24 September 2015

Happy Birthday, Scott!

Today is the birthday of one of America's greatest writers, F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was born on September 24, 1896 in St. Paul, Minnesota. He was a bright boy who showed an interest in writing from an early age. At Princeton, he wrote for school groups and publications but neglected his studies. When he dropped out, he joined the Army, expecting to be sent overseas to the War. He never made it but while stationed in Alabama, he met his future wife and muse, Zelda Sayre. 

Determined to be a successful writer, Fitzgerald worked hard at his writing. In 1920 he achieved his goal when Scribner's published his first novel, This Side of Paradise; it was a huge hit and he became famous over night. Fitzgerald would go on to write four more novels, a play, and numerous short stories and articles that chronicled his generation. 

He and Zelda lived extravagantly and partied long into the night; newspapers reported their exploits, and they became the Jazz Age's golden couple. Even the birth in 1921 of a daughter, Scottie, didn't seem to slow them down. 

But by the 1930s, alcohol and financial problems along with Zelda's increasing mental illness were taking a toll on Fitzgerald. He died in 1940 at the age of 44, believing he was a failure. 

Oh, how wrong he was. Fitzgerald wrote some of the most beautiful prose in the English language. If you haven't read The Great Gatsby in a while, read it again and revel at passages like this:

"The only completely stationary object in the room was an enormous couch on which two young women were buoyed up as though upon an anchored balloon. They were both in white, and their dresses were rippling and fluttering as if they had just been blown back in after a short flight around the house. I must have stood for a few moments listening to the whip and snap of the curtains and the groan of a picture on the wall. Then there was a boom as Tom Buchanan shut the rear windows and the caught wind died out about the room, and the curtains and the rugs and the two young women ballooned slowly to the floor."

It doesn't get much better. Happy Birthday, Scott!

23 September 2015

Autumn Arrives

"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower."—Albert Camus

Today is the first day of autumn or fall (however you like to call it), which means my favourite season has begun. This is the best season—the vibrant colours, the foods (pumpkin, apples, warm drinks), the donning of jackets and boots, the myriad of cultural events, the weather (usually), and the only time of the year when one's obsession with cemeteries and ghost stories is deemed acceptable. Welcome, autumn. Please pull up a chair and stay a while. 

09 September 2015

Long to Reign Over Us

As of today, September 9, 2015, Queen Elizabeth II becomes the longest reigning monarch in Britain's history, passing her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, who sat on the throne for 63 years and 216 days.

The irony is that the longest reigning monarch was not even supposed to be queen. Born on April 21, 1926, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary is the eldest daughter of Prince Albert, Duke of York, the second son of King George V, and Elizabeth, Duchess of York. When her uncle, King Edward VIII, abdicated the throne to marry the American divorcee Wallis Simpson in 1936, her father was crowned King George VI and Elizabeth moved to the top of the line of succession. She became Queen at the age of 25 when her father passed away on February 6, 1952.

During her six decades on the throne, Queen Elizabeth II has watched her kingdom shrink in size from its days as a colonial empire, had 12 prime ministers (the first of whom was Sir Winston Churchill), and weathered the rapid changes of the 20th century. And through it all, she’s kept the promise she made during a speech she gave on her 21st birthday “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.” God save the Queen.


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