F. Scott Fitzgerald
From the Kenyon Review, Autumn 1948, Vol. X, No. 4
All that afternoon Francis knew that part of Dinah wanted to be rid of him, to be swiftly busy with her own affairs. She was short in her speech when he went with her persistently to a milliner’s shop and she made him wait outside; he spent the time gazing at a miniature of the battlefields in the window of a tourist office. There was dust gathered on the tangle of tiny tree trunks, wrecked toy tanks, broken caissons, and roofless doll houses marked Verdun, Côté 304, Cambrai, and the panorama seemed as old as the war itself; it depressed him as it lay baking and fading in the sun. He grew cross at waiting but as Dinah came out of the shop the middle phase of the day moved past, the sky deepened and they both relaxed a little feeling the better hours ahead. Still she insisted she had things to do but instinct told him that had she entirely wanted to be rid of him she could have easily done so and he took this as a concession.
He tried to get her to go to the Ritz but she wouldn’t and they had tea at Sherry’s.
“You’ll both be tired of me soon,” he said. “I hear you get tired of everybody.”
“No. It’s just that you have quarrels or you go to new places and then you like the people that you see most of—don’t you think?”
“Please don’t get tired of me.”
“I like old friends.”
“Am I an old friend?”
“You’ll age,” she laughed.
“Because you’re the two most charming people I’ve ever met.” He knew that neither of them ever got tired of that, and in addition he meant it. The sound of it and the tea excited him and he struck a more decided note. “I’m falling terribly in love with you and I know it’s absurd—no, but really.”
She drew on her gloves and suddenly time seemed to be getting short, night coming, the end coming. And as time grew shorter so her qualities grew larger inside the reduced dimension. She was kinder and sweeter; the bravery of all her words grew—those words of hers that it seemed brave for her to speak at all, as if she alone knew how presumptuous it was to speak. Her mouth which in youth had been hurt so much, frightened so persistently into silence by a mother or a series of governesses, became now for a moment something that could be hurt again, and when she stood up she was taller, very tall, flowering in a beautiful straight line from her perfect hat.
“I won’t go yet,” he said, and reluctantly she sat down again; he was not sure what he was going to say but unexpectedly he was saying it, “I know that being in love with you leads nowhere but I can’t help it—those things happen. You belong to Seth and I like him better than any man I know, but there you are, I’m in love with you.” He paused and then leaned forward, “I love you, Dinah. I love your dear face and your dear self.”
“I suppose this was your line to every girl in Hollywood.”
“No. There was only one there. And that was different. She was older.”
“No, I mean really older—almost—faded. I was crazy about her and then when she liked me she seemed old. And then when I broke it off I was sorry and I used to have a queer painful feeling when I saw her, but I never wanted to go back.”
She sat balanced on the edge of her chair, not restless but resistant. She sat that way for half an hour while they drank a port. He knew that she was entirely womanly, that she would not help him or encourage him by so much as a word and he knew that Seth was always with her, was with her now, but he knew too that in different degrees they were both in the grey gentle world of a hangover when the nerves relax in bunches like piano strings and crackle suddenly like wicker chairs. The nerves so raw and tender must surely join other nerves, lips to lips, breast to breast.
In the taxi they clung together and she kissed him really and they stayed close. They stopped thinking with an almost painful relief, stopped seeing; they only breathed and sought each other. Their lips became things interchangeably owned in common but twice she whispered don’t in a cool little voice with no doubt in it whatever.
The lift in her apartment house was broken. As she started up the stairs he went beside her and at a touch of his hand she stopped at the first landing. By the dimming light of a window above they embraced breathlessly. Again he went with her—she was careful on the next landing, on the third more careful still. On the next—there were three more—she stopped halfway and kissed him fleetingly good-bye. At his urgency she walked down with him to the one below. Then it was good-bye with their arms stretching to touch hands along the diagonals of the bannister and then the fingers slipping apart. The next floor swallowed her, then the next diminishing; a door opened and closed above.
Across the street Francis lingered a moment, in love now and wildly jealous of her absence watching the last sunlight smoulder on the apartment’s big front windows. Even as he watched a taxi drove up and Seth got out and went into the house. His step was quick and alert as if he had just come from some great doings and was hurrying on toward others, organizer of gaiety, master of a richly encrusted, esoteric happiness. His hat was a grand hat and he carried a heavy stick and thin yellow gloves. Francis thought what a good time everyone would have who was with him tonight, and the aura of Seth’s good taste cooled his blood for a moment.
