Tuesday, 9 June 2009

The Crack-Up

The Crack-Up with other Pieces and Storiesby F. Scott Fitzgerald.

“Of course all life is a process of breaking down…” thus begins The Crack-Up one of the most personal pieces ever written by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Watching the world, as we know it collapse around us or rather irrevocably break down and searching for ways to paste together whatever is left of human civilization these words become even more poignant. For Fitzgerald, the voice and conscience of the Jazz Age, was chronicling a similar decline albeit of the 1930’s.

The pent up energy lying waste during the years of the First World War unleashed the ‘Roaring Twenties’ when the soaring American stock market obliterated everything that was perceived as traditional. It was an era dominated by Modernism, Art Deco and all sorts of new advancements like the automobile, air travel and the telephone, which eventually collapsed in a heap of insignificance with the coming of the Great Depression. Leading Fitzgerald to ponder over how and why he ended up “…mortgaging myself physically and spiritually to the hilt”. His scathing self-analysis leads him to a new dispensation however “…just as the laughing stoicism, which has helped the American Negro to endure the terrible conditions of his existence, has cost him his sense of the truth – so in my case there is a price to pay. I do not any longer like the postman…nor the cousin’s husband, and he in turn will come to dislike me, so that life will be never very pleasant again, and the sign Cave Canem is hung permanently above my door.”

Just like the The Crack-Up, the other pieces and stories in this collection deal with not just Fitzgerald’s personal experiences but with how an entire generation had to face up to challenges for which most were neither physically nor emotionally prepared. It wasn’t just a matter of adapting to a changing lifestyle but a far more serious issue of debating human values and what we would choose to paste together when everything around us gets broken down.

The parallels between the early years of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century run so close together that beyond a point they seem to be mirror images of each other. And the development of human societies appears to be trapped in this endlessly ride over the waves of a boom followed by a bust. Whereby we end up with letting go of more than we collectively gain.

Even Esquire, which first published The Crack Up in 1936, felt the time was opportune enough to republish it. However the fact that they linked Fitzgerald’s critical self-analysis with Britney Spear’s breakdown speaks volumes about the era we live in and what we’ll choose to preserve when it all comes down. You can read The Crack- Up here .

(Afterthoughts on books: part 9)

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