I started off the morning like I’ve done several May 1st’s before — by reading “May Day” by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It never ceases to amaze me how that story contains the seeds of what would become The Great Gatsby. There are similar characters, similar ideas, even a whole scene (or snippet of a scene) that was almost pulled directly from the short story and added to the novel.
After today’s reading, I poked around a bit to learn about it, and was surprised to learn that it was based on some real events — the May Day of 1919 marches that became the launching pad for what would become known as “The First Red Scare”. (I’m sure we must have talked about this in university, but I don’t remember if we did…) After the Russian Revolution less that two years before, the US government had some real concerns about a similar movement happening there too. There were actually some fairly sophisticated parcel bombs going off around the country, including several that all went off at roughly the same time in different locations across the country. I guess it was a fairly poignant moment in US history — look it up, if you are at all interested in historical stuff like that. Although I didn’t get too deep into it, I would assume this is why Labour Day is in September in North America, rather than May 1 as it is in most of the world — to disassociate from the “red” connotations.
What is most important about this story, I think, is Fitzgerald’s own ideas about it. He mentions that May Day 1919 and the Red Scare marks the beginning of the Jazz Age in his mind (a phrase he coined, BTW). He says it is a story about three things that happened to him, including working at a New York ad agency. If you read the story (and you can for free legally — download Tales of the Jazz Age for your Kindle and other formats here) you can see some of the dark thoughts he might have been having.
Anyway, many people believe that this is the best short story he ever wrote — and he wrote a lot. (Personally, I like “Babylon Revisited” maybe slightly better…) But he was worried he might have missed the mark. Hey, that’s his prerogative, right? Only he knows what he was going for when he wrote it…
I also found a new blog about Fitzgerald, so that was cool: http://fitzgeraldmusings.blogspot.com/
In any case, after reading that short story (novella? — it’s over 17,000 words…) I tucked into my own novel, as I promised myself I would today. Once again, I started from the beginning. This was a conscious decision. I felt I had to add a few plot elements that were missing, and I wanted to crank up the tension a bit in certain places. Ostensibly I also wanted to cut some word count out, but I didn’t do much of that in the end.
However I am happy to say that I like the quality of the writing. I’m not sure what other people will think of it, but I have to believe that if I like it, somebody else is bound to like it too. We shall see soon enough, I think.
I put a solid three hours in today or so — very nice to be able to take that time. I think I’ve said this before, but it still amazes me how much I get excited at the prospect of writing it still. One of my greatest fears when I started this was that it would get boring or — worse — work-like after a while.
But no, it’s still extremely enjoyable. I was floating around this morning in that writing euphoria I sometimes get, straddling the divide between real world and fantasy. It’s almost like being drunk, isn’t it? Or maybe like meditating — I’ve never tried that before, though I’ve heard about it and can imagine the similarities. Anyone out there done both? Is that writing “fog” the same as going into deep meditation?
I do have a long way to go with the novel, and I’m not kidding myself there. At first I was hoping I’d have a reading copy available by the end of the summer. But I’m a little behind schedule right now, so I’m not sure if that’s going to happen. I’m still shooting for it, mind you. I’ll see how it goes.