Magazine article American Journalism Review

No Second Acts, Perhaps, but Many Encores

Magazine article American Journalism Review

No Second Acts, Perhaps, but Many Encores

Article excerpt

As a fan of the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald since college days, I've been amused about how frequently this comment about American lives pops up in the writing of American journalists. Out of curiosity, I commissioned my Mac to get in touch with Nexis and go back two years and see how many different uses they could come up with. The printer ran out of paper at 79.

Almost all the usages interpreted Fitzgerald as having meant that early successes are hard to duplicate and second efforts usually fall as fiat as Joseph Heller's redux of "Catch-22." Oddly, Fitzgerald's greatest work, "The Great Gatsby," appeared several years after his early success with "This Side of Paradise."

Whenever some celebrity makes a successful comeback, the pencil press scurries to use the occasion to question the validity of Fitzgerald's adage. Among the 79, that was indeed the prevailing interpretation and certainly was the case when political writers were groping for the right words to describe the 1992 election of Bill Clinton.

Even the heavy thinkers had their way with the quote. Psychology Today opined that "it used to be said that there were no second acts in American lives. That was before TV stared burning out our memory cells. The public life of America today is largely made up of second acts and has become an unconvincing parody of the original promise of America, where anyone could make a fresh start. Even David Duke said he was reborn from Nazisin into the brotherhood of Christ - and thousands of people believed him." I'm sure Scott would have gagged on that.

I'm not one to pick a fight with those who buy ink by the tanker but maybe - just maybe Fitzgerald meant something entirely different when he dashed off the line on the back of a cocktail napkin in the Brown Derby or some other La La Land bistro. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.