Well, despite a bacon, mushroom and brown sauce sandwich, and a rather nice cappuccino, I’m still hungover, so I’m just going to rant a bit, releasing my inner literary Richard Littlejohn (for non-UK readers, a noted right wing ranting journalist / loon) on the world.
We’re going to hell in a handcart!
If there’s one thing that winds me up, it’s the way that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s comment that ‘there are no second acts in American lives’ is taken to mean that there are no second chances in American lives. You see it quoted all over the place – such-and-such has returned triumphantly from failure, ‘disproving FSF’s famous dictum’, somebody else falls into obscurity, ‘proving FSF right’.
You couldn’t make it up!!
But – if you think about what the term ‘second act’ actually means in a narrative structure context – you realise that’s not what he meant at all! Classically, in the First Act you establish a goal for your protagonist, in the Second Act you create obstacles to the achievement of those goals, and in the Third Act you show what happens when those goals are finally achieved.
It’s Political Correctness GONE MAD!!!
So, when FSF said that there are no second acts in American lives, what I think he really meant was that there’s an expectation that there should be no barriers between the desire and the fulfilment of the desire. And that’s a very intriguing comment, perfectly describing the promises that much of modern consumer culture makes to us all. You want it? You got it. No effort needed, because there’s no longer a second act.
Now that’s much more interesting than no second chances.
And it’s OUR TAXES THAT PAY FOR IT ALL!!!!