The Crack-Up (1945) is a collection of essays by American author F. Scott Fitzgerald. It consists of previously unpublished letters, notes and also three essays originally written for and published first in the Esquire magazine during 1936. It was compiled and edited by Edmund Wilson shortly after Fitzgerald’s death in 1940.
At the beginning of “The Crack-Up” Fitzgerald makes this widely quoted general observation:
- “the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”
As an example of this ‘truth,’ he cites the ability to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise. However, in modern decision theory, this quote has been used by some to explain the bias shown in many experiments where subjects gather information to justify a preconceived notion. These experiments suggest that the mental ability described by Fitzgerald (being able to see both sides of an argument) is more uncommon than many assume.
Think of it this way;
You are right and so am I.
You are wrong and so am I.
Just because history was written by the winners, doesn’t mean they were ‘right’.
Just means they won.
Just means or just mean?
You are better than me at ‘Chess’.
I do not fuck around with words.
I’ve spent a long time writing this.
Please do not read this like an angry tweet.
I am trying to get through to you that your part in the family you started with has caused pain, is causing pain and will continue to cause pain if you do not listen to me.
You are the wound that will not heal.
So, I told ‘Mum’ I’d put a deposit on the ‘Murder on the ‘Orient Express’ trip for two for her 40th wedding anniversary but the ‘Copycats’ needed the money for petrol.
It absolutely was a ‘good shout’.
Don’t worry, the next time I’ve got a spare £600, I’ll just take her myself.
For the last time; you and I have never been in competition.
I am not a competitive person, least of all with the brother I was supposed to protect.
You will always be my little brother.
It is a competition you cannot win.
The only way for you to win this race is to live over one thousand five hundred and seventy two days more than me.
Please consider this advice.
‘Hello Brother’ was the song ‘Mum’ wanted you to play at your wedding as sign of affection; it’s the family she wished she had.
This could have been a funny story at your wedding; I vaguely remember telling someone on the night but a good story is for retelling. The day you were born, the first time I saw you you were on a stainless steel table, blanket laid out, wriggling, newborn baby, sterile pick-nick for one. Mum was showing me you, the thing was I was four and ‘eye level’ with the table and closest to your feet. My first memory of you is a giggling bundle of wiggle until that green, squidgy, slug monster roared out of your baby arsehole!
For me it was the size of a ‘David Attenborough’ documentary!
I remember mum, affectionately, saying, “You better get used to that!”
If, at any point, ‘That’s in the past’ pops into your mind, well, everything is in the past. Call this a history lesson.
Imagine Mum growing up; little fat girl, weirdly obsessive, just after ‘WWII’ do you suppose she had a great time? Not so much. ‘Jonny’ was ‘Mum’s’ hero; growing up, ‘Jonny’ kept a damn good eye on his little sister. Much time and expense was put into protecting us, not the other way around, and the younger you were, the less you would have seen.
Naturally, when you were were eight, it was easy to assume you were right about everything because ‘Mum’ was busy keeping two families together. The only reason we are anything is because of ‘Mum’. ‘Mum’ did everything for you for the first half of your life. I can barely comprehend how her relentless effort of will and sacrifice has, to this day, kept us together. It is not outrageous to suggest that you owe her something a little more than you have given her.
That’s the thing about being an older relative, you tell the younger relatives things when they are ready to hear them.
When will you be ready?
If I can tell you a story; the night before Dad and I set off for your wedding, I sat and talked with ‘Mum’ because that is something we do because we are related to each other. I asked her to tell me about why she didn’t want to go. She said, “Lot’s of reasons.”
I asked if she could give me just one.
She told me that ‘Jamie’ had come to the house and told ‘Mum’ that she had booked her away from the hotel where the party was going to carry on after the barn because she knew that “’Mum’ didn’t like people.”
Can you imagine how humiliating that might be to be invited to your own child’s wedding and be introduced as ‘someone who does not like people’? Only to be followed up ‘there is a big after-party and you are not coming’,
Would you want to be invited to a party like that?
