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The Pocket Essential F Scott Fitzgerald
US$ 7.99 (+ tax)
F Scott Fitzgerald is widely praised as the finest and most celebrated novelist of twentieth century America. His reputation is infinitely more lustrous since his untimely death than it was for much of his twenty-year literary career and is largely based on his 1925 novel, The Great Gatsby, as well as on the colourful and tragic incidents of his personal life. His alcoholism; his fairy tale marriage to the beautiful Zelda Sayre, and her gradual descent into schizophrenia; the incandescent blossoming and dissipation of his literary gifts have all added to his legend. Fitzgerald was an individual who seemed to be composed of opposites and who, fittingly, could have been one of his own characters. He was charming, witty and in love with the magic and splendour of life, but also felt compelled to embrace the darkness. As a writer, his perception of the world around him was so finely tuned and acute that his life and career were a mirror of the 1920s and 30s, so that just as the Jazz Age gave way to the Depression, Fitzgerald’s dazzling and youthful success yielded to drunkenness, despair and what he termed ‘emotional bankruptcy’. This Pocket Essentials examines both Fitzgerald’s life and writing and probes the infinitely complex and symbiotic relationship between the two, revealing the man behind the myth and behind some of the finest prose of all time.
Pocket Essentials; October 2006
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Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote this memorable line probably in the early 1930s, jotting it down in his notebooks during a period when his life was starting to unravel and his confi- dence in his writing beginning to crumble. For just over two decades, however, he did exactly that, presenting a continuous tragedy that ran, not just through his work, but also throughout his short life. Of all his many achievements, perhaps his most remarkable was his unerring ability to write prose that has survived the mythic extremes and excesses of his legend and reputation and, in the years since his death, has flourished to such an amazing degree that it now stands as a pinnacle of twentieth century literature. Although it is ultimately the writing that matters, so complex is the relationship between his work and his life, that it’s virtually impossible to view them separately, a state of affairs that has fascinated and obsessed both his admirers and critics over the years. Despite his own assertion that ‘There never was a good biography of a novelist. There couldn’t be. He is too many people, if he’s any good’, Fitzgerald has been the subject of over eighty books, more than of any other modern writer, and even critical works have included substantial biographical content. Foremost among these scholars and biographers is Matthew J Bruccoli, who in his introduction to F Scott Fitzgerald: A Life in Letters, summed up the link between Fitzgerald’s life and writing simply and eloquently: ‘Everything F Scott Fitzgerald wrote was a form of autobiography.’ Fitzgerald’s abilities as a chronicler of the first forty years of the twentieth century remain unparalleled and perhaps it should come as no great surprise that his art and life are so inextricably linked, since, in writing about these years, he was reflecting what he saw, perceived and felt of American society.To this effect, he and his writing thrived and dazzled in the 1920s, faltered and lost direction in the 1930s, just like the rest of the country and much of Europe. It could be argued that part of the reason that Fitzgerald’s portrayal of America, certainly in the 1920s, is so accurate is because he gives the impression of having invented it.At any rate, he named it, calling it the Jazz Age, and peopled it with a cast of flappers, bootleggers, impresarios, young lovers, gangsters, soldiers, artists, Broadway and Hollywood stars, killers and ordinary folk caught up in a life that had never seemed so fast. New York in the 1920s was the perfect place to find such a cast, and he skilfully assembled it from the kaleidoscope that he witnessed whirling around him: newspapers, magazines, his own friends, a vast array of celebrities, the movies, speakeasies and of course, his biggest inspiration – Zelda. Somehow, despite being caught up in, even at the vortex of, this fierce, relentless whirlpool, he was able to capture it on paper, and do so hundreds of times.