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The Greatest Interviews: F. Scott Fitzgerald Meets the New York Post

The Guardian has compiled a list of the greatest interviews of all time, plus some of the more interesting things that happened when the tape was no longer rolling. This week, we're offering a up a few highlights from the series.

In 1936, F. Scott Fitzgerald sat down with the New York Post. This was not a happy interview. In truly breathless Post style, the interview revealed a desperate, restless Fitzgerald, wandering through anecdotes and shaking with alcoholism.

Here's how Michael Mok, the Post's interviewer, begins the meat of the article:

"A series of things happened to papa," [Fitzgerald] said, with mock brightness. "So papa got depressed and started drinking a little."

What the "things" were he refused to explain.

"One blow after another," he said, "and finally something snapped."

The interview ran in 1936, just four years before Fitzgerald would die of an apparent heart attack, a condition greatly hastened by his longtime addiction to alcohol. At the time, Fitzgerald's bright flaming literary star was lamentably, pathetically fizzling. Confronted with the steepening decline of his career, health, and personal life, Fitzgerald had been writing autobiographical articles for Esquire magazine, ruminating on his life as a "cracked plate."

To his interviewer, he explained, he had lost his confidence. "˜"A writer like me," he said, "must have an utter confidence, an utter faith in his star. It's an almost mystical feeling, a feeling of nothing-can-happen-to-me, nothing-can-harm-me, nothing-can-touch-me."'

Fitzgerald's constant companion at this time was his nurse, who dealt with both his physical pain -- a broken shoulder the result of an accident on a diving board -- and his mental anguish, his addiction to alcohol. At one point during the interview, a jittery Fitzgerald leaves the room and the nurse takes a moment to caution the interviewer: "'Despair, despair, despair,' said the nurse. 'Despair day and night. Try not to talk about his work or his future. He does work, but only very little - maybe three, four hours a week.'"

As the interviewer ostensibly tries to play it straight -- what does Fitzgerald think of modern writers? What does he make of the flapper generation he so brilliantly described in his novels? -- Fitzgerald becomes the embodiment of pathos. He's glitteringly brilliant, spilling little bon mots just as he would his gin, but it's a window on the utterly depressing demise of a talented writer.

Regarding the "jazz-mad, gin-mad generation" that had provided Fitzgerald his material and his fame, the writer -- and his interviewer -- had this to say:

"Why should I bother myself about them?" he asked. "Haven't I enough worries of my own? You know as well as I do what has happened to them. Some became brokers and threw themselves out of windows. Others became bankers and shot themselves. Still others became newspaper reporters. And a few became successful authors."

His face twitched.

"Successful authors!" he cried. "Oh, my God, successful authors!"

He stumbled over to the highboy and poured himself another drink.

Stories circulated that the article had so depressed him that Fitzgerald attempted suicide after reading it. And reading the article today, it seems as if Mok was gunning hard for Fitzgerald. But in the context of 1936, Mok's disappointment in the writer stands to reason: For much of America, the Great Depression had been a sudden, violent hangover from a decade of Jazz Age decadence -- the poster child of which had been bright young things like Fitzgerald and his tragic wife Zelda. Unflattering in the extreme, the interview is a public dressing-down of a writer who, a good number of Americans seemed to believe, needed a scolding. Or at least a mirror.

In a foreword to the Guardian's reprinting of the interview, writer Jay McInerney wrote, "Mok is remembered as one of the villains of the Fitzgerald story, one of history's cloddish butterfly crushers." Perhaps unfairly, McInerney argues -- while Mok certainly pulled no punches in his depiction of the dissipated writer, Fitzgerald seems unable to control himself, to keep himself from playing the role of a dissipated writer.

Whatever else it did, this interview solidified the tragic mythos that surrounded Fitzgerald, recasting him as one of the characters from his own novels.

Previously: Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando (by Truman Capote). Tomorrow: Princess Diana tells all to Martin Bashir.

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5 Subtle Cues That Can Tell You About Your Date's Financial Personality
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Being financially compatible with your partner is important, especially as a relationship grows. Fortunately, there are ways you can learn about your partner’s financial personality in a relationship’s early stages without seeing their bank statement or sitting them down for “the money talk.”

Are they a spender or a saver? Are they cautious with money? These habits can be learned through basic observations or casual questions that don’t feel intrusive. Here are some subtle things that can tell you about your date’s financial personality.

