“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

photo(6)He had one of the rarest qualities in all literature, and it’s a great shame that the word for it has been thoroughly debased by the cosmetic racketeers, so that one is almost ashamed to use it to describe a real distinction. Nevertheless, the word is charm — charm as Keats would have used it. Who has it today? It’s not a matter of pretty writing or clear style. It’s a kind of subdued magic, controlled and exquisite, the sort of thing you get from good string quartettes.

Raymond Chandler, in a letter about Fitzgerald

An author I know remarked that writers are like mediums, they channel their characters. Another, who brought me that gorgeous bottle of Irish whiskey, is of similar mind. I try to gussy up the process by talking about sense memory, but we all have our talismans — those bits of manna; a pocket watch, a typewriter, a shooting script, a letter — that came from those before us, opening the heart to fluid time and lives infinite.

Subscribe to Podcast


  1. November 8, 2015

    I went through an F. Scott Fitzgerald spurt in the past few months. I re-read The Great Gatsby plus The Last Tycoon, and read Tender is the Night. All that just to say his prose sings. Such beautiful, haunting writing.

    • November 8, 2015

      I’ve never read The Last Tycoon, a situation I better remedy very soon…

  2. November 9, 2015

    “the word is charm.” Yes.

Comments are closed.