Sunday, November 13, 2011

F. Scott Fitzgerald

There’s not a time in my life when I can remember not reading, not loving books.  When I think about the two things I’m most passionate about in my life, I can say without skipping a beat, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if it weren’t for horses and books, I’d be lost.

Trips to the library or a book store were almost on the same level as trips to the tack shop – sheer Heaven.  I can lose myself in Barnes & Noble for hours, sitting on the floor of the Fiction section, paging through the latest best-seller or one of the classics with a latte by my side.  Sometimes I like to think that I own the store (for, honestly, who appreciates books more than me?) and will get a little irritated if the place is crowded.  Who let all these people into my sanctuary?

I remember on Christmas Day how disappointed I’d be if I unwrapped a box full of clothing from Santa…but how beside myself with joy I’d be with new books and horse stuff!  Interestingly, several of my books would disappear after I unwrapped them and I only learned several years later that my mom would hide them because I’d read them too fast, flying through them all while on Christmas Break, only to turn up “so bored” the following week.  So my mom would hide a few…then they’d gradually reappear, giving me something to do during the long, cold, winter weeks spent indoors.

Like any avid reader, I have my favorite authors, my most hated books, and lists of that sort.  After reading The Great Gatsby in 11th grade, a book that quite honestly, changed my life, F. Scott Fitzgerald sealed himself away in my heart and firmly holds that place of honor as my most favorite author.  Since then, the man who led a most turbulent life and died young at the age of 44, has been a large part of my literary life.

Since The Great Gatsby, I have read every single one of FSF’s novels and all of his short story collections.  I have poured over The Great Gatsby so many times that I’m surprised my copy is still intact.  I make references to the novel so often, but almost no one gets them!  When talking about someone new, I’ll say something like, “I heard he killed a man,” in that suspicious tone Gatsby’s party guests use when speaking about the host they’ve never met.  And at night, when I shut the curtains in my bedroom, I look across the way to my neighbor’s backyard to see the green light they have on their back porch.  Only I would see that and think of Gatsby standing on the edge of his dock late at night, arm outstretched towards the green light from the dock of Daisy’s mansion across the water on East Egg.

I spent the last year of graduate school completely surrounded by Fitzgerald as I decided to devote my Thesis to him, my favorite literary genius.  I focused strictly on his short stories, but of course, referenced his novels from time to time.  I immersed myself in his stories, his novels, and his many biographies.  I even wrote a short article that later appeared in the Fitzgerald Society’s newsletter (because, yes, like any good nerd, I am a member of the Society).

Finally I completed and successfully defended my thesis, which was entitled (starting with a quote from FSF himself):

“Show Me a Hero and I Will Write You a Tragedy”
F. Scott Fitzgerald and the Art of Chronic Failure

It was a few pages shy of 80 and capped off my graduate career, but to me it was a year’s worth of late nights, constant edits and revisions, and many, many, many tears.  But it was also a labor of love.