The Notebooks
of F. Scott Fitzgerald

(O) Observations


Strater trying to carry with him the good of every age— one must discard no matter from how unworthy a motive. Trying to see good in everyone he saw only his own good.


Thinking is a development of talking and not talking— thereby furnishing a contrast between if I had and I didn’t.


Parallel of Ernest’s and French conversation as opposed to Gerald and me and U.S.A. emotional bankruptcy.


Drunk at 20, wrecked at 30, dead at 40
Drunk at 21, human at 31, mellow at 41, dead at 51.


Like all men who are fundamentally of the group, of the herd, he was incapable of taking a strong stand with the inevitable loneliness that it implied.


Voices—American doubtful. “Well, I don’t know,” English saying “Extraordinary” refusing to think, French saying “Well there you are.”


Apropos of Cocteau—perverts love of perverted children M. or F. is compensation for missing women who are, in their social aspect, children with guile and sometimes wisdom, but still children.


Like all self-controlled people the French talk to themselves.


She knew that she herself was superior in something to the girls who criticised her—though she often confused her superiority with the homage it inspired.


Too soon they were responding to Josephine with a fatal sameness, a lack of temperament that blurred their personalities.


Cocktails before meals like Americans, wines and brandies like Frenchmen, beer like Germans, whiskey-and-soda like the English, and as they were no longer in the twenties, this preposterous melange, that was like some gigantic cocktail in a nightmare.


Do you know what your affair was founded on? On sorrow. You got sorry for each other.( Did Ernest borrow this one?)


Young people do not perceive at once that the giver of wounds is the enemy and the quoted tattle merely the arrow.


Arbitrary groups formed by the hazards of money or geography may be sufficiently quarrelsome and dull, but for sheer unpleasantness the condition of young people who have been thrust together by a common unpopularity can be compared only with that of prisoners herded in a cell. In Basil’s eyes the guests at the little dinner the following night were a collection of cripples.


I can even live with a lie (even someone else’s lie— can always spot them because imaginative creation is my business and I am probably one of the most expert liars in the world and expect everybody to discount nine-tenths of what I say) but I have made two rules in attempting to be both an intellectual and a man of honor simultaneously—that I do not tell myself lies that will be of value to myself, and secondly, I do not lie to myself.


They went on to the party. It was a housewarming, with Hawaiian musicians in attendance, and the guests were largely of the old crowd. People who had been in the early Griffith pictures, even though they were scarcely thirty, were considered to be of the old crowd; they were different from those coming along now, and they were conscious of it.


The combination of a desire for glory and an inability to endure the monotony it entails puts many people in the asylum. Glory comes from the unchanging din-din-din- of one supreme gift.


France was a land, England was a people, but America, having about it still that quality of the idea, was harder to utter—it was the graves at Shiloh and the tired, drawn, nervous faces of its great men, and the country boys dying in the Argonne for a phrase that was empty before their bodies withered. It was a willingness of the heart.


The real plot of all Little Theatre plays the one that transpires through whatever play they’re officially acting is how the young gosling actor of fourteen ever managed to be in love with the leading woman of forty and what’s going to come of the situation. The reality of this gives that blurred air that the performances always have.


It is difficult for young people to live things down. We will tolerate vice, grand larceny and the quieter forms of murder in our contemporaries, because we think of ourselves as so strong and incorruptible, but our children’s friends must show a blank service record.


What would you rather be loved for, your beauty, your intrinsic worth, your money?
First two vanish and are replaced by their equivalents, beauty and charm and tact spirituality and energy, by experience and intelligence. Third never knows any change.


Why do whores have husky voices?


After all, any given moment has its value; it can be questioned in the light of after-events, but the moment remains. The young princes in velvet gathered in lovely domesticity around the queen amid the hush of rich draperies may presently grow up to be Pedro the Cruel or Charles the Mad, but the moment of beauty was there.


