Nobody knew whose party it was. It had been going on for weeks. When you felt you couldn’t survive another night, you went home and slept and when you got back, a new set of people had consecrated themselves to keeping it alive.

So Zelda Fitzgerald described the characteristic occupation of the Twenties. Reading about it again makes one wonder about the meaning of such parties. Why were there so many parties? Why did they drink so much? James Mellow’s new biography of the Fitzgeralds leaves such questions and their implications still largely unanswered. Of course, there was the Jazz Age, and the Revolt against Prohibition, and the Defiance of Puritanism; but those are merely labels, or outline headings, substitutes for explanation. Perhaps any comment or question about the Fitzgeralds’ drinking is thought to be censorious. Don’t all writers drink, all...


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