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On Booze Paperback – 24 May 2012
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F. Scott Fitzgerald. paperback. Pub Date: 2012 Pages: 112 Publisher: Picador A Charming Collection of F. Scott Fitzgerald's best writing about drink - a most intoxicating read! First you take a drink. once noted. then the drink takes a drink. then the drink takes you. Fitzgerald wrote alcohol into almost every one of his stories. On Booze gathers debutantes and dandies. rowdy jazz musicians. lost children and ragtime riff-raff into a newly compiled collection taken from The Crack-Up. and other works. On Booze portrays The Jazz Age as Fitzgerald experienced it: roaring. rambunctious. and lush - with quite a hangover.
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I have now read the book (something I suspect the blurb-writer did not do) and I find the snappy New Directions marketing on the back cover to be somewhat misleading. Yes, most of the excerpts relate in some way - some explicitly, others tenuously - to Fitzgerald and alcohol, but the book as a whole is far from being a "drunken debauchery". The best parts of it reflect Fitzgerald's unease with his world - the sorts of things that CAUSED his drinking - rather than the drinking itself or the aftermath. The book is a far cry from "Everyday Drinking" by Kingsley Amis, which truly is a compendium devoted to booze and hangovers.
Two of the pieces are superb. "The Crack-Up" is a retrospective psychological/existential self-assessment from the first part of 1936. It contains some brilliant writing, of the sort that engenders dropped jaws, heart palpitations, and sheer envy. "My Lost City" is a world-weary look back on the New York City of the Jazz Age and Fitzgerald's exuberant youth. Two other pieces - "Show Mr. and Mrs. F. to Number -----" (highlights and lowlights from Scott and Zelda's stays in hotels around the world) and "Sleeping and Waking" (about insomnia) - are worthwhile, though not special.
Since all of the contents of ON BOOZE are taken from "The Crack-Up", and since "The Crack-Up" can be purchased from Amazon for about two dollars more, my recommendation would be to skip ON BOOZE and purchase "The Crack-Up."
The real point of ON BOOZE is for Fitzgerald to bore us to tears with writing that reveals why, despite one American classic to his name, he was so often a failure as a writer during his lifetime. Perhaps the title is actually a suggestion to the reader to imbibe beforehand so that at least he can pretend that these stories hold some literary value.
Save your time, save your money. Go watch Robert Redford or Leonardo diCaprio instead.