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Mitch Sisskind - Correspondent at Large

Eliot's "Ass Wednesday" [by Mitch Sisskind]

Eliot basicAs we move into Lent, Eliot's "Ass-Wednesday" is a work to which we naturally return. Is it surprising to discover the poet's inscription to Scott Fitzgerald "with the author's homage"? At first thought the two writers hardly seem like a match -- but there are actually several points of affinity. Both men were Midwesterners who went East to Harvard (Eliot) and Princeton (Fitzgerald.) Both men had "difficult" marriages to Vivienne (Eliot) and Zelda (Fitzgerald.) Both men liked to drink, though Tom seems to have been able to handle it better.

Those of us who admire both writers no doubt have favorite poems/stories/novels, and even favorite lines. I recall reading Fitzgerald's "Winter Dreams" as a high school student and being moved (almost) to tears. That story, said to be an early version of The Great Gatsby, still seems to me one of Fitzgerald's best. And rarely does a week go by in which I don't recite to myself my favorite line from "The Waste Land" (actually, from the notes): "I have associated it quite arbitrarily with the Fisher King himself." But my favorite Eliot is "Four Quartets."

Good day!

from the archive; first pblished Feb 21, 2010

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

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