Editor’s Note: A letter circulated on Facebook, Instagram and other “social media” during the recent few days purports to have been written by American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald. In it “Fitzgerald” comments on being under quarantine during the 1918-20 flu epidemic with his wife, Zelda, a native of Montgomery, AL. I have said before that social media has done for gossip and bullshit in the 21st century what gunpowder did for warfare in the 9th century. This is merely another example.
The Fitzgerald letter was really written as a spoof by Nick Farriella, a writer for the humor website McSweeney’s. Phony or not, the letter is amusing as an example of dark humor. It does give a pretty reliable picture of Scott and Zelda’s use of alcohol.
However, NEMISS.NEWS readers are advised not to emulate the Fitzgerald manner in the consumption of booze and coping with an epidemic. Alcohol doubtless contributed to F. Scott’s early death at age 44 and to Zelda’s confinement in a mental hospital in Ashville, NC, where she died in a fire at age 47.
Alcohol has many benefits, but the Greek poet Hesiod said it best 2,800 years ago: “Moderation is best in all things.”
Taking all this into account, some readers may find in Fariella’s Fitzgerald letter a bit of entertaining irony as we all try to cope with the coronavirus crisis. Here ‘tis.
It was a limpid dreary day, hung as a basket from a single dull star. I thank you for your letter.
Outside I perceive what may be a collection of fallen leaves tussling against a trash can. It rings like jazz to my ears. The streets are empty. It seems as though the bulk of the city has retreated to their quarters, rightfully so. At this time it seems very poignant to avoid public places. Even the bars, as I told Hemingway, but to that he punched me in the stomach, to which I asked if he had washed his hands. He hadn’t. He is much the denier, that one. Why, he considers the virus to be just influenza. I am curious of his sources.
The officials have alerted us to ensure that we have a month’s worth of necessities. Zelda and I have stocked up on red wine, whiskey, rum, vermouth, absinyth, white wine, sherry, gin, and lord, if we need it, brandy.
Please pray for us.
You should see the square, oh, it is terrible. I weep for the damned eventualities this future brings. The long afternoons rolling forward slowly on the ever-slick bottomless highball. Z. says it’s no excuse to drink, but I just can’t seem to steady my hand. In the distance, from my brooding perch, the shoreline is cloaked in a dull haze where I can discern an unremitting penance that has been heading this way for a long, long while. And yet, amongst the cracked cloudline of an evening’s cast, I focus on a single strain of light, calling me forth to believe in a better morrow.
F. Scott Fitzgerald
F. Scott Fitzgerald, McSweeney’s, New Albany MS, Nick Farriella, Spanish flu