Sunday, 7 August 2011

Art of the Novella Challenge #3: May Day

First published in 1920, F. Scott Fitzgerald's novella May Day has many of the characteristics of his novels: fancy parties, the disillusioned and delusional, and lots of wealthy people getting drunk, behaving badly while quite oblivious to the desperation of those less fortunate all around them. In this case the story is compressed into roughly 24 hours in New York City which is booming with economic prosperity, but also teeming with tired and damaged soldiers coming back from the First World War. One such veteran is Gordon Sterrett, a former Yale graduate, now nervous, unemployed and broke. He visits a former classmate to try and borrow $300 in order to extricate himself from a messy relationship and to get set up as a commercial artist. His friend is not sympathetic. That evening - and several drinks later - he shows up at an alumni dance where he re-encounters Edith, the woman he had fallen in love with at school, who has shown up with another - also unsatisfactory - date. Crashing the party are two working class soldiers looking for booze, while outside on the streets, mobs are beating up on socialists and heading towards the leftist newspaper that Edith's brother writes for. By the early hours of the morning, several tragedies will have taken place.
This was a wonderful story. I loved the pacing, the settings - from glitzy ballroom to an all-night diner - the dialogue and the segues back and forth between the different scenes. Most poignant was the weariness and wariness that Fitzgerald imbues to many of his characters and their sense of loss in this post-war society set against the abundance of luxury consumer goods that beckon from the shop windows of the city.

1 comment:

Frances said...

Weariness and wariness. Love that. So often Fitzgerald themes. Cannot wait to see how they play out here.