It’s not like I didn’t try to tell you so many times.
Are you listening now?
‘Mum’ knows the only reason ‘Jamie’ thinks that is because of you.
I told ‘Mum’ that, since ‘Greenwich’, I have done my best to, politely, steer clear of you. I told her that I’d handed over the best part of two months wages so that, at the wedding, when you all clear off, I’d have some actual friends there and I promised to stay with her the whole time and she just said, “some ‘Griffins’ are known for their arrogance.”
I would have held at callously ignorant, but there it is; her words not mine.
It’s not that ‘Mum’ ‘does not like people’; it is much simpler, partly, she does not like her son speaking on her behalf without her permission.
Without actually taking the time to find out what she thinks.
It’s not as if it’s just the wedding; it’s finding out that while you have no time for her, you have plenty of time to teach ‘Noula’ how to swim, apparently you have so much time for ‘Lucy and ‘Fiona’, ‘Fiona’ was the priestess at the wedding.
All this and you’ve spent five years living five minutes down the road.
Humiliating snub upon humiliating snub.
Your mum loves you, she’s your mum but, evidences suggests she likes you about as much as I do. Thing is, I think we have a bit more ‘Pawley’ in us than you would like to admit.
How you think you have helped your mother is absurd beyond belief.
It is quite astounding what you are capable of convincing yourself.
Even in your wedding speech you said something like, ‘as long as I’m happy, everybody’s happy’, a bit like an eight year old deciding he is right about everything.
Understandably, you will have not noticed this but an, otherwise happily busy, little old lady, going about her business, entirely freezes up and becomes uncomfortable every time you show your face, precisely because she can only guess at all the things you have said ‘on her behalf’.
You always say “just let it go” easy to do when you are doing wrong. That’s fine for the odd incident but a lifetime of it is, simply, appeasement.
You have been appeased and acquiesced to since birth; ‘Auntie Jean’, grief, the death of a girl between us; grief, ‘Jonny’; grief, ‘Grandma’ dying and what ‘Phyllis’ did; grief. Mum kept us all together and who did she get to share her grief with, Dad? You? Me?
Mum put everything into making sure you ‘were good’ and so you are and you have repaid her by staying away and telling others to stay away. You can dress that up with any rationale you like yet the consequences are identical to what ‘Phyllis’ did forty years ago.
It occurs to me that I never gave you a full explanation of why we are not ‘tight’, in fairness you never asked.
When you showed up on my grown-up heels you came with your best mate who, seeing as you were my little brother, I had no problem doing anything for.
Never mind the various house moves, the best thing I ever did for Rowan was cover for him when he sold one of his best mates out.
It was always supposed to be ‘Alf’ and ‘Rowan’.
‘Rowan’s’ girlfriend at the time put him onto the flat. They needed a third, I was up for it. Anton was in need of a place. Rowan traded up.
‘Rowan’ told me that he didn’t want to live with a drug dealer.
I spent every ounce of energy I had trying to convince ‘Rowan’ that he was doing something atrocious. I said we could look for a place for the four of us or I could tell ‘Anton’ he’d have to find somewhere else but no, apparently, I am just not worth listening to.
How long, do you suppose, with years of ‘Alf’ backing ‘Rowan’ up through childhood, perhaps, he was entitled to a better return?
How long were ‘Alf and ‘Rowan’ planning on moving in together before they asked me?
When I told ‘Alf’ the bad news, he told me he wanted to live with us, ‘Rowan’ really, because he thought we would help him get out of that life, I say we, it was ‘Rowan’s’ best mate from school.
I will never forgive myself for that.
Do you think ‘Rowan’ ever lost any sleep over it?
‘Rowan’ entirely sold ‘Alf’ out and got me to make the phone call. For my shame, I thought I was taking a hit for my ‘adopted’ little brother… on your behalf, by the way.
Now I realise I was just being used.
