Financing Finnegan by F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1938
The magic trick:
Referencing his own life through a story-long joke
This is one from very late in Fitzgerald’s life when the bloom was very much off the rose. In what I’d deem a sad turn, our author is left to mock his own downfall through a series of self-referencing, self-effacing jokes tied together as a story. It’s as if he is trying to stay out in front of the critics, controlling the story of his failures before they get to it, in hopes I suppose that beating them to the punch will somehow lessen the blow. Sad. And probably not necessary. But anyway, this being Fitzgerald, it’s deftly executed. The story is an amusing, if more-than-slightly cynical, character study. And that’s quite a trick on Fitzgerald’s part.
Finnegan might have been at the North Pole — and as a matter of fact he was. He had quite a group with him, including three Bryn Mawr anthropologists, and it sounded as if he might collect a lot of material there. They were going to stay several months, and if the thing had somehow the ring of a promising little house party about it, that was probably due to my jealous, cynical disposition.
“We’re all just delighted,” said Cannon. “It’s a God-send for him. He was fed up and he needed just this — this — ”
“Ice and snow,” I supplied.
“Yes, ice and snow. The last thing he said was characteristic of him. Whatever he writes is going to be pure white — it’s going to have a blinding glare about it.”
“I can imagine it will. But tell me — who’s financing it? Last time I was here I gathered the man was insolvent.”
“Oh, he was really very decent about that. He owed me some money and I believe he owed George Jaggers a little too — ” He “believed,” the old hypocrite. He knew damn well — “so before he left he made most of his life insurance over to us. That’s in case he doesn’t come back — those trips are dangerous of course.”