Sunday, February 15, 2009

F.Scott Fitzgerald - May Day

F. Scott Fitzgerald's story May Day, first published in 1920, is an account of a drunken night in New York in May 1919. Drunk socialites dance and argue before hitting an all night cafe, drunk soldiers attack socialists in the streets. He describes the different stages of alcohol intoxication, from feeling good to fighting: 'At the second highball, boredom, disgust, the monotony of time, the turbidity of events, sank into a vague back­ground before which glittering cobwebs formed. Things became reconciled to themselves, things lay quietly on their shelves... as he sipped his third highball his imagination yielded to the wann glow and he lapsed into a state similar to floating on his back in pleasant water'. Before the end of the story, the same character has been in a brawl with bouncers.

A key setting is a dance to a jazz band at Delmonico's, with the author conjuring up its smell: 'From the room she had left drifted out the heavy fragrance left by the passage to and fro of many scented young beauties - rich perfumes and the fragile memory-laden dust of fragrant powders. This odour drifting out acquired the tang of cigarette smoke in the hall, and then settled sensuously down the stairs and permeated the ballroom where the Gamma Psi dance was to be held. It was an odour she knew well, exciting, stimulating, restlessly sweet - the odour of a fashionable dance'.

Fitzgerald also notes the trance-like sensation of dancing and its stimulation of memory : 'this dance, first of its kind since the war, was reminding her, with the accelerating rhythm of its associations, of something else - of another dance and another man... another roving beam... threw flickering shadows and changing kaleidoscopic colours over the massed dancers. Edith had danced herself into that tired, dreamy state habitual only with debutantes, a state equivalent to the glow of a noble soul after several long highballs. Her mind floated vaguely on the bosom of her music; her partners changed with the unreality of phantoms under the colourful shifting dusk, and to her present coma it seemed as if days had passed since the dance began. She had talked on many fragmentary subjects with many men. She had been kissed once and made love to six times... her mind was passive now, her senses were lulled to trance-like sleep; only her feet danced and her voice talked on in hazy sentimental banter'.

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