F. Scott Fitzgerald
Quotations


Everybody’s youth is a dream, a form of chemical madness.

Everyone suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues.

Family quarrels are bitter things. They don't go according to any rules. They're not like aches or wounds; they're more like splits in the skin that won't heal because there's not enough material.

For a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.

For a while after you quit Keats all other poetry seems to be only whistling or humming.

How strange to have failed as a social creature—even criminals do not fail that way—they are the law’s “Loyal Opposition,” so to speak. But the insane are always mere guests on earth, eternal strangers carrying around broken decalogues that they cannot read.

I am not a great man, but sometimes I think the impersonal and objective equality of my talent and the sacrifices of it, in pieces, to preserve its essential value has some sort of epic grandeur.

I hate the place like poison with a sincere hatred.

I have asked a lot of my emotions—one hundred and twenty stories. The price was high, right up with Kipling, because there was one little drop of something, not blood, not a tear, not my seed, but me more intimately than these, in every story, it was the extra I had. Now it has gone and I am just like you now.

I hear you [Hemingway] were seen running through Portugal in used B.V.D.s’, chewing ground glass and collecting material for a story about boule players; that you were publicity man for Lindbergh; that you have finished a novel a hundred thousand words long consisting entirely of the word “balls” used in new groupings; that you have been naturalized a Spaniard, dress always in a wine-skin with “zipper” vent and are engaged in bootlegging Spanish Fly between St. Sebastian and Biarritz where your agents sprinkle it on the floor of the Casino. I hope I have been misinformed but, alas!, it all has too true a ring.

I like people and I like them to like me, but I wear my heart where God put it—on the inside.

I talk with the authority of failure—Ernest with the authority of success. We could never sit across the same table again.

I’m a romantic—a sentimental person thinks things will last—a romantic person hopes against hope that they won’t.

In a few days I’ll have lived one score and three days in this vale of tears. On I plod—always bored, often drunk, doing no penance for my faults—rather do I become more tolerant of myself from day to day, hardening my crystal heart with blasphemous humor and shunning only toothpicks, pathos, and poverty as being the three unforgivable things in life.

In a real dark night of the soul it is always three o'clock in the morning, day after day.

Isn’t Hollywood a dump—in the human sense of the word. A hideous town, pointed up by the insulting gardens of its rich, full of the human spirit at a new low of debasement.

It is in the thirties that we want friends. In the forties we know they won't save us any more than love did.

It is sadder to find the past again and find it inadequate to the present than it is to have it elude you and remain forever a harmonious conception of memory.

It occurred to me that there was no difference between men, in intelligence or race, so profound as the difference between the sick and the well.

It's a great advantage not to drink among hard-drinking people. You can hold your tongue and, moreover, you can time any little irregularity of your own so that everybody else is so blind that they don't see or care.

It’s a mining town in lotus land.

It's not a slam at you when people are rude—it's a slam at the people they've met before.

I’ve been drunk for about a week now, and I thought it might sober me up to sit in a library.

I’ve given parties that have made Indian rajahs green with envy. I’ve had prima donnas break $10,000 engagements to come to my smallest dinners. When you were still playing button back in Ohio, I entertained on a cruising trip that was so much fun that I had to sink my yacht to make my guests go home.

I’ve noticed that the children of other nations always seem precocious. That’s because the strange manners of their elders have caught our attention most and the children echo those manners enough to seem like their parents.

Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are. They are different.

Life is essentially a cheat and its conditions are those of defeat . . . the redeeming things are not “happiness and pleasure” but the deeper satisfactions that come out of struggle.

Listen, little Elia: draw your chair up close to the edge of the precipice and I’ll tell you a story.

Looking back over a decade one sees the ideal of a university become a myth, a vision, a meadow lark among the smoke stacks. Yet perhaps it is there at Princeton, only more elusive than under the skies of the Prussian Rhineland or Oxfordshire; or perhaps some men come upon it suddenly and possess it, while others wander forever outside. Even these seek in vain through middle age for any corner of the republic that preserves so much of what is fair, gracious, charming and honorable in American life.

Men get to be a mixture of the charming mannerisms of the women they have known.

Mostly, we authors must repeat ourselves—that's the truth. We have two or three great moving experiences in our lives—experiences so great and moving that it doesn't seem at the time that anyone else has been so caught up and pounded and dazzled and astonished and beaten and broken and rescued and illuminated and rewarded and humbled in just that way ever before.

My generation of radicals and breakers-down never found anything to take the place of the old virtues of work and courage and the old graces of courtesy and politeness.

My idea is always to reach my generation. The wise writer . . . writes for the youth of his own generation, the critics of the next, and the schoolmasters of ever afterward.

No decent career was ever founded on a public.

No grand idea was ever born in a conference, but a lot of foolish ideas have died there.

No such thing as a man willing to be honest—that would be like a blind man willing to see.

Of all natural forces, vitality is the incommunicable one. . . . Vitality never “takes.” You have it or you haven’t it, like health or brown eyes or a baritone voice.

Often I think writing is a sheer paring away of oneself leaving always something thinner, barer, more meager.