“Yes,” he said to himself, “they’re the most attractive people in the world. Absolutely perfect.”
He hurried on for he was to meet that girl a little after eight.
When Francis reached the bar where he had arranged to meet Wanda Breasted he found her in company of three other girls. They were tall slender girls with rather small, well-carried heads, groomed to the preciseness of manikins’ heads, and charming floating faces. They had evidently been in the bar a long time but none of them was tight and when Wanda presented Francis, their heads above their black tailored suits waved gracefully at him like cobras’ hoods or long-stemmed flowers in the wind. Francis had an immediate feeling that he had met all three of them somewhere before. Wanda whispered to him that they were all having dinner together—she couldn’t avoid it, but he was not to pay for anything for it was Miss Hart’s party and there was another young man, now out telephoning, who would join them presently.
Wanda said to the others that he was a friend of Seth Piper’s and at once the three women extended themselves toward him expressing surprise and interest that the Pipers were in Paris. The girl whose mouth twisted kindly under a hooked nose said:
“Not that I should be concerned—after their being so obviously fed up with me.”
Then the tallest and handsomest girl said bitterly, “I must say I prefer people whose lives have more corrugated surfaces. Seth might be all right if she’d give him a chance.”
Miss Hart, a boyish, jaunty girl who might have been anything between twenty-five and thirty-five, spoke in a hearty voice.
“After all, darling, what’s so extraordinary about them. I’ve met them here and there and after expecting at least St. Louis and Joan of Arc I haven’t been able to get really excited about them.”
“Seth’s the extraordinary one,” said the girl the Pipers were fed up with. “Dinah’s just a very loyal, frank person.”
“A loyal frank person,” repeated the other bitterly. “Yes—she’s going to be that if she has to bitch everybody in the world to do it.”
Francis was furious but he was somewhat intimidated by their height and sleekness and by the attentive and finely critical look they bent upon him whenever he opened his mouth to speak. Feeling himself slipping here and there among changing indignations he gave up and told himself how hard and superficial everyone was after Seth and Dinah. They were in any case not talking to him, but to each other. Again they reminded him of something and again it slipped away.
“I don’t really think she likes all this changing around of friends,” insisted Miss Taube. “Of course my private opinion is that Seth made her up.”
“But why the entirely liquid Mr. Grant?” asked Miss Hart.
“That’s Mrs. Grant—Seth will stand a lot from anyone capable of telling him in new ways how charming he is.”
“My God!” muttered Francis—they all threw him a flinching glance and Miss Taube said conciliatingly:
“After all, I’m only sorry Seth doesn’t like me any more—and some day it might be his whim to honor me once again with a moment or so of his attentions, and hand me my self-respect, my justification on a platter as he has a way of doing.”
The handsomest head swayed forward eagerly like a cobra’s hood.
“Once I tried to paint him. I know how his face goes but I always had one eye left over. The answer was that his eyes are too close together.”
“My God,” said Francis again.
“So are mine, dearest. Seth’s great quality is in that politeness of his that seems to extend right out of the ordinary world of courtesy. One advantage of politeness like that in a man is to be able to deal with women on our own grounds—please or torture them as it may prove necessary. And not fire random shots from his own camp many miles away. Like Big Bertha you know, accidentally slaying whole congregations.”
“What struck me is their self-satisfaction, their positive admiration for their own things—”
“—Which you must admit are usually the best things.”
“Oh, they give a good show—I’d be the last one to ever deny that. I remember that famous houseboat party. And I’m willing to admit that Seth is quite amusing—but so Irish—his face begins to move before he says anything in that Irish way. And those phrases he uses over and over: ‘Oldest inhabitant gnawed by rodents’—how many times have you heard him say that? And that one way of imitating everything, whether it’s an Englishman or a billy goat—he widens his nostrils, waves his head from side to side and talks through his nose.”
“Everybody has only one way of imitating that they use for everything.”
