F. Scott Fitzgerald saw it all

Did F. Scott Fitzgerald foresee the rise of social media? Maybe not literally. But it will be a challenge to find a writer of any age who so shrewdly paints the synonyms of the online experience of our time as brag, vanity, attention-seeking, obsession with beauty, superficial connection and empty self-validation. Writers who wrote a hundred years ago have as much to say as Ben Mezrich, Ja Tolentino, Dave Eggers, and other journalists and fiction writers who set their sights on such pathologies today.


Press play to hear a narrated version of the story presented by AudioHopper.

Therefore, for the novels “This Side of Heaven”, “The Great Gatsby”, “A Tender Night”, “Beauty and Damned” and “The Last Tycoon”, the short stories “Winter Dreams,” “Ice Palace,” “And Ritz-sized diamonds”, “Rich Boys”, “Bernice’s Hair” and “Cut Glass Bowls” to name a few.

Just weeks after U.S. libraries published a new book by Fitzgerald featuring The Great Gatsby and short stories ranging from classic to obscure, Japan’s most famous living writer Haruki Murakami has embraced every Japan News interviewed him on his passion for the American writer. Takashi Murakami has translated several of Fitzgerald’s works, and his unfinished Japanese version of The Last Tycoon came out in April. In the interview, Murakami shared his view that if Fitzgerald could complete The Last Tycoon, it would be one of the greatest novels in the American canon.

What is Fitzgerald’s appeal to contemporary Japanese writers? This may be a more suitable topic for a dissertation than a short online article. In short, Murakami likes to explore distance in relationships and the pitfalls of superficial and largely meaningless bonds and interactions between people, and stories like Scheherazade and Nausea 1979 can help you understand Why Fitzgerald’s work talks to Takashi Murakami. Many of the shorter works in The Great Gatsby and the new volume of American Libraries also tell of a society full of connections based on almost anything other than friendship or love as traditionally defined.

Fitzgerald, past and present

Fitzgerald
The new F. Scott Fitzgerald volume of the Library of America.

As I’ve pointed out elsewhere, “The Last Tycoon” protagonist Monroe Stahr is not only a famous Fitzgerald-era producer and MGM head Owen Stahr Irving Thalberg, and to our own time, disgraced tycoon and convicted felon Harvey Weinstein, he was a dead man. . Starr’s preoccupation with this fleeting quality, beauty, reaches an unhealthy degree. There is no doubt that Takashi Murakami has not lost the resemblance.

Some novels are easier to reread than others. The quality of Gatsby’s prose is about the same as anything else you might have read in high school. But what really blows your mind is the novel’s foresight. Fitzgerald captures the neuroses of 2022 and recent years. At the beginning of the novel, narrator Nick Callaway details all the socialites who were partying at Jay Gatsby’s Long Island estate, and chronicles the dancing, singing, drinking, and revelry in those revels. Lavish is unfair to these events, you can expect anyone to show up.

Contrast the earlier scenes, where Gatsby’s manor is full of parties, later in the novel. Only a handful of people attended his funeral. You do wonder how many people at those parties had any real attachment to Gatsby, even acquaintances. The most important thing Fitzgerald predicts is the online experience we’ve grown accustomed to, and you might wonder how many of a user’s 1,000 or 1,500 friends know or have any personal awareness. Has the user ever seen a tenth of these “friends” or exchanged a text message? Surely hope none of them are Russian spies, disgruntled ex-colleagues, or spurned lovers with fake accounts. You never know.

Aside from rediscovering Gatsby, one of the joys of the new American Library is that it presents so many stories that even those of us who have read and enjoyed Fitzgerald’s novels may have never heard of it. Given the decision to go this route, the lack of an introduction that provides context and analysis is a bit disappointing. But if you’ve never read things like “The Third Coffin,” “Baby Shower,” “Pardon,” “Gretchen’s Forty Winks,” “Rich Boys,” “Popular Girls,” “Prom,” ” Hot and Cold Blooded,” “Love in the Night,” “A Penny Spent,” and other obscure pieces in all of Fitzgerald’s oeuvre, many hours of discovery await.

It’s nearly impossible to summarize all of these stories, but the thematic continuity presented here is striking. With few exceptions, they relieve the pain and embarrassment of trying to socially interact because that’s what people do, not an interest in others. “Baby Shower” is the darkly hilarious tale of a young couple, longing, striving, and insecure about their status, who come together to watch their little ones play and, who knows, maybe start a friendship.

When a few babies get into an argument, it almost makes the parents fight. They quickly sided with their own children, demonizing each other into invaders, not to mention the horrible parents of the unbred little devil. Readers will feel, in their frenzied, obsessive minds, that confirming their fate requires recognizing that their genetically produced babies are right in the midst of the outbursts. These adults don’t really know each other, and the alleged friendship that inspires baby showers is a playful act poisoned by their vanity.

It’s hard to resist pointing out that Raymond Carver’s “Bikes, Muscles, Cigarettes” is pretty much the same story as “Baby Shower.” Two adults fight over what one son did to another child’s bike.

In “Blood and Cold,” a protagonist who’s tired of the ridicule habits of people in professional circles turns down the help of a man who one day claims to know his father, who is now desperate strait. The protagonist took out an early loan for a career advantage, but now his generosity has dried up when there is a credible motive to help an acquaintance of his late father. One of the most visible stories in the new volume, “Blood and Cold” still has the charm of SJ Perelman’s sketches, composed of whimsy and sadness.

“The Third Coffin” is about the CEO of a company who knows he won’t be in power forever and sees the three sons of college friends as potential successors. He will only choose one of the three. After they came to work at the company, he couldn’t decide who was the best performer, so he changed tactics and told them to take three months off. People who pursue leisure in a way that best matches the feelings of retiring executives will get the job. One goes on vacation to Europe, the other chooses noble philanthropy, but in the end (spoiler!) it’s the candidate “failed” — who keeps working long after his physical and mental health needs a break — who wins the old man’s favor.

In other words, if you don’t have a life outside of work, and can’t imagine your own life, you’re best suited for a role in a society that sacrifices a community of society’s sentient beings for bloodless, profit-driven calculations.

Fitzgerald’s foresight took many forms. If Haruki Murakami translated the story into Japanese, it might help to reckon with the epidemic in his country. death from overworkor death and suicide due to work stress.

As Fitzgerald wrote in The Night’s Tenderness, “Sometimes it’s harder to free yourself from pain than from pleasure.”

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