1. HOW THEY ANSWER BASIC MONEY QUESTIONS.

Casual conversations about finance-related topics can be very revealing. Does your date know if their employer matches their 401(k) plan contributions? Do you find their answers to any financial questions a bit vague—even the straightforward ones like “What are the rewards like on your credit card?” This could mean that your partner is a little fuzzy on some of the details of their financial situation.

As your connection grows, money talks are only natural. If your date expresses uncertainty about their monthly budget, it may be an indicator that they are still working on the best way to manage their finances or don’t keep close tabs on their spending habits.

2. WHAT THEY’RE WATCHING AND READING.

If you notice your partner is always watching business news channels, thumbing through newspapers, or checking share prices on their phone, they are clearly keeping abreast of what’s going on in the financial world. Ideally, this would lead to a well-informed financial personality that gives way to smart investments and overall monetary responsibility.

If you see that your date has an interest in national and global finances, ask them questions about what they’ve learned. The answers will tell you what type of financial mindset to expect from you partner moving forward. You might also learn something new about the world of finance and business!

3. WHERE THEY GET THEIR FOOD.

You may be able to learn a lot about someone’s financial personality just by asking what they usually do for dinner. If your date dines out a lot, it could be an indication that they are willing to spend money on experiences. On the other hand, if they’re eating most of their meals at home or prepping meals for the entire week to cut their food budget, they might be more of a saver.

4. WHETHER THEY’RE VOICING MONEY CONCERNS.

Money is a source of stress for most people, so it’s important to observe if financial anxiety plays a prominent role in your date’s day-to-day life. There are a number of common financial worries we all share—rising insurance rates, unexpected car repairs, rent increases—but there are also more specific and individualized concerns. Listen to how your date talks about money and pick up on whether their stress is grounded in worries we all have or if they have a more specific reason for concern.

In both instances, it’s important to be supportive and helpful where you can. If your partner is feeling nervous about money, they’ll likely be much more cautious about what they’re spending, which can be a good thing. But it can also stop them from making necessary purchases or looking into investments that might actually benefit them in the future. As a partner, you can help out by minimizing their expenses for things like nights out and gifts in favor of less expensive outings or homemade gifts to leave more of their budget available for necessities.

5. HOW THEY HANDLE THE BILL.

Does your date actually look at how much they’re spending before handing their credit card to the waiter or bartender at the end of the night? It’s a subtle sign, but someone who looks over a bill is likely much more observant about what they spend than someone who just blindly hands cards or cash over once they get the tab.

Knowing what you spend every month—even on smaller purchases like drinks or dinner—is key when you’re staying on a budget. It’s that awareness that allows people to adjust their monthly budget and calculate what their new balance will be once the waiter hands over the check. Someone who knows exactly what they’re spending on the small purchases is probably keeping a close eye on the bigger picture as well.

REMEMBER THERE’S NO SUBSTITUTE FOR TALKING.

While these subtle cues can be helpful signposts when you’re trying to get an idea of your date’s financial personality, none are perfect indicators that will be accurate every time. Our financial personalities are rarely cut and dry—most of us probably display some behaviors that would paint us as savers while also showing habits that exclaim “spender!” By relying too heavily on any one indicator, we might not get an accurate impression of our date.

Instead, as you get to know a new partner, the best way to learn about their financial personality is by having a straightforward and honest talk with them. You’ll learn more by listening and asking questions than you ever could by observing small behaviors.

Whatever your financial personality is, it pays to keep an eye on your credit score. Discover offers a Free Credit Scorecard, and checking it won't impact your score. It's totally free, even if you aren't a Discover customer. Check yours in seconds. Terms apply. Visit Discover to learn more.

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Where Do Birds Get Their Songs?
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Birds display some of the most impressive vocal abilities in the animal kingdom. They can be heard across great distances, mimic human speech, and even sing using distinct dialects and syntax. The most complex songs take some practice to learn, but as TED-Ed explains, the urge to sing is woven into songbirds' DNA.

Like humans, baby birds learn to communicate from their parents. Adult zebra finches will even speak in the equivalent of "baby talk" when teaching chicks their songs. After hearing the same expressions repeated so many times and trying them out firsthand, the offspring are able to use the same songs as adults.

But nurture isn't the only factor driving this behavior. Even when they grow up without any parents teaching them how to vocalize, birds will start singing on their own. These innate songs are less refined than the ones that are taught, but when they're passed down through multiple generations and shaped over time, they start to sound similar to the learned songs sung by other members of their species.

This suggests that the drive to sing as well as the specific structures of the songs themselves have been ingrained in the animals' genetic code by evolution. You can watch the full story from TED-Ed below, then head over here for a sample of the diverse songs produced by birds.

[h/t TED-Ed]

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