Sometime during this conversation they were joined by the young man who had been telephoning. To Francis’ disgust he was One of the Boys, and Francis searched vainly for any way he might extricate himself from the situation. He looked reproachfully at Wanda who smiled back encouragingly—and again his desire for her was renewed. She was a special red and white type that always aroused him and certainly the pressure of her hand the other day had been in a sense a promise, of how much he couldn’t say.
Through dinner he felt his mind wandering off the company—things were so dead after the Pipers and he wondered what they were doing tonight. They had saved tonight for something, perhaps he thought with a sudden sense of being shut out—perhaps to be alone.
He drank a lot of champagne at dinner but was taciturn and had the feeling that the three girls didn’t like him any more than he liked them. First he felt this only casually but later it deepened and dancing afterwards at the Boeuf sur le Toit he saw they were inclined to be cold with him.
“I’m getting tight and cross,” he thought, “I’d better go home. What a rotten evening. What bum people.” He asked Wanda if they couldn’t go.
“Yes, but wait,” she answered. “They’ll be furious if I take you off.”
“Well, who are they? Why should you care?”
“I don’t, but wait.”
They were dancing close together and suddenly he told her he wanted her. Surely her smile as she bent back and looked up at him was consent, yet she said:
“Isn’t this enough?”
“Of course not.”
“Don’t you think this is enough?”
He got nothing more than that from her but his next glass of champagne made him genial at last; he even consented to move on to another place but Miss Carmichael was in the taxi with Wanda and himself and he could do no more than press her hand.
He knew they were girls of some distinction—he did not make the mistake of lumping them as bluestockings or Lesbians. They were three tall rich American girls and that was the principal thing about them. To be a tall rich American girl is a form of hereditary achievement whether or not progress does eventually culminate in her insouciant promenade along the steel girder of our prosperity. Nevertheless it was increasingly clear to him that Miss Taube had more immediate concerns—there was a flick of the lip somewhere, a bending of the smile toward some indirection, a momentary lifting and dropping of the curtain over a hidden passage. An hour later he came out of somewhere to a taxi whither they had preceded him and found Wanda limp and drunk in Miss Taube’s arms.
“What’s the idea ?” he demanded furiously.
Miss Taube smiled at him. Wanda opened her eyes sleepily and said:
“What’s all this business ?” he repeated.
“I love Wanda,” said Miss Taube.
“Vivian is a nice girl,” said Wanda. “Come sit back here with us.”
“Why can’t you get out of the taxicab and go home with your friends,” said Francis harshly to Miss Taube. “You know you have no business to do this. She’s tight.”
“I love Wanda,” repeated Miss Taube good-naturedly.
“I don’t care. Please get out.”
In answer Wanda drew the girl close to her again, whereupon in a spasm of fury Francis opened the door, took her by the arm and before the girl understood his purpose deposited her in a sitting position on the curb.
“This is perfectly outrageous!” she cried.
“I should say it is!” he agreed, his voice trembling. A chasseur and several by-standers hurried up; Francis spoke to the driver and got into the cab quickly. The incident had wakened Wanda.
“Why did you do that?” she demanded. “I’ll have to go back.”
“Do you realize what she was doing?”
“Vivian’s a nice girl.”
“I don’t feel good.”
“What’s your address?”
She told him, and he sat back robbed and glowering. The sight of this almost legendary aberration in action had spoiled some great series of human facts for him, as it had when he had first become aware of its other face some years before. Better Hollywood’s bizarre variations on the normal, with George Collins on the phone ordering twelve beautiful girls for dinner, none over nineteen. He wanted to go back and kill that girl.
The cab stopped in front of a cluster of murky brown doors so alike that to be identified it seemed that hers must be counted off from the abutting blackness of an alley.
“Can you get in alone?”
“Maybe.” But getting from the cab she wobbled helplessly and he helped her to the door and up an ancient circular stairway to her apartment where he fumbled in her bag for the key.
It was one room in listless disorder, opening off a bathroom with a tin tub. The day bed was covered with a length of blue felt on which reversed letters of ravelled thread spelled out “Bryn Mawr—1924.” Wanda went into the bathroom without speaking and Francis opened a window which looked on a narrow and tubular court, grey as rats, but echoing at the moment to a plaintive and peculiar music. It was two men chanting in an unfamiliar language full of K’s and L’s—he leaned out but he could not see them; there was obviously a religious significance in the sounds, and tired and emotionless he let them pray for him too, but what for, save that he should never lose himself in the darkness of his own mind, he did not know. He felt no passion, only a lowering of his faculties—but they tightened with a nervous wrench of his heart at the sound of a pistol shot from the bathroom.
