What do F. Scott Fitzgerald (the American writer) and William Strunk Sr. (the father of the Cornell English professor who was the author of the original The Elements of Style) have in common?
Here’s Arthur Krystal, in the November 16 New Yorker (p. 38):
Fitzgerald always had a plan. He liked to draw up schedules; he kept meticulous records; he made numerous lists; and he recorded every penny earned, borrowed, and paid back. For a man who led one of the messiest lives in literary history, on paper he was as organized as Felix Unger’s sock drawer.
As for Strunk Sr., from Mark Garvey’s recent Stylized: A Slightly Obsessive History of Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style (p. 1):
An energetic record keeper all his adult life, William Strunk Sr., in a flowing, nearly calligraphic script, filled ledger after ledger with the details of Strunk family life–expenditures of every kind, from the cost of his own wedding to the annual expenses of child rearing [including those for Will Strunk Jr.] …
Garvey fills more than a page with further details. He doesn’t offer similar details about Will Strunk Jr., though he does touch several times on Strunk’s passion for order.
Maybe it was the spirit of the times.