Friday, October 3, 2014

F.Scott Fitzgerald, Edith Wharton,Evelyn Waugh: Apocalypse Now!

'What fresh Hell is this?'  - D.Parker

Many people feel, and rightly so, that the current 21st century is the beginning of the Apocalypse.  Lots of people are 'prepping' for the endgame.  There is much concern over the world view - global politics, global economics, global warming... All very dire and very urgent.

I have done some research and deduced from said research that the 'beginning of the end' actually started at the outset of the 20th century.  My extensive research involving novels and short stories from such authors as Fitzgerald, Wharton and Waugh.

Edith Wharton is especially important because she gives us an incredibly personal and  detailed account of the daily lives and habits of the old ruling New York 'Society' of which she was actually a member ( and a wonderfully gifted writer!).  We get a glimpse of the routine and lifestyle of the very structured and solid and seemingly permanent elite class of Americans who got caught in the early 1900s with their proverbial pants down by the new and unpredictable 'youth movement' that in very little time erased all that was meaningful and holy to these refined and tasteful clans.

- It is worth mentioning that the 'Jazz Age' was accompanied by a distinct interest in and frequent use of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, cocaine and heroin.

What looks to us now as fun times, fashion and carefree spirits was actually in many cases a very speedy decline into hospital, a 'long rest' with 'relatives' in 'Italy' or a quiet family funeral.  The times were 'fast' and so was the damage.  Lost fortunes, unwanted pregnancies, dis-inherited socialites... Very messy.  F. Scott Fitzgerald favors these kinds of stories.  ( and yes, the coats and hats are amazing!)
We can relate to this narcissistic escapism and extremely reckless behavior of the 'bright young things' because teens and college kids have never stopped behaving this way.  It started then.  And why it started is what concerns me, or rather confuses me.  Also, that it won over very established, very old traditions.  That confounds me.  How did these young drug addicts and malcontents manage to usurp authority?  And why does 'youth culture' remain so powerful...

It seems to rest with disillusionment.  Certainly the 'Big War' had a sobering yet literally inebriating effect on the Euro youth.  I can understand the backlash.  But America was little affected by the war.  We entered late and it was over there.  But we did have the nightmare of Prohibition.  I think Prohibition was one of the worst things to happen to this country.  It created the 'Scofflaws'.  A huge majority of city dwellers who basically scoffed at a law they felt was ridiculous and consequently willingly became law breakers.  This in itself was very damaging.  And probably added to the f--- you behavior of the young flapper crowd.

Before Prohibition women weren't allowed in 'saloons'.  Nor were they ever seen smoking in public.  These behaviors were seen as vulgar and unseemly but in the face of a law that blatantly gives the government the right to dictate morals it seemed the right kind of action.  The wild partying and promiscuous clothing just sort of followed along that law breaking vein.

Next thing you know the 'Selfie' generation was born.  Hollywood stars and movie magazines as well as gossip pages of crazy nightlife took over the general mindset of the young and bored pre-depression American.  And there was no turning back.  To quote Father Rothschild in Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies, "I know very few young people, but it seems to me that they are all possessed with an almost fatal hunger for permanence."  I would think this goes as well for today's 'young people' and might explain the obsession with capturing every moment of every day in a photo. Yes, Apocalypse Now started then.
The horror, the horror.


Some of my favorite vocabulary from Vile Bodies :

This is really all too bogus.  Don't you think...or don't you?
Too too spirit-crushing
sad-making; shame-making; shy-making and very better-making
it's really such a bore isn't it...or isn't it?

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