Sunday, June 30, 2013

Library of America Story of the Week Read-Along 68: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Porcelain and Pink (#90)

F. Scott Fitzgerald, "Porcelain and Pink" (1920) from F. Scott Fitzgerald: Novels & Stories 1920–1922:

As a devoted 30 Rock fan, I sometimes wonder how well certain fits of timeliness will date. When Liz Lemon references the balloon boy hoax of 2009 or when Paul proposes to Jenna by singing "Zou Bisou Bisou," a la Mad Men season five, it's worth wondering how well those jokes will play in a few years. (I barely remember the balloon boy hoax, though I did just start watching season five of Mad Men.)

So there's a point in this one-act, one-scene playlet where one character in a bathtub starts referencing everything from Bergson (who I've heard of) to Gaby Deslys (who I haven't). The LoA headnote is pretty good about explaining certain references, though I also like to imagine that section growing as time goes on. (At what point in time will "bathtub" have to be explained?) Also, I'm glad the LoA page notes how reaction to this was mixed, particularly around the idea of a naked woman in a bathtub--funny, prurient, or stupid bathroom humor? Story of your life, right?

The piece itself could be performed, but it's clearly written as a closet drama. The stage directions especially come from an opinionated narrator. It's the kind of voice that's free to inform us that "beautiful girls have throats instead of necks." And the rest of the piece is occasionally fun, as when the literature-minded boy of the older sister and the irreverent younger sister try to communicate about lit. At the end of the day--that is, the day today--it's a puff piece; in 1920, it probably marked Fitzgerald as a man who would investigate any topic or bathtub.

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