As a writer, there are some people that I admire more than others. Of course, almost everybody has their favorites. F. Scott Fitzgerald is one of mine. I love The Great Gatsby, as many people do, but I really love his short stories. Much of this is probably because he writes very good ones and I, alas, do not. “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz” is perhaps my top pick. So because I love Fitzgerald, and because I took a course on him in college, I have a fat collection of his short stories around. When I finished the movie version of “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,”* I immediately picked up that collection and read the original story. For the record, it’s nothing like the movie, but much funnier and less sentimental.
What caught me, in this story, was a single line, one that reminded me why I find him such a fine writer to begin with.
“Never a party of any kind in the city of Baltimore but he was there, dancing with the prettiest of the young married women, chatting with the most popular of the debutantes, and finding their company charming, while his wife, a dowager of evil omen, sat among the chaperons, now in haughty disapproval, and now following him with solemn, puzzled, and reproachful eyes.”
“A dowager of evil omen”: That’s a tiny snip of a fat line that crackles with perfection. It even sounds just like it means. I read things like this and admire, ponder, and sigh, hoping only that one day I can come up with a line that’s just that smart, even if I’m prepared to never be on par with Fitzgerald himself.
*Yes, that movie came out forever ago. To be honest, that collection of stories has sat on my desk for maybe six months waiting for me to write this blog post and then put it away. I figured it was now or never, since it will shortly be packed with all my other belongings and moved to the new house. But more on that later…