It is perhaps fitting – given his lack of fame and success – that many of you will have never heard of Pat Hobby. Hobby was a character who featured in several F. Scott Fitzgerald short stories towards the end of the author’s life, while he was working in Hollywood. Hobby is a forty-nine-year-old scriptwriter whose best days are long behind him. Rather than reaching out for some green light at the end of a dock in Long Island, Pat is forever just scrabbling around for his next ten dollars, in order to buy another drink or pay off his bookie. Whether he employs honest or not means to attain his ends, however, Pat’s adventures invariably end in bad luck and failure.
From reading his letters whilst writing these tragicomic stories one can discern just how much Fitzgerald felt akin to Hobby. Writing about Pat Hobby was arguably an even more cathartic experience than writing about Jay Gatsby. Albeit the writer needed more than just ten dollars, to pay for his wife’s care and daughter’s education among other things, Fitzgerald was often scrabbling around at this time for his next pay cheque to temporarily improve his lot. The critics did not need to tell him that his best days as a writer were over too. I could not help but find it Hobby-esque when I read how Fitzgerald got a break and worked on the script for Gone With The Wind – only to find his scenes cut from the final movie.
I partly decided to bring Pat Hobby back to life because many of us are no longer living in the equivalent of the Jazz Age. We are living in a depression. The lesson that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short fiction can gift us though is that one should still try to retain one’s sense of decency – and equally importantly one’s sense of humour – during such hard times. Because that’s “greatness”.