“Ah, my!” he gasped.
In a second he opened the door of the bathroom. Wanda faced him weakly with a small pistol wobbling in her hand. It was an old pistol for as he took it away from her a slice of pearl came off the handle and fell on the floor.
“What do you want to do?” he asked imperatively.
“I don’t know, I was just shooting it.”
She sat down on the water closet with a coquettish smile. Her eyes, glazed a few minutes since, were full of an impish malice.
“What’s the trouble? Are you in any trouble?”
“Nobody’s in trouble. Nothing’s trouble. Everybody is responsible for what they do.”
“You’re not, you’re tight.”
Any minute he expected a knocking at the door but perhaps from fear or indifference, nothing stirred in the house—even the singing in the areaway continued, sad as a flute, and moment by moment they were more alone in the flat.
“You’d better go to bed,” he said.
She laughed scornfully.
“Go to bed and lie there? What for?”
“Well—” he said, after considering unsuccessfully, “I don’t like to go away and leave you like this. Are you all right now?”
“Oh, get out!” she said unpleasantly. “Leave me my pistol.”
He took out the little shells and handed the gun to her, but at the look of childish craftiness in her eyes he took it back quickly.
“You’ve got more shells. Look here, you’re behaving like an idiot. What’s the matter—are you broke ?”
She shook her head.
“Just lousy with money.”
“Is it something about that girl?”
Her eyes narrowed defiantly.
“She’s a very nice girl. She’s been very good to me.”
“She wasn’t behaving very well tonight.”
“She’s very nice.” Suddenly she seemed to remember. “You were the one. You pulled her out of the cab into the public gutter. She’ll never forgive that,” she shook her head solemnly, “never—never. Got a cigarette?”
She leaned back comfortably against the waterpipe, as one enjoying the moment at leisure. Francis lit her a cigarette impatiently and waited. He was very tired but he was afraid to leave her alone, as much for himself as for her. At the moment he didn’t give a damn whether she killed herself or not because he was so tired, but her friends knew that he had taken her home and there was a concierge below.
“I’m pretty tired,” he said—unfortunately, because this gave her an advantage; she wasn’t tired; although her mind moved in a tedious half time like a slow moving picture her nerves were crowded with feverish traffic. She tried to think of some mischief.
“You were after me,” she said accusingly.
“What of it?”
She laughed sneeringly.
“I’ll go home—if you’ll tell me where the rest of the shells are and then hop into bed and get some sleep.”
“Oh, s . . . !” she cried, “You’ll tuck the baby in will you—you God damn old fool—you make me sick to my stomach.”
Half an hour passed. When he was silent she took her ease refusing to leave the bathroom. When he made a motion to go she woke like a watchdog, and held him there. He looked in the bureau for shells till she cried: “Let my things alone.” He thought of calling the concierge but that would be to arouse the house surely; dawn was filtering into the bedroom now, the singing had long ago ceased.
He hated her for entangling him in this sordidness—it was unbelievable that he had ever desired her, a hysterical Lesbian, keeping him there as if she had any possible right. He would have liked to hit her—but at the thought of her bruised in all this trouble of hers a complete revulsion of feeling went over him; he went and knelt beside her and put his arm about her shoulder.
“Poor little girl—what is it? Tell me. Are you busted or something, or have you gotten mixed up with those Lesbians?”
She broke down suddenly.
“Oh, no,” she cried, “I wanted to see if I could—sleep with you—I—”
Then as suddenly she was herself again.
“You can go now,” she said after a moment coldly.
“What are you going to do?”
“Going to sleep, what do you think I’m going to do—set myself on fire? Take the pistol if you want.”
She began taking off her dress.
Without looking at him she turned on the hot water in the wash basin, and looked at herself in the mirror.
Outside it was morning; he stopped at a workman’s bistro for a cup of coffee. “Good God, this is getting to be a hell of a world,” he thought. Now he remembered stories he had heard in California. It was all very depressing and it frightened him, as if someone he knew were being operated on. He wanted to see Seth and Dinah and he made up his mind on a savage impulse to tell the story to his mother. “God damn these women!” he thought.