Perhaps that life is constantly renewed, and glamour and beauty make way for it.


“A pair of thoroughbreds, those two,” said the other woman complacently, meaning that she admitted them to be her equals.


Parallel of Zelda to me, and the hunter who got back the third time with lions.


Family quarrels are bitter things. They don’t go according to any rules. They’re not like aches or wounds; they’re more like splits in the skin that won’t heal because there’s not enough material.


One advantage of politeness is to be able to deal with women on their own grounds, to please or to torture the enemy, as it may prove necessary. And not to fire random shots and flowers from the pure male camp many miles away.


It is in the thirties that we want friends. In the forties we know they won’t save us any more than love did.


But the world is always curious, and people become valuable merely for their inaccessibility.


You can usually scare a certain amount of brains into a woman but usually you can’t make them stick.


Force of a proverb in another language.


He felt then that if the pilgrimage eastward of the rare poisonous flower of his race was the end of the adventure which had started westward three hundred years ago, if the long serpent of the curiosity had turned too sharp upon itself, cramping its bowels, bursting its shining skin that at least there had been a journey; like to the satisfaction of a man coming to die—one of those human things that one can never understand unless one has made such a journey and heard the man give thanks with the husbanded breath. The frontiers were gone—there were no more barbarians. The short gallop of the last great race, the polyglot, the hated and the despised, the crass and scorned, had gone, at least it was not a meaningless extinction up an alley.


Dispairingly and miserably, to what purpose neither knew, as people in fire save things they don’t want and have long disliked.


Advantage of politeness. Extending out of ordinary world, etc.


Actors the clue to much


He had one of those minds so imconprehensible to the literary man which are illiterate not through insensibility but through the fact that the past and future are with them contemporary with the present, having no special value or pathos of their own.


No learning without effort—educational movies.


Each of us knows much more about us than you’d think to read the novels. Give you a few strong lines here says photographer, etc. Loss in dignity but—


When we do something mean to a friend we think of it as an exception in our relations with them but as a matter of fact it has immediately become the type thing. We have just one time.


My sometimes reading my own books for advice. How much I know sometimes—how little at others.


This being in love is great—you get a lot of compliments and begin to think you’re a great guy.


Very strong personalities must confine themselves in mutual conversation to very gentle subjects. Everything eventually transpired—but if they start at a high pitch as at the last meeting of Ernest, Bunny and me their meeting is spoiled. It does not matter who sets the theme or what it is.


If you’re strong enough there are no precedents.


Gertrude Harris about pleasure of giving. The excess.


Didn’t finish idea today that lack of success of physical sheer power in my life made trouble. Fighting through intellectual power—parallel in life of modern woman— courage in Zelda, etc.


They had a dignity and straightforwardness about them from the fact that they had worked in pictures before pictures were bathed in a golden haze of success. They were still rather humble before their amazing triumph, and thus, unlike the new generation, who took it all for granted, they were constantly in touch with reality. Half a dozen or so of the women were especially aware of being unique. No one had come along to fill their places; here and there a pretty face had caught the public imagination for a year, but those of the old crowd were already legends, ageless and disembodied. With all this they were still young enough to believe that they would go on forever.


Large or small house. Foul or clean mouth.


Like a bad play where there is nothing to do but pick out the actors that look most like real people and watch them until, like amateurs, their true existance has become speculatively interesting


Something in his nature never got over things, never accepted his sudden rise to fame because all the steps weren’t there.


Francis says he’s tired of a life like a full glass of water, relations with people a series of charades, you never do the whole world.


Is snubbed when he dramatized himself as victim of American failure.


De Sano—If you use both logic and imagination you can destroy everything in the world between them.


Men hate to stay in hotel run by woman
Women vice versa


The American capitol not being in New York was of enormous importance in our history. It had saved the Union from the mobs in sixty-three—but, on the other hand, the intellectual drifted to the Metropolis and our politics were childish from lack of his criticism.


