Wednesday, April 18, 2007

You Keep Saying That. I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means.

Yes, F. Scott Fitzgerald once said "There are no second acts in American lives." Yes, blowhards like to trot this out to deny it when talking about some media darling who is making a comeback. But they're all idiots, since that's not what Fitzgerald was talking about. Despite all of the misquotations, he did not say "second chances," and he did not mean "second chances."

An "act" is a theatrical conceit, and Fitzgerald was referring to the typical three-act play. American lives, in the Fitzgeraldian conception, have a first act (the set-up) and a third act (the climax), but they rush from one directly to the other without the usual building of tension and complexity in the middle. In other words, America is a land of smash hits and smash failures, one after another, without pause -- exactly what the people who quote that line to refute it are trying to say in their own stupid ways.

So cut it out.

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