Once one is caught up into the material world not one person in ten thousand finds the time to form literary taste, to examine the validity of philosophic concepts for himself, or to form what, for lack of a better phrase, I might call the wise and tragic sense of life.

One of those men who reach such an acute limited excellence at twenty-one that everything afterward savors of anti-climax.

One writes of scars healed, a loose parallel to the pathology of the skin, but there is no such thing in the life of an individual. There are open wounds, shrunk sometimes to the size of a pin-prick but wounds still. The marks of suffering are more comparable to the loss of a finger, or the sight of an eye. We may not miss them, either, for one minute in a year, but if we should there is nothing to be done about it.

She had once been a Catholic, but discovering that priests were infinitely more attentive when she was in the process of losing or regaining faith in Mother Church, she maintained an enchantingly wavering attitude.

Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy.

Some men have a necessity to be mean, as if they were exercising a faculty which they had to partially neglect since early childhood.

Sometimes I think that idlers seem to be a special class for whom nothing can be planned, plead as one will with them—their only contribution to the human family is to warm a seat at the common table.

Speech is an arrangement of notes that will never be played again.

Switzerland is a country where very few things begin, but many things end.

The best of America drifts to Paris. The American in Paris is the best American. It is more fun for an intelligent person to live in an intelligent country. France has the only two things toward which we drift as we grow older—intelligence and good manners.

The compensation of a very early success is a conviction that life is a romantic matter. In the best sense one stays young.

The purpose of a work of fiction is to appeal to the lingering after-effects in the reader's mind as differing from, say, the purpose of oratory or philosophy which respectively leave people in a fighting or thoughtful mood.

The rhythm of the weekend, with its birth, its planned gaieties, and its announced end, followed the rhythm of life and was a substitute for it.

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.

The world, as a rule, does not live on beaches and in country clubs.

There are no second acts in American lives.

There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy, and the tired.

There never was a good biography of a good novelist. There couldn't be. He is too many people, if he's any good.

There used to be two kinds of kisses. First when girls were kissed and deserted; second, when they were engaged. Now there’s a third kind, where the man is kissed and deserted. If Mr. Jones of the nineties bragged he’d kissed a girl, everyone knew he was through with her. If Mr. Jones of 1919 brags the same everyone knows it’s because he can’t kiss her any more. Given a decent start any girl can beat a man nowadays.

Thirty—the promise of a decade of loneliness, a thinning list of single men to know, a thinning brief-case of enthusiasm, thinning hair.

Though the Jazz Age continued it became less and less an affair of youth. The sequel was like a children’s party taken over by the elders.

To a profound pessimist about life, being in danger is not depressing.

To write it, it took three months; to conceive it—three minutes; to collect the data in it—all my life.

Trouble has no necessary connection with discouragement—discouragement has a germ of its own, as different from trouble as arthritis is different from a stiff joint.

Vitality shows in not only the ability to persist but the ability to start over.

What’ll we do with ourselves this afternoon? And the day after that, and the next thirty years?

When he urinated, it sounded like night prayer.

When people are taken out of their depths they lose their heads, no matter how charming a bluff they may put up.

When the first-rate author wants an exquisite heroine or a lovely morning, he finds that all the superlatives have been worn shoddy by his inferiors. It should be a rule that bad writers must start with plain heroines and ordinary mornings, and, if they are able, work up to something better.

Writers aren't people exactly. Or, if they're any good, they're a whole lot of people trying so hard to be one person. It's like actors, who try so pathetically not to look in mirrors. Who lean backward trying—only to see their faces in the reflecting chandeliers.

You can stroke people with words.

Young people do not perceive at once that the giver of wounds is the enemy and the quoted tattle merely the arrow.

When people are taken out of their depths they lose their heads, no matter how charming a bluff they may put up.

Mostly, we authors must repeat ourselves--that's the truth. We have two or three great moving experiences in our lives--experiences so great and moving that it doesn't seem at the time that anyone else has been so caught up and pounded and dazzled and astonished and beaten and broken and rescued and illuminated and rewarded and humbled in just that way ever before.

Action is character.

Boredom is not an end-product, is comparatively rather an early stage in life and art. You've got to go by or past or through boredom, as through a filter, before the clear product emerges.

Vitality shows in not only the ability to persist but the ability to start over.

Writers aren't people exactly. Or, if they're any good, they're a whole lot of people trying so hard to be one person. It's like actors, who try so pathetically not to look in mirrors. Who lean backward trying--only to see their faces in the reflecting chandeliers.

When the first-rate author wants an exquisite heroine or a lovely morning, he finds that all the superlatives have been worn shoddy by his inferiors. It should be a rule that bad writers must start with plain heroines and ordinary mornings, and, if they are able, work up to something better.

The purpose of a work of fiction is to appeal to the lingering after-effects in the reader's mind as differing from, say, the purpose of oratory or philosophy which respectively leave people in a fighting or thoughtful mood.

There never was a good biography of a good novelist. There couldn't be. He is too many people, if he's any good.

Genius goes around the world in its youth incessantly apologizing for having large feet. What wonder that later in life it should be inclined to raise those feet too swiftly to fools and bores.

It is in the thirties that we want friends. In the forties we know they won't save us any more than love did.

There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy, and the tired.



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