Saturday, July 7, 2012

F. Scott Fitzgerald / Jay Gatsby / Harry Whittington

On a recent road trip we visited the F. Scott Fitzgerald Museum in Montgomery, Alabama. The curator explained that it is the only F. Scott Fitzgerald Museum in the world, where Hemingway has about 4 dedicated to his life and work. The museum needs donations as it rents a few rooms to boarders and the remaining part of the house is the museum. Fitzgerald and his eccentric socialite wife, Zelda, lived for a very short time in the house during the latter years of their lives. Since Warner Brothers is releasing a new version of "The Great Gatsby" during the holiday season in 2012, I believe it would be very noble of them to help this legend's only landmark, by sharing a healthy donation to complete the remaining house and show some support to the writer's fan base. F. Scott Fitgerald was my mentor, Harry Whittington's favorite author. Harry passed away in 1989 and approved the outline for my novel, Marquel. My husband and I recently had dinner with Howard Whittington and his wife and he shared that Kathryn Whittington, Howard's mother, had gone to great expense to get Harry a first edition of "The Great Gatsby" in the early years of their marriage. I'm now reading Gatsby and knowing Harry, I can feel his excitement with the Gatsby lifestyle and his insecurity with social wealth. After learning more about Fitzgerald and Zelda, I see Kathryn and Harry as a couple on the extreme lower rung as somewhat of a mirror image. The Fitzgerald's lived the high life, the Whittington's dreamed of it. Harry wrote more and published more than his idol and struggled to meet his bills, but he wrote daily. It was about the time that I met Harry that he was living the good life. He had been honored in Reims, France, he was making good money writing under the name Ashley Carter and Blaine Stevens and was living in a waterfront home on Indian Rocks Beach, Florida with a beautiful 2nd floor intercoastal view from his studio office. If Fitzgerald had had Harry's discipline, he likely would have conquered some of his own demons. Both men longed to make movies and each had moved the Hollywood for a period to make attempts. Zelda was Fitz's larger than life flapper wife, Kathryn was a country girl unknown to the world, but known to the close fans of Harry and maintained close touch after Harry's death. Harry lived twice as long as Fitzgerald, who was in his forties when he passed from complications due to his alcoholic lifestyle. Harry lived life to the fullest well into his eighties. What I find in Jay Gatsby that is common to Harry and Fitzgerald is the class struggle. All 3 men come from common roots, excel at their talents, love a woman who has challenges of her own, but they are restless in their self-confidence. They seem to be always fighting to fit in or get to a place of earned respect that meets a standard that only they can define. It's unattainable really, but it keeps them hungry and it's that restlessness that makes us love them. We know they aren't perfect, but we know there is no one else like them and for that, we cherish them. And isn't it interesting that Fitzgerald's legacy is commemorated by a landmark that isn't complete? Harry at least has his western novels archived in a college library in Wyoming. But both men deserve better.