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  • I was going to get my shoes reheeled when I saw him.

    Now, he was a well heeled individual. Top to toe in Hilditch & Key. I'm not familiar with the brand myself, but you could tell from the typeface that H&K meant money. But what really struck me about Mr Posh Paws was the slab of literature in his well manicured hands. Pretty much my favourite book of all time: 'Tender is the night', by F. Scott Fitzgerald. And he could almost have stepped out of its pages.

    But that doesn't happen, does it. So what was a more plausible explanation? Maybe a film producer, or some incurable old romantic. Maybe even a kindly old stock broker grandfather who'd picked up his student grand-daughters reading material and wanted to know what young people were being asked to 'bone up'on, these days. Who can know who he was, or why he was reading that book. He could have been a troll on his way to meet three goats by Putney bridge. Because he read that book he caught my eye.

    At this point it's worth mentioning that I think he passes more than a passing relationship to the American actor, Harvey Keitel. He could almost be his long lost brother, I thought. Placed in seperate incubators one mid May day in a 1939 Brooklyn hospital the two brothers had taken seperate paths. One became the bad Lieutenant, and the other became perhaps a minor player on the London stock market, with a taste for American literature and leafy suburban pile to amble back to of an evening.

    Or maybe that was it. He was an actor boning up on the book for a production of it that he had a roll in. Fitzgerald's Gatsby was in production. At last Hollywood was going to extend the franchise. Who would he be? Too old to be Dick Diver or Tommy Barban. And not suave enough to be Tommy Barban. Perhaps Nicole's father. Or Maury Noble. That would be my bet.

    Look, if you haven't read the book none of this is going to make any sense. None of this probably makes any sense. But you should read the book. I'm asking you to read the book. It's up there with 'The Catcher in the Rye' and one of the finest constellations of words, since Shakespeare beat those monkeys on typewriters to the draw. The möbius strip of its narrative broke the rules of chronology at a time when film had barely gotten out of the silent era. Its setting in 'The Jazz Age', with all of its frivolity and glamour, often overshadows the fact that it represents Americans at a time where they found the world a playground, rather than a larder that needed policing. As he wrote the book Fitzgerald shared the hope of his generation, hoping that they'd lived through the war to end all wars. But a few years after the book rolled off the press the world would be ripping itself apart again. And a year into the second war to end all wars the gentle author would pass away like a slither of ticker tape on the wind.

    I wanted to ask him how he found the book. Was he smiling at the fractured ordering of the chronology? Or feeling the Mediterranean heat come off the page as Dick and his entourage relax on the beach at Gausse's Hotel des Etrangers? I would never know. Green Park platform rolled beside the window and I stepped from the train. I hope you enjoyed the book Mr H&K.
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