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-J^. Fitzgerald vs. Fitzgerald: * "An Alcoholic Case" George Monteiro "An Alcoholic Case" was written in December 1936 and published shortly thereafter in the February 1937 issue of Esquire. Deceptively brief and written in as flat a style as Fitzgerald was able to bring off, this story remained uncollected until 1951 when Malcolm Cowley included it in his selection of the short stories. Even Cowley's insistence that "An Alcoholic Case" belonged among those 1930s stories, the best of which were so close to the author's "personal tragedy that the emotion is in the events themselves , which have merely to be stated in the barest language," along with his pointed observation that in this story Fitzgerald has suggested "his own dilemma, unforgettably," was not enough to summon most critics to the story.1 There has been an exception or two, of course, but in the main the story has been ignored.2 Perhaps the rather obvious ways in which Fitzgerald drew upon his own experience in the mid-1930s has put off the critics. Perhaps they have not been interested in the not so obvious means by which he tried to distance himself from those painful materials. Admittedly , this story can serve as a document to the biographer; but that use should not discourage us from seeing the ways in which it works as a fully realized story in its own right. Having said this, however, I should like to begin by looking at some of the story's biographical background. There is a long logic beneath "An Alcoholic Case" (to adopt Emerson's language), beginning with those "de profundis" essays Fitzgerald wrote for Esquire mainly in 1936, the year he wrote "An Alcoholic Case." Starting with "Sleeping and Waking" (December 1934) and running through, in 1936, "Pasting It Together" (March), "Handle with Care" (April), and "Afternoon of an Author" (August), Fitzgerald, in rather short order, exhausted virtually all the personal material he had on hand. Working in the genre of autobiography and seemingly in the confessional mode, he told a story of personal breakdown and insidious acedia. The performance, more or less in monthly installments , bothered his friends. Hemingway chastised him at the time and, judging that since Fitzgerald had himself taken Fitzgerald as quarry. Literature and Medicine 6 (1987) 110-116 © 1987 by The Johns Hopkins University Press George Monteiro IH immediately took his own aim at the wounded beast in "The Snows of Kilimanjaro." John Dos Passos wrote to Fitzgerald at die time, insisting that he wanted to see him "to argue about your Esquire articles — ... if you want to go to pieces I think it's absolutely O.K. but I think you ought to write a first rate novel about it (and you probably will) instead of spilling it in litde pieces for Arnold Gingrich," his editor at Esquire.3 Harsh as Hemingway's words and Dos Passos's letter were to Fitzgerald, his pieces in Esquire would lead to an even more damaging put-down, particularly because it was done publicly in one of the New York newspapers. On 25 September 1936, the New York Post published what purported to be an interview with Fitzgerald, conducted in Asheville, North Carolina, where Fitzgerald was staying at the Grove Park Inn.4 He was then, as die interview reveals, under the daily care of a nurse. Fitzgerald would complain diat diis hatchet job was not true to the interview he had given Michel Mok but reflected largely details the interviewer had extrapolated from the now so-called "crack-up essays," recently published in Esquire. He was right, of course, but there are things in this damaging interview that did not come from the essays. There was mention of die shoulder injury he had suffered only weeks earlier in a dive into a swimming pool, and there were comments about Zelda's illness and attempted suicide. Obviously, these matters were enough to upset Fitzgerald. But there was something else. The interview revealed that Fitzgerald was himself ill and that his illness was at least in part alcoholism, hardly the result of his diving injury. "But whatever pain the fracture might still cause him," decided the interviewer , it...


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pp. 110-116
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