Remember the time ‘Rowan’ had the balls to get you to ring me up and ask if I would put him into my event in ‘Shoreditch’?
If only I had said, “Fuck you, if your going to do your mate like that, do it yourself.” In hindsight, I would have rather lived with ‘Alf’ and ‘Anton’, anywhere and try not to think about how much better a place the world would be if we had gone that way.
Then it got worse.
Do you remember how ‘Rowan’ strung ‘Luanne’ along until about five minutes after he got the keys to the flat and promptly dumped his next door neighbour? Presumably she was exited about living next door to the ‘man’ she loved and his ‘best mate’… obviously, not me.
Rowan was trying to get me out of ‘His’ flat long before you moved in: he sold out Alf and put the knife in my hand. Alf didn’t come round to the flat for a year.
Alf and I used to laugh about what it was like to have little brothers.
My relationship with ‘Alf’ was never the same.
Rowan was back round ’Alf’s’ within a week, do you really think he ever told Alf it has his idea to bin him off? I should have realised that if he could do that to Alf, I didn’t stand a chance.
Good job you don’t need Rowan for anything.
Then, while I am taking a long bath because it was one place to get a break from ‘Rowan’s’ constant monologue, he caught Anton outside the bathroom door and made a joke about how I fall asleep in the bath and I was given the definition of true friendship.
As ‘Rowan’ got deeper into the idea of how I was asleep and how funny he was… and how he really wanted to get me out I listened to my little brother’s best mate, someone I had, unconditionally, treated as a brother, utterly bag me out to my true brother and I am eternally sorry and grateful to ‘Anton’ for politely not laughing and saying no to all the shit that Rowan was talking.
I told ‘Anton’, my brother, about ‘Alf’ for the first time a few months ago and the first thing he said was “Fuck, that’s why ‘Alf’ was off with me”.
Can you imagine anyone being off with Anton?
All Rowan, brother, all Rowan.
‘Anton’ and ‘`Gilli’ moved out because, in his own words, it was becoming toxic. I actually thought that my brother moving in would make things better.
What a fool I was.
My Biggest problem is the hypocrisy. From Rowan telling me I didn’t contribute much to the house; sure, while I was out working two jobs, he was sitting around running up the electricity bill with his home studio, including a machine that has a lightbulb so hot it needed a motorised fan to stop it from blowing up.
There is a reason photography studios cost hundreds a day to hire, it’s not the space, it’s the electricity bill.
Anyone who has lived with Rowan and split the bills evenly has subsidised his career, never mind my delivering his paintings for free, in return if I asked for anything in return I got a look as though I had asked to anally rape his mum and a ‘No’. I know he doesn’t like to share but fuck!
From the twenty texts a day, demanding petty apologies for anything he could think of, to the absurdity at the end when I wasn’t allowed to watch television after he’d gone to bed because it disturbs him, despite the fact that he woke me up damn near every morning, just moaning to himself.
It was eight months from when I called the estate agent’s to complain about the leaking window in my bedroom, only for them to tell me that ‘Rowan’ had told them I was moving out.
Eight months of my little brother’s best mate treating me like absolute dog shit, doing everything he could to get me to go and my little brother, at best, looking the other way.
I was working eighty hours a week and supposed to be coming ‘home’ to the two people I’m supposed trust the most, instead I’ve got a couple of playground bullies waiting for me. Talking on my behalf, telling everyone what they need to know about me, essentially, the opposite of what family is.
I understand that ‘Rowan’ decided I am jealous of him.
The only way I am jealous of ‘Rowan’ is in his ability to shit on anyone without a flicker of conscience.
So, Rowan deliberately and purposefully fucked with my friendship with ‘Alf’, deliberately and purposefully tried to fuck with my friendship with ‘Anton’, all for a poxy flat.
This man is not my friend. Never was, never will be.
Sorry if that is inconvenient for you.
As easy as it might be to blame him for this, I do not because it wasn’t just him, was it.
