Vol. 17 No. 1 1950 - page 27

tion of support, is fantastic. By any reasonable standards his writing,
even without the trash, had supported him more than adequately up
to this time; omitting what he got for everything that might be
thought trash, he had averaged somewhere between $16,000 and
$17,000 a year. This calculation includes only his books and the
six best short stories he had so far written; his total income for 1920
to 1924 inclusive was $112,934, an average of $22,500 a year. To
argue that an income of this order does not constitute "support" is
absurd, and in a way Fitzgerald knew it. "I can't stand this financial
insecurity ... I had my chance back in 1920 to start my life on a
sensible scale and lost it and so I'll have to pay the penalty.... Yours
in great depression." Again, objectively speaking, this is absurd. For
one thing, a man who intends to be a serious writer in the contem–
porary world knows well enough that he will be lucky to average
quarter of Fitzgerald's income over a lifetime; for another, it is hard
to believe anyone could be so enslaved by extravagance that he would
have to sacrifice his whole serious career to it, especially when he
a man-as Fitzgerald was-powerfully driven to succeed in that career
and at the same time tortured-as again Fitzgerald was-by debt.
The answer, such as it is, to this absurdity lies in Fitzgerald's
deep-seated imaginative involvement with wealth and in the way
Zelda's habitual extravagence and her devotion to "airing the desire
for unadulterated gaiety"-always an expensive business-re-enforced
its effect. It was difficulty enough that Fitzgerald's imagination drove
him to try always to live like a man of inherited wealth and that
Zelda's extravagance and their abysmal inefficiency always made
such a life cost much more than it needed to. It was much worse that,
until tragedy struck them, they sought restlessly for that ideal "or–
giastic future" that haunted Gatsby's imagination. It made any fin–
ancial solution whatever completely impossible that, whatever Fitz–
gerald's income, they always increased their scale of living in anticipa–
tion of it in such a way as to outrun it. Fitzgerald's imagination
grasped the meaning of all these things with its usual completeness.
No one will ever improve on Gatsby's attempt to imitate the life of in–
herited wealth or his devotion to the "orgiastic future" as a com–
mentary on the Fitzgeralds' life. Fitzgerald saw their inefficiency as
the newly rich quite as clearly and made a joke of it in "How to Live
on $36,000
Year." But
imagination could realize and evaluate
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