, beautiful photos of alternative movie posters, inspirational music videos, photos of The Smiths songs made into book covers, the obituary of Ultra Violet, photos of Richard Diebenkorn and Slim Aarons’ art, this quote by F. Scott Fitzgerald:

“Vitality shows not only in the ability to persist but the ability to start over.”

The Stats:

Total Posts This Week: 126
All Time Posts: 2,459
Total Subscribers: 176

This week at @TheRealSPA on Twitter, I tweeted “This taco truck is crowded” on June 20th.

The Stats:

Total Tweets (tweets older than 31 days are automatically deleted to preserve freshness): 322
Total Following: 247
Total Followers: 180

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The Great Gatsby

Once, I went to a reading of the entire The Great Gatsby.  It took about eight hours and at least a half dozen people to play all the parts.  When they got to the last paragraph, we all recited it together.  It was intense and glorious and beautiful.

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And then one fine morning—
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

 

 

It was on this day in 1925 that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby was published. Fitzgerald believed he had written a great book, and he was disappointed by its reception. He wrote to his friend Edmund Wilson: “Of all the reviews, even the most enthusiastic, not one had the slightest idea what the book was about.”

Fitzgerald was already famous when The Great Gatsby was published. His first novels, This Side of Paradise (1920) and The Beautiful and the Damned (1922), sold well. Scott and his wife, Zelda, were celebrities — a beautiful, fashionable, social couple. After watching them ride down Fifth Avenue on top of a taxi, writer Dorothy Parker said, “They did both look as though they had just stepped out of the sun.” Shortly after the publication of The Beautiful and the Damned, Fitzgerald wrote to his editor, Maxwell Perkins: “I want to write something new — something extraordinary and beautiful and simple and intricately patterned.”But first he wrote a play, The Vegetable, and it was a flop. To pay off his debts, he churned out magazine stories. He wrote to a friend: “I really worked hard as hell last winter — but it was all trash and it nearly broke my heart as well as my iron constitution.” He had high hopes for a new book. He wrote to Perkins: “In my new novel I’m thrown directly on purely creative work — not trashy imaginings as in my stories but the sustained imagination of a sincere yet radiant world.”

The Fitzgeralds’ extravagant New York lifestyle was weighing on them, and in the spring of 1924, the couple and their young daughter headed to Europe, where Scott was looking for somewhere quieter and less expensive to work on The Great Gatsby. (Fitzgerald’s idea of a quiet lifestyle was relative; of his 1926 visit to the Riviera, he wrote: “There was no one at Antibes this summer, except me, Zelda, the Valentinos, the Murphys, Mistinguet, Rex Ingram, Dos Passos, Alice Terry, the MacLeishes, Charlie Brackett, Mause Kahn, Lester Murphy, Marguerite Namara, E. Oppenheimer, Mannes the violinist, Floyd Dell, Max and Crystal Eastman … Just the right place to rough it, an escape from the world.”)

After a stay in Paris, they headed south to the town of Valescure on the French Riviera, which Fitzgerald called the “hot sweet south of France.” In those days, the Riviera was cheap, and they rented a villa on a hillside. He described the Mediterranean: “Fairy blue [...] and in the shadow of the mountains a green belt of land runs along the coast for a hundred miles and makes a playground for the world.” They went to fancy dinners with rich friends, listened to jazz on the phonograph, and lay in the sun drinking. Fitzgerald worked on The Great Gatsby, writing to Perkins that the south of France was idyllic and that he would finish the novel within a month. Zelda was not so happy; Scott was too busy with his novel to pay attention to her, and their daughter was watched by a nurse. She distracted herself by flirting with a French naval officer, and the Fitzgeralds’ marriage deteriorated.

They moved to Rome that fall, where Scott made final edits on The Great Gatsby. He couldn’t decide on a title — he considered On the Road to West Egg, Gold-hatted Gatsby, Among the Ash-Heaps and Millionaires, The High-bouncing Lover, Trimalchio, and others. While the book was in publication, Fitzgerald suddenly came up with Under the Red White and Blue, and Perkins had to convince him that it was not worth delaying publication and that they should stick with The Great Gatsby.

When The Great Gatsby was published on this day in 1925, it cost $2.00. The reviews were mostly good, but sales were bad — after the initial run of 20,000 copies, there was a second printing of 3,000 copies in August, but some of those copies were still in the warehouse when Fitzgerald died 15 years later. He told Perkins that he thought there were two reasons for the book’s failure: that the title wasn’t very good, and that there were no strong female characters and women were the ones buying fiction. A few years before he died, Fitzgerald went from bookstore to bookstore trying to find copies of his books for his lover Sheilah Graham, but he couldn’t find any.

In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald wrote: “There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy and the tired.”

 

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Gerald And Sara Murphy – Style Icons

Today is the 126th birthday of one half of one of the most elegant couples of the Jazz Age Lost Generation Paris in the 1920s:  Gerald Murphy.  I think that I first ‘discovered’ Gerald and Sara Murphy when I was reading a collections of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s letters.  He and Sara wrote back and forth quite frequently, especially after Zelda’s first trip to the hospital.  I feel in love them while mourned the slow death of letter writing.  No one will ever publish a collection of text messages between anyone, that form of communication is one of the casualties on the other side of the conveniences of all this connectivity.