The time I came home to an empty flat and I rang you to see what you were up to and you were all at ‘Emanuelle’s’. I’m not saying all of you should never go to a barbecue but that would have been a good time for one of you to be my brother.
Instead you told me I was not good enough to be your brother and I needed to get some new friends. Surprisingly, I was angry but I got the message; you were never going to be there for me.
After a consistent, ‘let’s not tell ‘John’ about this or that’ I gave up and did what you told me to. Leaving the flat wasn’t just a day, it was the end of ‘all right, I get the message.’
You got what you wanted.
Still, I gave you one more chance not to treat me like an arsehole; the night you met your wife, by coincidence, was the night I just gave up trying to be a ‘part of your life’.
I will always be there for you if you need me.
I always have.
Yet I have learned to expect nothing in return.
REMEMBER THIS, THIS WAS THE MOMENT.
You dodged me all night and when the night was over you all did one, so after wandering around outside the club I rang you to find out where you were.
You explained that you had already left, that I wasn’t welcome to the next bit and told me that I should have known you were going to bin me off in the street.
Why did you even invite me?
One last time.
Brother or not, how is ditching someone in the middle of the West End an acceptable way to treat someone?
Did you ever ask ‘Ellie’ about how, after you words I collapsed in the street and, essentially, had a, very real, nervous breakdown.
Not being a part of your life is, simply, a practical measure on my part.
What I mean is;
Ever since that moment I have done everything I can to stay right fucking out of your life.
Yet, you are my brother.
I cannot escape that.
To me, Rowan is just a treacherous, self-serving moron, apart from anything else, I just got bored of the same two conversations; how amazing he is and how shit everything else is just got a bit tedious.
It’s just that when I think about how many years ‘Alf’ had ‘Rowan’s’ back; how long they had talked about living together and, the whole time, ‘Rowan’ was lying. So I tend to get a bit of sick in my mouth whenever I hear ‘Rowan’ talk about his ‘best mate’.
And you thought it was about popularity?
No brother, it was and still is about loyalty, loyalty that you took for granted and repaid with judgement.
You want a parasitic moron for a best mate, that’s your lookout. I’ll stick with the guy with actual integrity thanks very much.
I don’t give a toss about ‘Rowan’.
You, Mike, you are my fucking brother.
You sold me out for the guy that sold out so many people, I lost count.
I always wanted you to have a great life.
Why does it help you to do it at my expense?
To me ,you are a gossip, a gobshite; prepared to go to any length to be right, entirely at the expense of the people who are supposed to tell you when you are wrong.
You paint yourself as a hero in a reality where no one is perfect.
People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones and, turns out, almost all of us live in glass houses, including you.
I have seen you at your most cruel.
I see the coward in you.
You would rather paint your brother as a mad man and your mother as a mysanthrope, all to perpetuate the myth that you are right about everything.
You are aware that ‘right’ is subjective?
Now do you understand why I was never going to go on your ‘Stag Do’ or anywhere else with you where I can’t walk home?
Will that do?
Is that enough?
Let it Go?
Go fuck yourself.
It was, sure as fuck, enough for me.
You devastated me. You are personally responsible for some of the most humiliating experiences of my life. On a practical level, I simply cannot afford to have someone in my life able to cause me that much pain and not give a fuck, so I ‘Moonwalked’ out of your life and let you crack on. It’s that simple for me.
Also, if I’m not good enough to be your brother why would I put up with your best mate slagging me off behind my back to anyone that would listen. Rowan is the worst friend I ever had and you were not much better and it’s not just that you did it, it’s that in your head you can justify it and that you will always throw me under a bus when it suits you.
How much of that garbage was I supposed to put up with?
How do you forgive someone who is not remotely sorry for what they have done, knowing full well that sooner or later they will do it again?
When it comes to the family you were raised into you make the same choice every time; yourself.
