Wednesday, February 16, 2011

{review} the pat hobby stories

F. Scott Fitzgerald The Pat Hobby Stories


My favourite F. Scott Fitzgerald anecdote is that recorded in Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast where EH has to reassure FSF about the size of FSF's penis (it's quoted here).

I was reminded of the anecdote while reading The Pat Hobby Stories because it is sometimes suggested that they too offer an insight into FSF the man. My edition (Penguin 1962) aids this impression with a most interesting introduction by FSF's publisher/editor at Esquire magazine, Arnold Gingrich, in which he details the conditions under which many of the Pat Hobby stories were produced for the magazine in 1939-40. FSF was a hard taskmaster on those who represented him and rarely considered that he was getting a good deal. His attitude towards his representatives is an eye-opener, as he plays the supportive (and happy to pay up-front) Esquire off against other publications. As Gingrich notes, FSF was "[a]lways most abusive to those who treated him best, though endlessly forebearing to those who treated him badly...". He was also a terror with proofs and changes and continually intervened regarding the order in which the stories were to appear [posthumously] in Esquire (1940-41).

However it is FSF's 'day job' while he was writing the Pat Hobby series which provides the most food for thought. Both FSF and his hero Pat Hobby were script-writers chained to a Hollywood studio system which seemed to regard writers as little more than troublesome hacks. 

FSF had not a few problems himself with the studio system, and one might assume a level of verism in the details, despite the seemingly fantastic troubles in which Pat Hobby finds himself. Pat Hobby is not a likeable character. He is an alcoholic, alimony-shirking multi-divorced gambling womaniser who lives in Hollywood where he is a mostly out-of-work script-writer scrounging to get any work from a studio which has moved on without him. 
Pat was forty-nine. He was a writer but he had never written much, nor even read all the 'originals' he worked from, because it made his head bang to read much. But the good old silent days you got somebody's plot and a smart secretary and gulped benzedrine 'structure' at her six or eight hours every week. The director took care of the gags. After talkies came he always teamed up with some man who wrote dialogue. Some young man who liked to work. (from 'A Man in the Way')
When Pat Hobby does manage to call in a favour or inveigle a sucker into giving him some work then catastrophe always ensues. The Pat Hobby stories are wickedly funny with an almost slap-stick element in their presentation of the amoral hero's constant battle to get himself back on the studio payroll against all odds. A very enjoyable read.
 
Rating: 7/10.

If you liked this… I loved Fitzgerald's collection of stories in Bernice Bobs Her Hair. To get in the mood, listen to either Bessie Smith's 'Nobody in Town Can Bake a Sweet Jelly Roll Like Mine' or Madeleine Peyroux's 'Was I?' ['Was I drunk? Was he handsome? And did momma give me hell?'].

Bernice Bobs Her Hair (Twentieth Century Classics) (v. 4)  Bernice Bobs Her Hair and Other Stories

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