Monday, August 10, 2015

Fitzgerald and the Jews

A cute, short essay from the New Yorker. 

An interesting little piece about Fitzgerald's Jewish assistant, a nice Jewish girl from the Bronx, Frances Kroll Ring who died this past June at the age of 99. 

"As Kroll tells it, Fitzgerald displayed a great deal of curiosity about Jewishness, pestering her about Jewish characteristics and customs. He was fascinated by “the Passover feast” and the practice of keeping kosher. After learning that Kroll’s father had emigrated from Russia at age sixteen, he impulsively sent him a King James edition of the Old and New Testaments, with a note that read “from a friend and colleague of your daughter.”

"It would be nice to report that Fitzgerald eventually rid himself of anti-Semitic feelings, but it wouldn’t be true. As Kroll noted, nothing was simple with Scott. He was a man of insistent contradictions; and with a few drinks under his belt, his darker and more foolish side took over. When drunk, he could sing out “Lily Shiel” and “She’s a Jew.” Or he might take Kroll aside and confide to her that Graham was “part Jewish,” as though he and Kroll were in cahoots."

"But he wasn’t often drunk, not toward the end, and it’s entirely possible that the company of Jewish women made Fitzgerald feel warmer toward Jews in general."

"And though it was probably nothing more than a tic, he apparently liked going to delicatessens, according to Graham, and ordering knishes because he liked saying “knish.”

"The last word, however, should belong to Kroll, who, I suspect, would not have put up with any anti-Semitic nonsense from him; nor would she have remembered him quite so fondly had he exhibited a virulent bias toward her people:"

My memory harbors a gentle man with a nearly collapsed dream whose prevailing gift gave him the strength to keep doing what he did best—to write.”