Vol. 17 No. 1 1950 - page 15

The tragedies of life, she reflected, were either ridiculous or sordid. The
only way to get the sense of this absurd, contradictory, and perverse
existence into a book was to withdraw entirely from reality....
On n'ap-
prend qu'en s'amusant,
according to Sylvestre Bonnard.... She mentally
decided that Hilaire Belloc's
The Mercy of Allah
gave a better picture
of a modern millionaire, because the book was good humored, . . .
than the more solemn performances of W. L. George ... and Theodore
Dreiser. ...
was this same lack of humor, this sentimental adherence to
a rigid point of view which in her eyes spoiled Three Soldiers.... An
attempt to trump up tears for the victims would always fail with a so–
phisticated audience, but when ridicule was aimed at the real offender,
modern democracy or the church, a sense of tragic irony ensued. Some–
thing might even happen, although she was extremely dubious about this.
On n'apprend qu'en s'amusant;
practically this meant for the
twenties parties, and for a few years- until people began to say, like
Dick Diver, "so much fun- so long ago"-life was for them a nearly
continuous party. "Party," said "Topics of the Times," has "come
to mean a gathering of persons who can have a 'good time' only when
highly stimulated by strong waters" and suggested to its readers that
they study "that remarkable book"
The Beautiful and Damned
they wished to understand the nature of tliese affairs. And Zelda wrote
later of this period:
"We're having some people," everybody said to everybody else, "and
we want you to join us," and they said, "We'll telephone."
All over New York p ople telephoned. They telephoned from one
hotel to
to people on other parties that they couldn't get there–
that they were engaged. It was always tea-time or late at night.
. . . Up they went, humming the New Testament and Our Country's
Constitution, riding the tide like triumphant islanders on a surf board.
Nobody knew the words to "The Star-Spangled Banner."
At the middle of this whirl of parties, incredibly inexperienced,
dazzled, and-incredibly too-dazzling, stood the Fitzgeralds. The
boy from Minnesota who, as he said himself, "knew less of New
York than any hall-room boy in a Ritz stag line," and the local beauty
from Montgomery, Alabama, were key figures in New York. They
lived in a world in which, they were naive enough to believe, the
only worth-while possessions were romance and thrills-both of which
could be bought on a roof-garden in New York if you just had enough
money. "So I go in with my purse full of beauty and money and
youth," says Rags Martin-Jones, "all prepared to buy. 'What have
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