Friday, May 3, 2019

The Crack-Up

Composure is a nice thing and people gravitate to the self-assured, those who “know” who they are. There is, of course, enormous human pain associated with the reverse, ie the sight of someone falling apart. In the fifties you may have overheard your parents talking about people having nervous breakdowns. Today the nomenclature has changed. A person is deemed to be bipolar or borderline. There have been many representations of personalities falling apart in films from The Snake Pit (1948), David and Lisa (1962), Repulsion (1965) One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (1977), and Conspiracy Theory (1997), to name just a few. The Crack-Up was a collection of essays in which Fitzgerald charted his own decline.The process is a little like the cosmological description of supernovae, dying stars emitting huge flashes before they explode. The unhinged Howard Beale character played by Peter Finch in Network (1976) famously intones, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore,” thereby igniting a revolution in which viewers rise up and follow him. Stalwart individuals rarely lead revolts since their being is an affirmation of the status quo, but it’s the person teetering on the edge who may light up the night sky.

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