What's All This Then?
What's All This Then?
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Field-Tested by Whitney Pastorek
in London, England
If it’s your first time going to London, and you happen to be of a certain romantic disposition the sort to place unnecessary drama around relationships, to wrap the world in expectations it cannot possibly meet you should bring along F. Scott Fitzgerald’s
Tender is the Night. This is because it is all about a bunch of rich, hopeless Americans traipsing about Europe in true expatriate fashion, destroying each other’s lives, and, as you’re sitting in your King’s Cross hostel late at night, you will think how splendid and appropriate it is that, if you wanted, you could be in Paris in four hours, to sit in the very cafés where Rosemary gazed longingly at the married and confused Dick Diver, or in Zurich, where Dick married the beautiful and insane Nicole Warren. You have never been to Europe before, and so, of course, France, England, Switzerland are the same all exotic and old and strange. The beers and burgers of your American life will disgust you in their ordinariness, and you will wish your life could instead be played out on the beaches of the Riviera, in the Rue des Saints-Péres, on the battlefield at Thiepval someplace in the depressingly sunlit world of Fitzgerald’s text.
But when you get to the line, “Later she remembered all the hours of the afternoon as happy one of those uneventful times that seem at the moment only a link between past and future pleasure but turn out to have been the pleasure itself,” you will look around and realize that although you are in London, finally, Dick Diver would never have brought you here. He hated London. And also: somewhere back in ordinary New York are all your friends, sitting in an ordinary bar with ordinary beers, but your friends, who are not rich, do not spend time destroying each other’s lives and New York, although it is not in Europe, is nothing to sneeze at. You will miss it, suddenly, terribly, and make a promise to never forget that feeling, to never take the uneventful for granted. You’ll take a few pictures of London and then, gratefully, go home, where a copy of The Great Gatsby is waiting anyway.
Read the next Field Test by Whitney Pastorek