Fitzgerald and the Writers’ Strike

F. Scott’s last creation is a warning to the picket line

Paul Greenberg

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“Detailed view of early movie camera” by whatsthatpicture is marked with Public Domain Mark 1.0.

“Most writers,” the writer F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, “look like writers whether they want to or not. It is hard to say why.”

I thought about this recently as the writers of the Writers Guild of America announced they would go on strike against their studio overlords for the second time this century. When I took part in the picket line in 2007, it was remarkable how true Fitzgerald’s words were. At one standoff I saw Tom Fontana, the creator of the HBO series “Oz,” shoving his hands in his pocket and rolling his shoulders into the wind, looking like a writer. To my right, an erudite and charming friend who writes an educational cartoon your children watch stroked his beard and picked at his ear very much like a writer. Even an elusive beauty from the staff of “Sex and the City” whom I had dated a few years back now looked, with her suspect glance across the crowd, more than anything else, like a writer.

Make no mistake: The writers’ strike is not about integrity or fairness . . . it’s about fear.

Of course there are exceptions. Not all writers look like writers. One writer in particular, Fitzgerald noted, didn’t look anything like a writer. This exceptional writer had 30 Hollywood credits to his name. He was a writer who producers grudgingly admitted had once been “a good man for structure.” If a technological revolution had not upended the film industry during his salad years, this writer might have had an enduring career and lived happily ever after with the swimming pool, the wives and the mistresses he once had. But this writer fell on hard times. Very hard times. And that is why this writer did not even look like a writer. He looked instead like “an extra down on his luck, or a bit player who specialized in the sort of father who should never come home.” This writer was Pat Hobby, and he was F. Scott Fitzgerald’s last published creation and sole source of income during the last terrible months of his life.

Pat Hobby, the lead character in a 17-story cycle first published by Arnold Gingrich of Esquire between November 1939 and July 1941, is much more (or less) than a hero or antihero. He is a…

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Paul Greenberg

New York Times bestselling author of Four Fish as well as The Climate Diet and Goodbye Phone, Hello World paulgreenberg.org