Consider yourself lucky that you will never know the pain of your little brother telling you you are not good enough to be his brother and while you are not doing that, don’t ever stare into the abyss of a mother who raised a ‘perfect’ child only to be told that he has told everyone that she wants to be alone.
For someone so shameless, allow me to be, privately, ashamed of you.
Do you remember after the night you binned me off in the street; I saw you once when Ashley put that waste of a night on, then the next time was out of the blue; What’s this?
My brother has taken time out of his life to spend time with me?
Nope, you’d taken special time out of your day to come and dissaprove of me, to tell me I ‘Need to sort it out’ with the ‘black girl’.
Sterling advice Mike, very profound.
While I agreed with what you were saying I was also thinking, ‘Wow, this clown has, literally, no idea that I’m done with him. Best thing to do is nod along in agreement and he’ll piss off soon enough’.
Remember the time you called me up to tell me not to ring you on ‘New Year’ because you were away in a cottage. You didn’t need to make that call.
Remember the first time we went to ‘Dorset’, I didn’t invite you, you invited yourself.
Remember the last time we went, how many time I said you didn’t have to come. Why would I want to go on holiday with someone that makes me deeply uncomfortable? It, kind of, defeats the purpose of going on holiday.
I would genuinely, hand on heart, rather sit in a field by myself that go on holiday with you.
It has never bothered me that I have never once been invited to any of your wife’s previous birthday parties, for example, because, presumably, you would be there.
Seeing as you were having obvious trouble deciding which bit’s of your life I was good enough for I made it easy for you. The full extent of our relationship is that you call when you want something.
So when ‘Jamie’ says she want’s me to be a part of your life, I don’t feel comfortable telling her that I tried that once before and I didn’t much like it. Loyalty, respect, trust, the things that brothers are supposed to have, you and I have none. Anything that made us brothers you pissed on years ago. The only thing I can trust you to do is smile to my face and talk shit about me behind my back and, while I can’t stop you doing that, I don’t have to be in the same room with you; knowing that you do.
You try going through life with that guy following you around.
Having to pretend that being your brother is great takes a lot of effort sometimes.
At least now, if anyone asks you about me you can give an honest answer;
“I don’t know, we’re not that close.’
Besides, what do I need you for? Judgement? No thanks. I already know how to talk people down to make myself look better and I already know how to swim. Amazingly, it has taken you almost a decade to just start to notice that I might not actually like you that much and you’re still not quite there yet.
But hey, I’m only your brother, I accepted all of this long ago and I never would have bothered telling you. It’s the fact that you did the same damn thing to Mum that I can’t abide.
Remember how we used to go to ‘Grandmas’ every Saturday.
Remember how Mum went every week because ‘Vera’s’ two sons were dead and ‘Phyllis’, who also had a ‘sort herself out first’ attitude to family, had drawn a blank and stepped out of the responsibility of being there for her mother, then fleeced what was left of the family silver?
You are now two out of three for copying ‘Auntie Phyllis’.
You take great pride in telling me we are a forgiving family.
I’ve never asked you for an apology and I’m not going to start now but I’ll tell you this; the next time you think I owe someone an apology, find someone else to tell me, you have neither the right or the qualification.
Instead of talking about ‘Mum’, you should have listened more; Cherries, you arsehole.
You have robbed you wife of a mother and your mother of a daughter, all because of your determination to be right about everything.
You’ve turned your family into a popularity contest, something else for you to win. Who the fuck do you think you are, ‘Simon Cowell?’
Just because you don’t know how to have a relationship with your mother, it’s like you decided no one could. Did you just write her off? Or is it much simpler than that, you just removed the people from your life who have a perfectly legitimate right to criticise you and told everyone that’s what we wanted, nice trick, with the added bonus of you never actually having to be there for your family.
What a cop out.
Only that’s not how it’s supposed to work Mike, that’s not the deal.
This is what you are supposed to do.
Your parents raise you and, if you are lucky enough to still have them when they are old you check in on them as much as possible to make sure they are alright.
Is there anything you can do for them?
