Spoof letter, what is it?

Spoof letter, what is it?

Over the last week something has been circulating via social media which many posts have presented as an previously undiscovered letter written by F Scott Fitzgerald. Wow. But before anybody reads on, please note that the letter is a spoof and its original posting on a blog makes this very clear. The content is purportedly written from the midst of the 1918 influenza and pneumonia pandemic and being quarantined in the south of France:

…The officials have alerted us to ensure we have a month’s worth of necessities. Zelda and I have stocked up on red wine, whiskey, rum, vermouth, absinthe, white wine, sherry, gin, and lord, if we need it, brandy. Please pray for us.
You should see the square, oh, it is terrible. I weep for the damned eventualities this future brings. The long afternoons rolling forward slowly on the ever-slick bottomless highball. Z. says it’s no excuse to drink, but I just can’t seem to steady my hand. In the distance, from my brooding perch, the shoreline is cloaked in a dull haze where I can discern an unremitting penance that has been heading this way for a long, long while…”

Starting as a humorous and open fabrication by Nick Farriella poking mild fun at people now, and so a spoof letter rather than a false one (it appears as ‘by Nick Farriella‘), something interesting happened subsequently. Such is social media that it was rapidly circulated and recirculated and recirculated again as an actual letter by the actually real F Scott Fitzgerald. It started as a spoof, but it morphed and became a letter for the huge numbers of people who read it and passed it on.

Quite humorous in a way, but the problems are obvious in the circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic. Social media in such circumstances works like a gigantic game of whispers, in which an originating communication is passed on but in a slightly garbled way, is passed on again and then again, adding garble, omission or exaggeration with each communicative  transaction. It thereby becomes ever more distant and different from its original form and indeed can become its opposite or its nemesis.

For the original spoof, go to https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/this-side-of-paradise-a-letter-from-f-scott-fitzgerald-quarantined-in-the-south-of-france

Last updated: 26 March 2020