A single aperitif before lunch and one before dinner is a phrase spoken by F. Scott Fitzgerald in Hemingway’s Hawks Do Not Share. It is a refrain, a self-promise, uttered by Fitzgerald as he tries to conform his drinking to a socially acceptable degree.
Hemingway helps Fitzgerald with compassion and understanding, but in between the lines and over time, the refrain seems forsaken. There is the air of ancient tragedy to Fitzgerald, of a flaw in the man which determines his fate.
Hemingway observes his friend with benevolence tempered by distance. He knows Fitzgerald’s alcohol abuse is a barrier. Despite Hemingway’s own prodigious drinking the extreme egoism of addiction reduces all others to mere servants, which is what Hemingway became in one journey with Fitzgerald.
Nearly a century later there is evidence that alcohol consumption is falling. While livers are safer, this era has other curses, perhaps more discreet and insidious.
Narcissism is one that is reported to be increasing. At first, the behavior may seem whimsical: such as believing that they exercise a direct effect in the world (manifesting), when coincidence would be a rational explanation; or, believing the always great predictions in fortune tellers’ forecasts. Occasionally it is funny, such as denying facts.
Testimonies by people who have seen their partner, their boss, or a friend, acting in a pattern which overtly, or implicitly, suggests the ego has gobbled its host are disturbing. The less charming instances more manipulative, arrogant and even cruel.
For the megalomaniac, evidence, logic, are only for prosaic minds. Their exotic elixirs, regimes and rituals refine a special sense of self, one that is anointed. The megalomaniac’s meta-narrative is that there is a special goal, a talent, a unique understanding and ability which makes all conventional appraisal worthless.
A drinker can only reach that state of magnificence with alcohol. The brain has a role although it’s unlikely to be equivalent with a megalomaniac’s experience of self-adoration.
It’s acknowledged that the self-esteem movement was an important turning point. Hyper- individualism, personal development, social media and celebrity culture, (celebrity culture is an oxymoron) have combined to cultivate this psychological malaise.
A single aperitif before lunch and one before dinner gave Fitzgerald the hope of normality. It was, as Hemingway records the phrase, a delusion and ultimately unsuccessful. As he tended to Fitzgerald, Hemingway knew that a gulf existed between them and genuine friendship was impossible. Those who know narcissists understand a similar gulf.
©Copyright Guy Cranswick 2018. All Rights Reserved.