from Selections from the Notebooks
Yes mam, if necessary. Look here, You take a girl and she goes into some café where she's got no business to go. Well, then, her escort gets a little too much to drink an' he goes to sleep an' then some fella comes up and says, 'Hello, sweet mamma,' or whatever one of those mashers says up here. What does she do? She can't scream on account of no real lady will scream nowadays—no—she just reaches down in her pocket and slips her fingers into a pair of Powell's defensive brass-knuckles, debutante's size, executes what I call the Society Hook, and Wham! that big fella's on his way to the cellar.
You can order it in four sizes: demi (half a litre), distingué (one litre), formidable (three litres), and catastrophe (five litres).
Drunk at 20, wrecked at 30, dead at 40.
Drunk at 21, human at 31, dead at 51.
Then I was drunk for many years, and then I died.
from The Crack-Up (1936)
Before I go on with this short history, let me make a general observation—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.
This led me to the idea that the ones who had survived had made some sort of clean break. This is a big word and is no parallel to a jail-break when one is probably headed for a new jail or will be forced back to the old one. The famous "Escape" or "run away from it all" is an excursion in a trap even if the trap includes the south seas, which are only for those who want to paint them or sail them. A clean break is something you cannot come back from; that is irretrievable because it makes the past cease to exist. So, since I could no longer fulfill the obligations that life had set for me or that I had set for myself, why not slay the empty shell who had been posturing at it for four years? I must continue to be a writer because that was my only way of life, but I would cease any attempts to be a person—to be kind, just or generous.
from "Show Mr. and Mrs. F. To Number—" (1934)
We got out as soon as we could because we had been there so many times before—it is sadder to find the past again and find it inadequate to the present than it is to have it elude you and remain forever a harmonious conception of memory.
from My Lost City
From the ruins, lonely and inexplicable as the sphinx, rose the Empire State Building and, just as it had been a tradition of mine to climb up to the Plaza Roof to take leave of the beautiful city, extending as far as eyes could reach, so now I went to thereof of the last and most magnificent of towers. Then I understood—everything was explained: I had discovered the crowning error of the city, its Pandora's box. Full of vaunting pride the New Yorker had climbed here and seen with dismay what he had never suspected, that the city was not the endless succession of canyons that he had supposed but that it had limits—from the tallest structure he saw for the first time that it faded out into the country on all sides, into an expanse of green and blue that alone was limitless. And with the awful realization that New York was a city after all and not a universe, the whole shining edifice that he had reared in his imagination came crashing to the ground. That was the rash gift of Alfred W. Smith to the citizens of New York.
Previously by F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby