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JTS columns from the Guardian newspaper

21. Thank You, Scott Fitzgerald

Fergit wot did dept: Sunday three
men in a basket dropped out of the sky into our picnic, bounced a couple of times across a field then spent an hour fighting the billowing dragon of a hot-air balloon watched by a silent crowd of cows. Monday it rained and the ducks came up from the pond with their sinister smiles walking the heath paths in single file and gobbling up the little new bees that had come out of their holes in Sunday's warmth and couldn't get back.

"You can understand Jack not getting on with Niloufer," said Therese on Tuesday in the kitchen. "They're too much alike. Poetic, creative, artistic" - she nearly said cultured but caught my eye. Some old wildly inaccurate speech that had been fermenting away. "Aye," Ellie kept saying, one eyebrow up in that brooding, Ben Turpin slow burn, peeling green potatoes with a dagger. Your real poet jibs at this kind of talk.

Maggie and Ellie, I thought on Wednesday, in case you wondered about their common denominator, can both tell shit from sugar. The difference between artists and people who art co
mes up through the soles of your grubby little feet in places like Burwell, Larkhall and Ryhope. And The Five Towns.

"Arnold Bennett died last night," Virginia Woolf noted in her diary, "which leaves
me sadder than I should have supposed. A loveable, genuine man; impeded somehow a little awkward in life; well-meaning; ponderous; kindly; coarse; knowing he was coarse; dimly floundering and feeling for something else; glutted with success; wounded in his feelings; avid; thick-lipped; prosaic intolerably; rather dignified; set upon writing, yet always taken in; deluded by splendour and success; but nave; an old bore; an egotist; much at the mercy of life for all his competence; a shopkeeper's view of literature..."

Cloth caps take decades to distil into something drinkable at college hall. Arriving today, Willia
m Shakespeare and John Clare would pass unnoticed by The Old Bull and Bush (thick with the New College of Speech and Drama) and on to the BBC where Robin or Dania would, unerringly, whip them both into "The Archers".

I don't know how other people
manage these diaries but everything else has got to happen during the night to meet the week's deadline. Whistle and ride, I like folk who are intent upon their own thing and haven't got much time for you and get your name wrong for they're less likely to glue around demanding bits of your mind and time. "I can always talk to you," they say. I know you can, darling. You look at some people and you see about six others, names and places and tortuous situations on their backs like a long-running series in search of the one-armed man. Usually they assume they have rescued you from boredom and anguish.

"Run out of ideas? It does you good to have a rest. You know Cyril?" Or: "They tell you roughly what to write, do they?" Dreary misconceptions come out of colleges and groups or any place where the half-blown poppy is dissected, ideas and techniques "exchanged" - however one exchanges fingerprints or intention to rape Miss Russell.

Books are better than people. Your mind can wander through books without giving offence.

"There must have been moments even that afternoon when Maggie tumbled short of his dreams - not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond Maggie, beyond Brussels, beyond the sanity of a million screaming readers. Jack had thrown himself into it with a creative passion, adding to it all the ti
me, decking it out with every bright feather that drifted his way..."

Thank you Scott Fitzgerald, thank you Nick Carroway, thank you Daisy and Jay Gatsby and all those yearning years of their separation and all the cold reality of their eventual abortive reunion. I tell you what - where's Cyril?

(The Guardian, Saturday 5 May 1973)


Jack Trevor Story's texts copyright   the estate of Jack Trevor Story 2002. Not for reproduction. Copyright in all work by Jack Trevor Story is the property of the author's heirs. Permission for use of this material can be obtained through Jackie Edwards (Story), Peter Story, Lee Story or Michael Moorcock. Reproduction of copyright material whether in text, visual or audio form by unauthorised sources strictly forbidden.


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