Monday, November 22, 2010
The Crack-Up and Confessional Poets
In 1936, Scott Fitzgerald, on his downward spiral of drink and disintegration, decided to write about not being able to write.
These essays were published by Esquire, the most famous of which is The Crack-Up. There, Fitzgerald chronicled his descent (although he was short on specific details, like his binge drinking, and Zelda's insanity).
At the time, his fellow writers were horrified by the essay, feeling he had exposed sentiments that were best left to the private sphere. In Jeffrey Meyers biography of Fitzgerald, he views The Crack-Up essays as a vital turning point in American fiction.
First, Fitzgerald unwittingly performed the first act of 'any publicity is good publicity' for a public figure falling out of the public eye. Until those essays, many had thought Fitzgerald was dead. The essays reminded the American public that the darling of 1920s American fiction was alive -- in a sense. We can see this monstrous legacy all around us.
Finally, Myers see a direct influence over later American post-war "confessional" poets, like Lowell, Plath and Sexton. While Fitzgerald wrote about his decline and mental distress and was scolded, these topics became the grist for the mill of the confessional poets. The Crack-Up, in part, gave them the license to do so.
Luckily for us, Esquire has the essay on line for all to read.