the two kinds of American hunger


“Let me tell you about the very rich,” F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in a story of 1926, at the height of the economic boom and his own creative powers. “They are different from you and me.” Rich people “possess and enjoy early,” he explained, which makes them cynical and haughty. “Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are.” The passage is best known not for its psychological insight, but for Ernest Hemingway’s withering rejoinder. Yes, the rich are different, he conceded: “They have more money.” As with so many of their recorded exchanges, Hemingway is supposed to have come out on top. We are meant to feel that Fitzgerald, in his usual romantic way, believed that the rich really were better, and that he needed Hemingway’s bracing realism to bring him back to earth. But what if Fitzgerald had claimed instead that the poor are different? Even Hemingway entertained the idea that poverty–at least the bohemian frisson of being momentarily poor–might carry with it certain advantages.

more from Christopher Benfey at TNR here.