Each of us thinks his own life has been etc.


Fairy can only stand young girls on stage, where they’re speaking other people’s lines.


The laugh generated by Fred Stone’s I’m so nervous in the Wizard of Oz justified a whole generation into cultivating nerves.


I’ve seen that everytime Zelda sees Egerova and me in contact, Egerova becomes gross to her. Apart the opposite happens.


Subject of control-British pitch—from strength easy, from nervous effort hard therefore a moral question?
me etc.


It seemed to her that the dance was woman’s interpretation of music; instead of strong fingers, one had limbs with which to render Tschaikowsky and Stravinski; and feet could be as eloquent in Chopiniana as voices in The Ring. At the bottom it was something sandwiched in between the acrobats and the trained seals; at the top it was Pavlova and art.


To record one must be unwary.


They would like to have been her, but not to have paid the price in self-control.


Your first most typical figure in any new place turns out to be bluff or local nuisance.


…retrospect to have a more enduring value of their own. Nights are their own fulfilment—we possess them and not their memory, save for certain nights that open out into a novel and startling dawn. But perhaps it is only that it is easier to remember afternoon.


“They come over so the children can learn French,” said Abe gloomily. “Then they all just slip down through Europe like nails in a sack, until they stick out of it a little into the Mediterranean Sea.”


I heard a child called Venice in movie theatre at night. First Michael Arlen generation. The sort of picture you’d expect, and it was night.


I’ve notice that the children of other nations always seem precocious. That’s because the strange manners of their elders have caught our attention most and the children echo those manners enough to seem like their parents.


Once a change of direction has begun, even though it’s the wrong one, it still tends to clothe itself as thoroughly in the appurtenances of Tightness as if it had been a natural all along.


A large personality is built on such a structure that we scarcely realize its dimensions while it is being built; it keeps up its monstrous development, flinging out as many unaccountable commitments as the limbs on an octopus, growing until we scarcely recognize its shadow—so large has it become beyond that of ordinary people. Except we can recognize the dimensions of the shadow in the horizontal twilight of the coffin. It becomes such a valuable thing that it is a pity when it is killed, and those nature lovers among us should watch its growth; it is difficult to reproduce scientifically; and if allowed to die may not re-occur for many years.


You and Seth can be radicals and show your children how you look in the bathtub, because you’re both so good, but people who really experiment with themselves find out that all the old things are true.


My theory of partial arbitrary covering of skin as protection from cold—furred Dolmans, Roman shin guards, etc.


“You can be nice to someone without falling into their arms” almost always means “You can be awful to somebody without their knowing it.”


She never realized that whenever she mustered all the cold cruelty with which she could dominate, over the wide open sensitivity that she lived on but could never know—she never knew that later in a form of revenge, when his wounds were well, his sores closed, he would inevitably crush down on her with a pressure she could no more comprehend than his sensitivity; it contained the same elements—only his suffering was now made over into suffering for her—even more fatal for not being deliberate.


She was plagued by the devastating small one—ring selfishness of some women for instance to her statement that a man had been on sentry duty all night she would oppose the fragment of truth that he had somewhere snatched two legitimate hours of sleep, and thus discredit his ability to take the punishment of a twenty-one hour day. This seems to be one of the last achievements women are likely to wrest from men, but having made the confusion of mere patience with work they are not inclined to surrender the point graciously.


The word “manly” ruined by commercial use.


On Operations—Being a soldier takes the life out of you, as was the experience of Philip Sidney; being a good poet removes or invalidates the nervous system, being a politician or statesman operates only on the conscience, and is as simple as the removal of the heart which too often goes with doctoring. The removal of the soul consonant on being a successful merchant is accomplished practically without pain.


Idea that in the higher levels of human achievement writing Thalberg etc. difference is so slight etc.


Awful disillusion of arriving at center of supposed authority and finding need of flattery so as to be reinforced in that authority.


