She thought of what she would say to-night at this revel, faintly prestiged already by the sounds of high and low laughter and slippered footsteps, and movements of couples up and down the stairs. She would talk the language she had talked for many years—her line—made up of the current expressions, bits of journalese and college slang strung together into an intrinsic whole, careless, faintly provocative, delicately sentimental.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald, ‘May Day’ from Tales from the Jazz Age (1922) [full text]
love project gutenberg’s free e-books, love fitzgerald more.
This was the story Jeffrey read an excerpt from when he visited Harvard last semester.
I still can’t read literature about college life without it feeling cliched- but this has it’s high points for certain and I do enjoy Barthes.
"And it was during this period that Madeleine truly understood how the lover’s discourse was of an extreme solitude. The solitude was extreme because it wasn’t physical. It was extreme because you felt it while in the company of the person you loved. It was extreme because it was in your head, that most solitary of places."
We saw the straight row houses down in the belly of the city and smelled the stink on the warm air coming out of sidewalk grates and heard the hollow voices on the news channels talking about murder, poverty—but we nothing of these things. They were like pages in a textbook we flipped through and never read. We knew jack shit about hurt. Or ache. Or sorrow. That was all just noise. It never touched us. An old person dying here or there. Someone in a car accident, or losing some imaginary amount of money in a stock market. Nothing raw or real or gritty ever splashed up to our polished rafters of privilege. We were rich white kids.
We went to concerts and blacked out. We went to bars and blacked out. We went to each other’s houses and blacked out. We bought shit. We fucked around with each other. We watched a lot of movies, talked about a lot of music—bad music, mostly. None of us read. Johnny bought a drum kit that one time but we broke it within a week. Nearly all of us had nice cars. None of us knew how to take care them.
Getting fucked up was a big part of it all. Really, don’t laugh—we knew a thing or two about seeing sideways and pissing the bed. Nothing hard—lots of liquor and weed and occasionally someone would come up with pills or powder and sometimes we’d give in and do it just to look cool—but if that’s not hard to you then I don’t care and besides when have you ever put down ten or twenty beers and smoked dank and tried to walk from one side of a crowded room to another? Every night was someone vomiting in their sleep. Every morning was a hangover. Every girl fucked at least one guy she wouldn’t have fucked if she was sober, or so she said but no one ever really listened. Every guy didn’t have to lie about the number of women he’d fucked, but again—no one listened. No one cared.
We must have been punishing ourselves or something for being so white and privileged, I don’t know—or maybe we just liked to have a good time and not remember any of it. Or rather, have bad times and remember them as good times. There really was a lot of drinking.
We had anything we wanted and people trying to give us more—but still most Friday nights came down to two options for me: one, find a room full of people getting fucked up and get more fucked up than any of them, or two, find a room full of people and lie to one of the pretty girls until they would lie you down in strange room and do those strange familiar things to you. At some point, the fucking quit being good and the mornings after quit being awkward and we just went on and on and on.