Sunday, November 18, 2018

the last book I ever read (Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of the Great Gatsby, excerpt three)

from Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of the Great Gatsby by Sarah Churchwell:

Swope helped inspire not Gatsby’s house, but his parties. Everyone who was celebrated or witty was invited to the Swopes’ renowned gatherings. The Fitzgeralds were great favorites for a time until, rumor has it, at one party Zelda took off her clothes and chased Mrs. Swope’s shy, sixteen-year-old brother up the stairs. He locked himself in the bedroom and for the rest of his life he would be teased for the opportunity he passed up. Mrs. Swope, it is said, banned the Fitzgeralds from returning to her house.

But all that was yet to come—if it is true. In the first heady months of their festivities among the Swopes and their guests the Fitzgeralds, thronged by a crowd of admirers, would stroll out to the gardens, where they would settle down with a few bottles of Swope’s first-rate bootleg whiskey: he claimed never to serve alcohol that hadn’t first been tested by chemists. People would picnic out on the grounds or stroll across the quiet road down to the beach. In the late afternoon sun they would stretch out on the porch or in the garden and go to sleep. When they woke, the band would have arrived; they’d change into evening clothes and thenext stage of the festivities would commence. Songwriter Howard Dietz said the Swopes’ parties were so dependable that if you were in Great Neck and “happened to be hungry at four in the morning, you could get a steak. Everybody drifted Swopeward.”

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