Letters of Life

The Wisdom of F Scott Fitzgerald

Tender is the night.

Tender is the night.

It appears time for another post featuring more of Fitzgerald’s famously and shockingly beautiful sentences. Lately, the most read post on featherglass has been this one featuring selected quotes from this great American writer.

“In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.

“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.” (The Great Gatsby)

Even if it comes down to one person, there it is. No one has immunity. There’s a tendency to be bashing someone in my mind. I have to be constantly reminded not to do this. Remembering that others haven’t had my advantages in life—that’s a good way of looking at things. 

“Before I go on with this short history, let me make a general observation– the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.
One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise. This philosophy fitted on to my early adult life, when I saw the improbable, the implausible, often the “impossible,” come true.”

This must be his most-quoted idea: the ability to maintain clarity while holding two opposing arguments in the head. This is the holy grail of those who seek accuracy, if not the truth: The pursuit of unsullied, analytical thinking which leaves no room for vagueness or ambiguity. Or the kind of argument that at least admits to ambiguity while clearly separating the various tints in a single hue  to avoid misunderstanding.

On men and women, he writes in his other great novel This Side of Paradise (1920)

“You’ll find another.’
“Banish the thought. Why don’t you tell me that ‘if the girl had been worth having she’d have waited for you’? No, sir, the girl really worth having won’t wait for anybody.” (This Side of Paradise)

This Side of Paradise, which I plan to re-read soon, preceded what is widely thought of as one of the Great American Novels, The Great Gatsby, published five years later.

I have to agree. Think about this one and leave a comment if you don’t.

And the best for last:

“What people are ashamed of usually makes a good story.”


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5 Responses »

  1. “Reserving judgements is a matter of infinite hope.”


  1. 3 Must-Reads By F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Little Jazz Baby
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  3. The Strokes of F Scott Fitzgerald | f e a t h e r g l a s s

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