That is normal.
How do you go through life telling everyone, you’ve ‘Got it’ when you take no responsibility for your actions.
I find it absurd that you are compelled to turn everything I try to tell you into an argument you can win.
I am not your mate.
You are my little brother. I was raised to be there for you. For years now, all I have been able to do is protect myself from you.
Mum has long since given up on you showing her any real consideration or compassion and personally, I don’t think you can do it with all that pride you have, but I am obliged to give you one more chance.
Let me try to explain how your supposed to treat an old lady who happened to give birth to you.
1 Visit once a week to check they are still alive and if there is anything you can do, show up because you are interested in her stuff, not to flap on about yours.
2 Listen to her, she is soooo much smarter than you,
3 Listen to her again because you weren’t listening the first time.
4 Call on the phone and listen.
You have sold your mother short.
You know that happy new family you have found. You had one of those.
Everyone in the world listens to their mother.
Seriously, what is wrong with you?
If nothing else, understand this; I am not writing this for me. I have no desire to join any more of your gangs. I am doing this because Mum is unable to.
You are not the first person to break her heart.
This is your last chance to not be the last.
I’m not saying gaining mum’s trust will be easy, I can’t even guarantee it will work but if anything good comes of it, maybe one day you will understand that I am doing this, precisely, for you.
You have from right now, from reading this, to at least try to make it right with your own mother.
Oh, and I don’t want to hear it from you.
I spent a long time writing this, I need to know that you are going to read it as many times as you need to understand it.
Here is the present that you need to give your mother.
Start with her birthday.
I will know that you are doing what I ask when I come home from work one day next week and Mum will tell me about how you just popped in to visit for no particular reason.
You didn’t need anything for a ‘Fancy Dress Party’
You came to see her.
To hang out.
To have a chat about what she’s up to.
To listen, (the big one you struggle with).
Maybe think about bringing your charming wife to help you.
The reason why I am putting this online is because I have tried to talk to you and it has never worked. While I feel like I am betraying my own principles by publishing this, you have had years of having no problem telling anyone you like what you know about me so I thought I might try it your way.
You are the first person to see this as the site only went live today. I would like nothing more than to take this off the website and I will as soon as you prove to me that you have understood this.
Honestly, do you think I want anyone else to know any of this?
I don’t make myself better by dragging my brother down. I keep my secrets.
Still, what’s to stop me posting a link to this page on the ‘Facebook’ page of every friend you have?
If you’ve got time for ‘Indoor Rock-climbing’ you can make time for ‘Mum’.
Once a week.
Once a week to go and listen to her, to see if there’s anything she wants.
Once a week you go and repay her for years of wretched ingratitude.
Once a week from now until forever.
Oh and you have to make her believe that you actually want to be there with her, that you actually want to spend time with her, not just because I’m blackmailing you into it.
Actually that’s the best part about this. You keep everything I have told you to yourself and I will continue to do the same. So when you do start showing your face once a week, you get to tell everyone it was your idea.
Or prove me wrong again; if after a few weeks ‘Mum’ turns around and says, “You know what Mike, thanks for coming around n’all but, actually, I’d rather you didn’t.” you will be more than welcome to go back to ‘Indoor Rock Climbing’.
It is my hope that by, shutting that hole under your nose for an hour a week, you still have time to find out who your mother really is; possibly a bit more about yourself?
Fake it ’till you make it; dipshit.
You pursue progression through repetition of things that work.
I have always tried to be an agent of change; what if we try this another way?
It is the fundamental difference between us.
You are not someone I confide in for two main reasons;
Firstly, you don’t listen and secondly, you’re a bit too ‘judgy’ for me.
Whether I am a part of your life or not is entirely unimportant to me.
But again, I am only your brother, your mother is a different story.
For your benefit it is entirely important that you put your back into making things right with your mother.
And it is still so easy to do, yet it is up to you to do it.
She has rewarded us with our lives and , tirelessly, earned and deserved our compassion.