One of my favourite authors is the impeccable and moody F. Scott Fitzgerald. I say this suffering the knowledge that doing so probably makes me sound wistfully cliche and just like all the other girls on Pinterest with their boards littered with his quotes. (I myself just Instagrammed a photo with the caption – “There are all kinds of love in this world but never the same love twice.” I’m pretty sure the boutique I worked at sold a greeting card with that quote on it, too.)
I could list a hundred different reasons why I love Fitzgerald so much, but I just started re-reading The Great Gatsby the other night while taking a bubble bath and was reminded of a reason specific.
In the first chapter – on the second page, in my copy – Fitzgerald writes, “Gatsby, who represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn. If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life…”
How do you not swoon at that?
Fitzgerald was amazing – both in his professional writing and his personal letters – at doling out beautiful compliments to those who don’t deserve them, necessarily. His writing represents a holy appreciation for the qualities both good & bad of his neighbors and characters.
Fitzgerald’s works – his novels, his short stories, and his letters – frequently exhibit this ability to be fully engaged with all possibilities in life; to beautifully glorify qualities heinous, lovable, charming, and disturbing. He never lets a person’s devilish qualities lay to rest; he brings them alive and puts them centerfold. But even a person like Daisy – who to me and many others is one of the most horrid & hated characters in American literature – is stunning, vibrant, undeniably human and cunningly intriguing – soft and sweet sometimes, petulant, lying, and manipulative at other times.
Fitzgerald’s vivid stories have always given me a deep appreciation for the variety and breadth of humanity. From skin-crawling characters like Daisy or Myrtle in Gatsby, to the young and hopeful Amory in This Side of Paradise, or the formidable cast of characters in Tender is the Night, Fitzgerald never lets you believe that people are either saints or sinners. His worlds are comprised of nothing but grey areas for the possibilities of human kind.
As Nick writes of himself at the end of chapter 3 in Gatsby, “Every one suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known.”
I can’t help but muse on whether or not Fitzgerald was hinting, through Nick, at his own capability to honestly, truthfully, and beautifully encapsulate all these grey areas of humankind in the stories he told.