The grand triumph of the people who don’t care over the people who do—the well in the sick room, nurse over patient, doctor’s jokes, their exquisite attention (Forel) to my egotism, the advantage of the beloved over the lover, and the lender over the borrower but also the sponge over the softee.


Personality precludes inspection by vis-a-vis.


Wanting to mother a man—wanting to keep him from spending his money on some other woman.


The words gentleman and lady only have a concise meaning to a person just learning to be one, or just having ceased to be one.


A woman’s sense of men conspiring together and vice versa


You can take your choice between God and Sex. If you choose both you’re a smug hypocrite, if the choose neither you get nothing.


Fairies’ natures attempt to get rid of soft boys by sterilizing them.


Some discussion of the facts that in general Haul bourgeousie training is so much more enlightened that more stuffed shirts survive. Esprit de Corps.
petite bourgeousie training is rougher and selects the fittest but proletarian training is the roughest of all, and has poorest education and least esprit de corps is hampered by race prejudices etc.


Artistic temperament is like a king with vigour and unlimited opportunity. You shake the structure to pieces by playing with it.


any given individual life or situation things progress from good toward less good. But life itself never does.


Mankind has lived through three ideas (1) That the capacity for leadership is hereditary, (2) that the soul is immortal, (3) that he can govern as a mass and is fit and able to choose his leaders—and into a fourth i.e. that ethics are attractive in themselves.


Zelda’s idea: the bad things are the same in everyone; only the good are different


It is necessary to emphasize the individual differences between men. If you are high enough in the air you can’t even see the leader of the parade, sometimes you can’t even see the way it’s going—and it’s necessary to know. Al Capone


Women took over political-religious thought, with their lack of education, their almost universal lack of knowledge of things as they are, and turned this delegated prerogative inward, cultivating all tendencies in children as individualism. This can best be looked at in the case of a conscious mother and a conscious son such as your mother and you, where the dead or senile grandfather was still the head of the family.


Does anyone think an angel of God appeared to George Washington and suddenly informed him that if he gave up all the allegiances that he had in Virginia, and the entire caste to which he had been born, that he would become a model hero of all the school children of 1933?


The very elements of disintegration seemed to him romantic—the vague unrest that went on back of the big tranquil lawn, the incessant small bickering that seemed to prove that in their magnificence they had no need of solidarity. Actually it meant that the old Millers having nothing to teach had taught their children no common good, having traded their Bavarian field-wisdom for a sort of wisdom that was current in the middle west twenty to forty years ago which was of no value at all. Evolved under one set of conditions, the settlement and development of the west, it seemed as academic to children growing up in a static city as the morals of the amurai.


He was in the safety zone. In a man this is the period between twenty-four and twenty-eight, and however precarious for a man to rely upon and belied by marriage statistics, such a safety zone is a reality. At that age a good man will not mistake the wide-eyed attention of eighteen for the wisdom of thirty, nor forgive thirty for lacking the freshness of eighteen. Let it even be insisted upon—a bachelor of twenty-six in his right mind is not a serious prospect.


Women’s continual reacting reacting reacting, almost to a point of self immolation, to forces that they haven’t caused and can’t do anything about.


On such occasions as this, thought Scott as his eyes still sought casually for Yanci, occured the matings of the leftovers, the plainer, the culler, the poorer of the social world; matings actuated by the same urge toward perhaps a more glamorous destiny, yet for all that, less beautiful and less young. Scott himself was feeling very old.


Learning of a word or place, etc. and then seeming to run across that word or place in your reading constantly in the next few weeks. Use as metaphor: “as when one” etc.


You can stroke people with words


Symington’s white gloves initiated by school


Advantages of children whose mother is dead


Weaknesses of medium point of view
(1) not attractive (2) always borne along in practise in the trial of extreme points of view, etc.