© Estate of Honoria Murphy Donnelly/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Gerald Clery Murphy and Sara Sherman Wiborg were wealthy, expatriate Americans who moved to the French Riviera in the early 20th century and who, with their generous hospitality and flair for parties, created a vibrant social circle, particularly in the 1920s, that included a great number of artists and writers of the Lost Generation. Gerald had a brief but significant career as a painter.

Gerald Clery Murphy (March 25, 1888 – October 17, 1964) born in Boston to the family that owned the Mark Cross Company, sellers of fine leather goods.

Gerald was an esthete from his childhood forward. He was never comfortable in the boardrooms and clubs for which his father was grooming him. He flunked the entrance exams at Yale three times before matriculating, although he performed respectably there. He joined DKE and the Skull and Bones society.[1]:237 He befriended a young freshman named Cole Porter (Yale class of 1913) and brought him into DKE. Murphy also introduced Porter to his friends, propelling him into writing music for Yale musicals.

© Estate of Honoria Murphy Donnelly/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Sara Sherman Wiborg (November 7, 1883 – October 10, 1975) was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, into the wealthy Wiborg family. Her father, manufacturing chemist Frank Bestow Wiborg, was a self-made millionaire by the age of 40, and her mother was a member of the noted Sherman family, daughter of Hoyt Sherman, and niece to Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman. Raised in Cincinnati, her family moved to Germany for several years when she was a teenager, so her father could concentrate on the European expansion of his company. Upon returning to the United States, the Wiborgs spent most of their time in New York City and, later, East Hampton, where they were one of the first wealthy families to build a home.

In East Hampton Sara Wiborg and Gerald Murphy met when they were both adolescents. Gerald was five years younger than Sara, and for many years they were more familiar companions than romantically attached; they became engaged in 1915, when Sara was 32 years old. Sara’s parents did not approve of their daughter marrying someone “in trade,” and Gerald’s parents were not much happier with the prospect, seemingly because his father found it difficult to approve anything that Gerald did.

After marrying they lived at 50 West 11th Street in New York City, where they had three children. In 1921 they moved to Paris to escape the strictures of New York and their families’ mutual dissatisfaction with their marriage. In Paris Gerald took up painting, and they began to make the acquaintances for which they became famous. Eventually they moved to the French Riviera, where they became the center of a large circle of artists and writers of later fame, especially Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, Fernand Léger, Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, Archibald MacLeish, John O’Hara, Cole Porter, Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley.

Prior to their arrival on the French Riviera, the region was experiencing a period when the fashionable only wintered there, abandoning the region during the high summer months. However, the activities of the Murphys fueled the same renaissance in arts and letters as did the excitement of Paris, especially among the cafés of Montparnasse. In 1923 the Murphys convinced the Hotel du Cap to stay open for the summer so that they might entertain their friends, sparking a new era for the French Riviera as a summer haven. The Murphys eventually purchased a villa in Cap d’Antibes and named it Villa America; they resided there for many years. When the Murphys arrived on the Riviera, lying on the beach merely to enjoy the sun was not a common activity. Occasionally, someone would go swimming, but the joys of being at the beach just for sun were still unknown at the time. The Murphys, with their long forays and picnics at La Garoupe, introduced sunbathing on the beach as a fashionable activity.

They had three children, Baoth, Patrick, and Honoria. In 1929, Patrick was diagnosed with tuberculosis. They took him to Switzerland, and then returned to the U.S. in 1934, with Gerald in Manhattan, where he ran Mark Cross, serving as president of the company from 1934 to 1956; he never painted again. Sara settled in Saranac Lake, New York to nurse Patrick, and Baoth and Honoria were put in boarding schools. In 1935, Baoth died unexpectedly of meningitis, a complication of the measles, and Patrick succumbed to TB in 1937.[3] Archibald MacLeish based the main characters in his play J.B. on Gerald and Sara Murphy.

Later they lived at “The Dunes”, once the largest house in East Hampton, built by Sara’s father on 600 acres (2.4 km2). By 1941, the house proved impossible to maintain, sell or even rent, and the Murphys had it demolished, and moved to the renovated dairy barn.

© Estate of Honoria Murphy Donnelly/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Gerald died October 17, 1964 in East Hampton. Sara died on October 10, 1975 in Arlington, Virginia.

Nicole and Dick Diver of Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald are widely recognized as based on the Murphys, based on marked physical similarities, although many of their friends, as well as the Murphys themselves, saw as much or more of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald’s relationship and personalities in the couple than the Murphys. Ernest Hemingway’s couple in Garden of Eden is not explicitly based on this pair, but given the similarities and the setting (Nice), there is clearly some basis for such an assumption. Interestingly, guests of the Murphys would often swim at Eden Roc, an event emulated in The Garden of Eden.

Calvin Tomkins’s biography of Gerald and Sara Murphy Living Well Is the Best Revenge was published in 1971, and Amanda Vaill documented their lives in the 1995 book Everybody Was So Young. Both accounts are balanced and kind, unlike some of their portrayals in the memoirs and fictitious works by their many friends, including Fitzgerald and Hemingway.
In 1982, Honoria Murphy Donnelly, the Murphys’ daughter, with Richard N. Billings, wrote Sara & Gerald: Villa America and After.

On July 12, 2007, a play by Crispin Whittell entitled Villa America, based entirely on the relationships between Sara and Gerald Murphy and their friends had its world premiere at the Williamstown Theatre Festival with Jennifer Mudge playing Sara Murphy.

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