A Note on “The World’s Fair” (printed with the story in the Autumn 1948 issue)
Fitzgerald’s story, “The World’s Fair,” belongs to the period following the completion of The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald sent Maxwell Perkins the manuscript of The Great Gatsby late in the fall of 1924, from the Riviera, though all through the winter in Rome he was rushing revisions to Scribner’s. By the time he and Zelda reached Capri, in February, he had a new novel planned and had begun writing it. In August he was far enough along to say: “Our Type is about several things, one of which is an intellectual murder on the Leopold-Loeb idea. Incidentally it is about Zelda and me and the hysteria of last May and June in Paris.” (To Maxwell Perkins, August 28, 1925.) For a variety of reasons too complicated to go into here, it was ten years before Fitzgerald actually completed a novel, and when he did so, it was very different from the one he began in 1925. He did not, however, give up Our Type until some time late in 1929. Meanwhile, as the novel grew, he experimented with other titles which suggest the ways the emphasis was shifting as he wrote. He first considered The Boy Who Killed His Mother in order to shift attention to the central action; then, as his interest apparently turned back to the Americans in Europe, World’s Fair.
This novel, or at least as much of it as we have (about twenty thousand words), is the story of a talented boy, Francis Melarky, who makes a success in Hollywood as a technician and then comes to the Riviera with his mother for a vacation; his father is serving a long prison term, apparently for some crime of violence. There is a suggestion that Francis has inherited a murderous temper. His mother is strongly possessive and there is bad feeling between her and Francis from the beginning. It is quite clear that Fitzgerald intended to have Francis kill his mother later in the book—a year after it was begun he was asking Perkins to find out for him “what is done if one American murders another in France.” The four long chapters of the novel which have been preserved are mainly concerned with Francis’ arrival on the Riviera, his acquaintance with the Seth Pipers (the Divers of this book), a duel similar to the one in Tender Is the Night, and a trip to Paris with the Pipers to see Abe Grant (Abe North) off to America. Many of the details and a number of the scenes from these chapters were, much revised, used in Tender Is The Night, though by the time Francis became Rosemary Hoyt, and Seth and Dinah Piper Dick and Nicole Diver, Fitzgerald’s conceptions of the characters as well as his plan for the action of the novel had changed drastically.
Perhaps the most striking difference between Our Type and Tender Is the Night is that in the former Francis (Rosemary) is the central figure, identified in his deepest feelings, as are all Fitzgerald’s central characters, with Fitzgerald himself. This original intention, with the special interest it gave Francis, probably has something to do with the way Rosemary’s point of view is, for the purposes of that novel, over-emphasized in Tender Is the Night. With Francis at the center of the book, the Pipers become peripheral characters, and, because Fitzgerald is not seeing the Seth Piper-Dick Diver character as a version of himself (“my comparatively good brother,” as he wrote in his Notebooks), he is very differently conceived.
This difference in the novel’s focal point, and the shifts in values which result, can perhaps best be suggested by a short scene between Francis and Abe Grant, which takes place early in the morning of Abe’s sailing. Francis and Abe have been up all night on a party and now, with the narrator, have arrived at the Ritz Bar for coffee.
They were talking. They were tall fine looking men, neither of them themselves just now. They shouldn’t have been there just talking—Abe should have had all this behind him, and Francis should have been off sleeping with some girl. There was some other element at work in each of them, besides liquor. They were like two people about to explode. The liquor was comparatively harmless save in its culminative effect—anyhow, there they were, two very vital, very masculine men with an apparently irresistible impulse to waste themselves, dissipate their time and forces on nothing—certainly not on pleasure, for neither of them was having a good time.
“Seth and Dinah are the two most attractive people I ever met in my life,” Francis declared. “It seems to bother you when I say that.”
“Not at all—but you can’t expect me to share your enthusiasm at my time of life. I used to have friends—dozens of dear devoted friends, but as a matter of fact, friends hell. Friends are people who never let you off anything. The thing is to have sycophants.”
“I suppose that’s another crack at the Pipers. I suppose I’m a svcophant. —Well, let it go at that, but I don’t feel like a sycophant. When people are so unselfish about things as the Pipers you don’t feel like—”
“No, you’re wrong there,” said Abe. “What Seth does hasn’t anything to do with selfishness or unselfishness. But he found out very young how bad selfishness looks.”