A man being only the sum of his initials


There are certain ribald stories that I heard at ten years old and never again, for I heard a new and more sophisticated set at eleven. Many years later I heard a ten year boy telling another one of those old stories and it occured to me that it had been handed on from one ten-year old generation to the next for an incalculable number of centuries. So with the set I learned at eleven. Each set of stories, like a secret ritual stays always within its age-class, never growing older because there is always a new throng of ten-year olds to learn them, and never growing stale because these same boys will forget them at eleven. One can almost believe that there is a conscious theory behind this unofficial education.


The easiest way to get a reputation is to go outside the fold, shout around for a few years as a violent atheist or a dangerous radical, and then crawl back to shelter. The fatted calf is killed for Spargo, Papini, Chesterton, and Henry Arthur Jones. There is a bigger temporary premium put on losing your nerve in this regard than in any other.


When men agree on a subject of controversy, they love to tell or listen to personal stories that seem to strengthen their side of the question. They laugh delightedly and enjoy a warm feeling that the case is won.


His mind full of the odd ends of all he had read, dim tracings of thoughts whose genesis was already far away when (their dim carbons) reached his ears.


The reason morons can stand good entertainment is that they don’t like to understand all the time. Like a nurse or child at a sophisticated lunch table. Something they could follow all through is a stirring nervous experience for them. Through a good picture they can drowse—as morons always drowse mentally through great events.


Fifty years ago we Americans substituted melodrama for tragedy, violence for dignity under suffering. That became a quality that only women were supposed to exhibit in life or fiction—so much so that there are few novels or biographies in which the American male tangled in an irreconcilable series of contradictions is considered as anything but an unresourceful and cowardly weakwad.


Nora’s wit. Pleasure—Elsa. Happiness—Nora.


All the sucks on the Astor and Whitney fortunes.


Time marches on—ruthlessly—until the Russians tried to replace their artists and scientists—then time stood still and only the pendulum functioned.


Rockefeller Center:
That it all came out of the chicaneries of a dead racketeer.


I can watch a cigarette burn, like Esquire’s streamlines. Charley Petty’s lines are all from a cigarette, even the hair where the smoke breaks.


Never noticed Mother’s eyes after living with her 20 years. Mrs. O. says they are like mine. Example of observation when I don’t like to look at her.


Like all “final”people—judges, doctors, great artists, etc.


You began by pretending to be kind (politeness). It pays so well that it becomes second nature. Some people like Jews can’t get past the artificiality of the first step.


That Zelda’s illness has wrecked our lives is no more important than the fact that it has cast a dark shadow over Mrs. Sayre’s mature years.


When people get mixed up, they try to throw out a sort of obscuring mist, and then the sharp shock of a fact—a collision! seems to be the only thing to make them sober-minded again.


The luxuriance of your emotions under the strict discipline, which you habitually impose on them, makes that tensity in you that is the secret of all charm—when you let that balance become disturbed, don’t you become just another victim of self-indulgence?—breaking down the solid things around you and, moreover making yourself terribly vulnerable.


But scratch a Yale man with both hands and you’ll be lucky to find a coast-guard. Usually you find nothing at all. Or else eleven bought iron men and 3000 ninnies. God preserve you from that vaccuum foundry!


There is this to be said for the Happy Ending: that the healthy man goes from love to love.


Reversion to childhood typical of the only child.


Nine girls out of ten can stand good looks without going to pieces though only one boy out of ten ever comes out from under them.


American farmer as a fighter comes of desperate stock as well as adventurous.


Remember that women are ostriches about themselves; and that all men—and by this I mean every man, will tell everything, and usually more, within three months from date. Remember the daughter of Col. who owned the Charles St. Apt. I heard her story long before she’d left Baltimore.


I left my capacity for hoping on the little roads that led to Zelda’s sanitarium.


There’s quite a case for self-pity—save for that, I’d long ago have died of pitying you.


But I am always guilty of an irreverent snort when I think of Cardinal Parker’s “Hymn to Old Money Bags”. What the rest of the Service must have been like in his nimble ecclesiastical hands would require a more hilarious pen than mine.


