Culture

That fake quarantine letter from F. Scott Fitzgerald and our dreams

A fake letter from F. Scott Fitzgerald, quarantined in 1920 in the Cote d’Azur during the Spanish flu has made its way around the viral world. There are many things that are faked nowadays since we have so many tools to help create fake worlds, images, and writings. It is so easy to create fakeness.

Many years ago in graduate school, my field of social psychology was shocked that a professor had faked an extensive amount of data and research. She had put so much effort into faking the data set that many of us wondered as to whether it would have been easier to have done real research. Regardless, we were shocked. I remember that time fondly. It was a time of innocence and disbelief that someone would perpetuate such an elaborate ruse. Nowadays, we have gone from “trust but verify” to just verify everything from the outset. We are collectively a very jaded group of humans. We need to be.

Yet, we still hope despite being jaded. We need hope to get past these dark, dark days. We keep hearing comparisons to the Spanish Flu. We got through it. Society continued to exist. Nevermind the global instability from wars. Society survived a pandemic. It survived then. It must survive now. Hope is needed. And, that is where a fake viral letter comes into play. A comedian previously created a parody of a F. Scott Fitzgerald letter about making it through the Spanish flu. It’s funny. There are great similarities between the era represented by the letter and now. The parody presents comedic relief. But it presents more than that. It presents hope that one can get through it all.

Below is the letter. It’s a fun read. It was supposedly written by Nick Fariella for the website McSweeneys.com and published on March 13th. Above the letter there is a disclaimer that notes “This is a work of parody and is not an actual letter written by Fitzgerald.” Well, there it is.

Dearest Rosemary,

It was a limpid dreary day, hung as in a basket from a single dull star. I thank you for your letter. Outside, I perceive what may be a collection of fallen leaves tussling against a trash can. It rings like jazz to my ears. The streets are that empty. It seems as though the bulk of the city has retreated to their quarters, rightfully so. At this time, it seems very poignant to avoid all public spaces. Even the bars, as I told Hemingway, but to that he punched me in the stomach, to which I asked if he had washed his hands. He hadn’t. He is much the denier, that one. Why, he considers the virus to be just influenza. I’m curious of his sources.

The officials have alerted us to ensure we have a month’s worth of necessities. Zelda and I have stocked up on red wine, whiskey, rum, vermouth, absinthe, white wine, sherry, gin, and lord, if we need it, brandy. Please pray for us.

You should see the square, oh, it is terrible. I weep for the damned eventualities this future brings. The long afternoons rolling forward slowly on the ever-slick bottomless highball. Z. says it’s no excuse to drink, but I just can’t seem to steady my hand. In the distance, from my brooding perch, the shoreline is cloaked in a dull haze where I can discern an unremitting penance that has been heading this way for a long, long while. And yet, amongst the cracked cloudline of an evening’s cast, I focus on a single strain of light, calling me forth to believe in a better morrow.

Faithfully yours,

F. Scott Fitzgerald

3 replies »

  1. Best to identify such as parodies, and list the source, as soon as possible. In this case, it is just funny. In other cases, people will swallow anything – even if it results in damage to themselves and their loved ones – as long as it comes from a ‘trusted source.’

    Most of the time, what people believe in the depths of their hearts is relatively unimportant to other people; right now, it could be deadly.

    I just read in the NY Times about ultraorthodox Jews whose infection rates are 4 to 8 times higher than the general population – and that saddens me.

    Liked by 1 person

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