“You hate him, don’t you,” said Francis.
“No. I never hate anybody—except, of course, Mary.”
“Look here,” said Francis eagerly, “I don’t see how you can reconcile your ideas about the Pipers—”
“I thought there were two Pipers.”
“—about Seth then, with the fact that he gives so much and asks so little except to make people happy. It’s there—take it or leave it, but you can’t accept all that—that niceness about everything and then go and sneer at it.”
This was hardly fair to Abe who was being forced into a corner by Francis’ aggressiveness.
“Young man, don’t get the idea that Seth asks so little. He’s lived all his life on better minds than himself. There’s not an idea or an attitude of his that you can’t trace to somebody or something—the St. Marks School-Harvard-Porcellian attitude, Legendre the painter, and Parkinson, the works of Coué which is probably the only book he ever read, my ideas about music until somebody put him on to Antheil.”
“What of it? He can talk to anybody about their business and make them believe he knows as much about it as they do. As a matter of fact I think his ideas about moving pictures are pretty damned interesting.”
“Young man, you’re just fascinated, that’s all.”
“Hell !” said Francis disgustedly.
“Well, what about a little beer or something—I can’t go to bed now because the boat train leaves in three hours.”
But Francis and I were done and leaving him sitting talking to Frank we went back to our respective hotels.
No such doubts as these are ever allowed to affect our attitude toward the Divers, though there is some evidence that Fitzgerald was using Rosemary’s youth and naivety deliberately, as a device which allowed him to present the Divers, as at the dinner where Rosemary first sees them in action, in a more brilliant and glamorous light than he could have allowed himself had he presented them directly. Nonetheless, Tender Is the Night, as Fitzgerald’s original sketch for it says, is a novel “in which the leisure class are at their truly most brilliant and glamorous”; and the Divers are its quintessence. Their success, their brilliance, must not be questioned, however much the value of what they achieve may be. But the purpose of the scene I have just quoted from Our Type is to give the reader a free choice between Abe’s view of the Pipers and Francis’.
Moreover, we are given, in the novel as a whole, a clear suggestion that under the influence of the world of which the Pipers are the masters Francis is gradually going to pieces, “wasting [himself], dissipating [his] time and forces on nothing.” This view of him should be compared with the moment in the first chapter where, after a session in the studio like Rosemary’s (Tender Is the Night, Chapter V), Francis is shown evoking “an old, familiar, half-forgotten thought about being a better man, about being perfect inside and out. . . . As usual the very thought of such perfection crystallized Francis’ vitality into an ecstasy of ambition. He had not felt this way in six months abroad. . . . He felt now as he had at times in California, that he was probably a first-rate man.” Because Francis’ wasting of himself is the main point of Our Type, and because it is a very different kind of wasting from Dick Diver’s, Abe is also treated differently. Abe’s motive in the conversation I have just quoted is glanced at in the sentence: “This was hardly fair to Abe who was being forced into a corner by Francis’ aggressiveness,” and in Abe’s “I thought there were two Pipers”; and it is implicit throughout the scene. It is that Abe has been in love with Dinah Piper for years. This motive comes out very clearly in the scene at the Gare Saint-Lazare which follows almost immediately in Our Type. In the comparable scene in Tender Is the Night (Chapter XIX), Abe’s love for Nicole is given only part of a sentence (“. . . and he had been heavy, belly-frightened, with love for her for years”), for in that book Fitzgerald wants no external motive for Abe’s disintegration. He is a case of “emotional bankruptcy” as Fitzgerald called it, an advanced case of the exhaustion of purpose which we watch developing in Dick Diver throughout the novel. But in Our Type he is rather an advanced case of the different kind of disintegration that will presently occur in Francis and, as “World’s Fair” shows, being in love with Dinah is an important part of that disease.
These things help, I hope, to show the wider implications this section of the novel would have had in the larger context of the completed book. What is printed here is the last section Fitzgerald completed before he dropped this version of the story—or at least it is the last that has been preserved. Except for the Notebooks, into which he transcribed several passages from this manuscript when he discarded it, only a few phrases from this section appear elsewhere in his work, for there are no scenes comparable to these in Tender Is the Night.