You could tell a St. Mark’s boy by his table manners. You see they ate with the servants while their parents divorced and remarried.


Some men have a necessity to be mean as if they were exercising a faculty which they had to partially neglect since early childhood.


In the beginning we are the split and splintered pieces of the basket in which we are all contained. At the end the basket, turned upside down has become a haystack in which we search for our own smooth identity—as if it had ever existed.


Remember this—if you shut your mouth you have your choice.


The flapper never really disappeared in the twenties— she merely dropped her name, put on rubber heels and worked in the dark.


The tackles good or bad are a necessary fact in life. The Tiger Inn Type little nervous system, Dickinson, McGraw, etc. Their recognition of each other.


I understand Duke has a beautiful shell—the tobacco workers who were sweated for it at sixty cents a day can see it in the rotogravures—I notice that the Atlantic Monthly voted it 127th among American colleges in Faculty and Courses. They play professional football with hired truck-drivers and win great victories.


About finding I am not a rational type, finding it in Hollywood, I mean, in script writing. How every director must be, for instance.


Justification of happy ending. My father and Oscar Wilde born in the same year. One ruined at 40—one “happy” at 70. So Becky and Amelia are in fact true.


A precociously tough boy makes jokes like old man. Like say (referring to 20 years ago) “So you laughed at me, eh?” Utterly safe kidding of people who don’t want to hurt or be hurt.


I believe what Zelda believed about her family until the wheels of her bicycle began to run backward.


Beginnings of a bad education—when from Myers Ancient History and concentrated attention on Roman Columns I assumed that was standard and solid and indicative of mind and taste—and therefore was puzzled years later when Western bank architecture was deserted for more modern forms.


I looked back at old pictures and thought of what you told me at Palm Beach and how it opened a window. There was an elaborate self-consciousness about our seduction which told of deep intuition that you were playing a role, though any one track mind didn’t choose to notice it, and I should have guessed that it wasn’t Paul Lagrand or anyone casual from your first story THE MAGNOLIA TREE—guessed there had been old emotional experience for you had learned to feel before I did.


I didn’t have the two top things—great animal magnetism or money. I had the two second things, tho’, good looks and intelligence. So I always got the top girl.


I wonder if it has been remarked by historians that the “final” victor for the Germany hegemony was a Hapsburg and not a Hohenzollern leader, Hitler the Austrian not Hindenburg the Prussian.


In 1908 our Pacific and Carribbean adventures were as romantic as the G-Men exploits of today.


You could paint Lenin’s face inside every backhouse in Iowa and not make him any more important than the phallic quatrain of the Chromo Christ. You might just manage to make him as important to the young as Santa Clause.


Not like the travel folders—not enough Gables and Powells to go around. For romance, the patrons of the 1,000 Rivieras went to the movies.


Paralyzed troups of beggars like the Salvation Army can beat the Y.M.C.A.


One man only felt suffering as with his fingers felt its rough shape. Another seemed to hold it against his cheek.


Of course, these boys are more serious—this is the generation that saw their mothers drunk.


It is the custom now to look back ourselves of the boom days with a disapproval that approaches horror. But it had its virtues, that old boom: Life was a great deal larger and gayer for most people, and the stampede to the spartan virtues in times of war and famine shouldn’t make us too dizzy to remember its hilarious glory. There were so many good things. These eyes have been hallowed by watching a man order champagne for his two thousand guests, by listening while a woman ordered a whole staircase from the greatest sculptor in the world, by seeing a man tear up a good check for eight hundred thousand dollars.


No connection at all between being right and being attractive. The French, the Communists, etc. The answer, of course, is “bread alone”.


The value of culture. Ecclesiastes, the freethinker of the bible, said one of the most erroneous remarks that there was no new thing under the sun, because he hadn’t traveled to Athens in space or Kitty Hawk in time.

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