(Gina Faldetta)– This summer is in some ways defined by a big embarrassing crush I’ve had for a while.
Like most crushes, it makes me do dumb things. Hence the huge stack of library books sitting next to me, a pile of texts with titles such as Before Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald on Authorship, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. No, I’m not reading everything F. Scott Fitzgerald ever wrote to impress a boy – unless Fitzgerald is watching me from beyond the grave, in which case I hope he’s impressed by the sight of my pajama-clad self scarfing down cereal and reading “Babylon Revisited.”
Because, yes. The crush I’m talking about is an actual crush on the author of The Great Gatsby. And I don’t just mean a literary crush, but an actual crush. As in, isn’t he so dreamy and he’s kind of a dick but oh he’s so funny that it doesn’t matter and his work is kind of repetitive but his facial structure makes me want to cry.
It all started in high school, when I read This Side of Paradise. It became a full-blown head-over-heels situation because of The Beautiful and the Damned. Fitzgerald painted himself as a romantically doomed figure who loved a good party the way aesthetes love beauty, and I ate it up. I loved his romanticist view of an America in decline, his florid style of prose, and his dry wit. Most of all I adored the observant and beautiful way he wrote about the women he loved. I wanted to be admired like that, to be written about in such glorifying description.
So, yes, I was smitten. I still am, which the only real explanation for why I sit here with a borrowed copy of The Price Was High. It contains the last of his uncollected work, a queasy 784 pages of the short stories Fitzgerald wrote only because he needed the money at the end of his career, when he was disillusioned, worn out, and scrambling to remain functionally alcoholic.
The explanation I am more likely to give people makes a lot more sense. Last semester, I took Queer Geographies, a class of eight students in which we discussed the works of regional American authors through a queer lens. The class was taught by Professor Michele Barale, who in addition to being hilarious and kind, is incredibly well-read. Okay, that’s not super surprising in an English professor, but our class was always impressed by how she had read everything, it seemed. One day, someone asked her how. She responded by saying she would simply pick an author, read everything by him or her, and move on to the next one.
That sounded like a good plan, and who better to start with than the author who makes me want to cry the same way girls cry at One Direction concerts?
After reading the overgrown, untrimmed text of The Last Tycoon — left unfinished when Fitzgerald died of a heart attack at 44 — and the entirety of the 775-page collection of The Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald, I’m beginning to doubt the viability of this endeavor. I probably would have been better off just reading his five novels and ending it there, rather than attempting to read a hundred short stories of varying quality, written mostly because he needed the money.
What exactly am I gaining from this experience? Is this the literary version of wasting hours watching every interview on Youtube of your favorite celebrity?
For now I’m chalking it up to learning experience, one that can at least pass for intellectual curiosity. That is, if I can manage to tear my eyes away from the back-cover photo of Fitzgerald long enough to read the umpteenth story about the corruption of American ideals.