The Crack-Up by F. Scott Fitzgerald


When one opens The Crack-Up, they open a portal to a strange new world: the jazz and liquor-filled 1920s. Through a collection of miscellaneous pieces penned by F. Scott Fitzgerald and letters from literary greats such as Gertrude Stein, T.S. Elliot, and Thomas Wolfe, the life behind the words of The Great Gatsby are illuminated. Since a lot of the works are personal reflections, I found myself lost here and there, not understanding the references of the times. Though confusing, I enjoyed that. It makes the words seem timeless.


The best people aren’t interested in politics because it doesn’t pay much

“In the theatrical world extravagant productions were carried out by a few second-rate stars, and so on up the scale into politics, where it was difficult to interest good men in positions of the highest importance and responsibility, importance and responsibility far exceeding that of business executives but which paid only five or six thousand a year.”

First-rate intelligence

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.”

On early success

“But one was now a professional–and the new world couldn’t possibly be presented without bumping the old out of the way. One gradually developed a protective hardness against both praise and blame. Too often people liked your things for the wrong reasons or people liked them whose dislike would be a compliment. No decent career was ever founded on a public and one learned to go ahead without precedents and without fear…The dream had been early realized and the realization carried with it a certain bonus and a certain burden. Premature success gives one an almost mystical conception of destiny as opposed to willpower–at its worst the Napoleonic delusion. The man who arrives young believes that he exercise his will because his star is shining. The man who only asserts himself at thirty has a balanced idea of what will power and fate have each contributed, the one who gets there at forty is liable to put the emphasis on will alone. This comes out when the storms strike your craft. The compensation of a very early success is a conviction that life is a romantic matter.

Egyptian Proverb

“The worst things:

To be in bed and sleep not,

To want for one who comes not.

To try to please and please not.”

Some things overheard

“I’m giving a dinner tonight, some very fine and cultivated people. I want you to come. I sent a note to your cabin.” For God’s sake, Lew groaned, “I don’t want to meet any people. I know some people.”

“We can’t just let our worlds crash around us like dropped trays.”

“I like writers. If you speak to a writer, you often get an answer.”

“Learn young about hard work and good manners–and you’ll be through the whole dirty mess and nicely dead again before you know it.”

“You look to me like a very ordinary three-piece suit.”

Epigrams, wise-cracks, and jokes

Show me a hero and I’ll write you a tragedy

Optimism is the content of small men in high places

You don’t write because you want to say something; you write because you’ve got something to say.

Genius is the ability to put into effect what is in your mind. There’s no other definition to it.

No grand idea was ever born in a conference, but a lot of foolish ideas have died there.

Fitzgerald: “The rich are different from us.”

Hemingway: “Yes, they have more money.”


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