F. Scott Fitzgerald and the Great Gatsby

Topics: F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby Pages: 13 (5209 words) Published: March 17, 2007
About the Life and Work of F. Scott Fitzgerald
Writers on Fitzgerald
He had one of the rarest qualities in all literature, and it's a great shame that the word for it has been thoroughly debased by the cosmetic racketeers, so that one is almost ashamed to use it to describe a real distinction. Nevertheless, the word is charm — charm as Keats would have used it. Who has it today? It's not a matter of pretty writing or clear style. It's a kind of subdued magic, controlled and exquisite, the sort of thing you get from good string quartettes. Detective novelist Raymond Chandler on F. Scott Fitzgerald. Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler, Ed. Frank MacShane. New York: Columbia University Press, 1981, p. 239. Quoted in Matthew J. Bruccoli, Some Sort of Epic Grandeur: The Life of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Second Revised Edition. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2002. Re-read a lot of Scott Fitzgerald's work this week. God, I love that man. Damn fool critics are forever calling writers geniuses for their idiosyncracies [sic] — Hemingway for his reticent dialogue, Wolfe for his gargantuan energy, and so on. Fitzgerald's only idiosyncrasy was his pure brilliance. J.D. Salinger, quoted in Richard Anderson, "Gatsby's Long Shadow: Influence and Endurance," New Essays on The Great Gatsby. Ed. Matthew J. Bruccoli. London: Cambridge University Press, p. 31. Repeatedly he disclaims his role as spokesman and symbol of the Jazz Age, but by reflecting upon it from his chosen distance, he tolls its dreadful excesses in his own life, and so finds its meaning in the body of his wrecked career. There is gallantry in that. We begin to understand our particular affection for this writer. He lacked armor. He did not live in protective seclusion, as Faulkner. He was not carapaced in self-presentation, as Hemingway. He jumped right into the foolish heart of everything, as he had into the Plaza fountain. He was intellectually ambitious — but thought fashion was important, gossip, good looks, the company of celebrities. He wrote as a rebel, a sophisticate, an escapee from American provincialism — but was blown away by society, like a country bumpkin, and went everywhere he was invited. Ambivalently willed, he lived as both particle and wave. "The test of a first-rate intelligence," he wrote, "is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function." And while he was at his first-rate quantum best, he used everything he knew of society, as critic, as victim, to compose at least one work, The Great Gatsby, that in its few pages arcs the American continent and gives us a perfect structural allegory of our deadly class-ridden longings. E.L. Doctorow, "Introduction," The Jazz Age. New York: New Directions, 1996. My generation thought of F. Scott Fitzgerald as an age rather than as a writer, and when the economic strike of 1929 began to change the sheiks and flappers into unemployed boys or underpaid girls, we consciously and a little belligerently turned our backs on Fitzgerald. Budd Schulberg, screenwriter who worked on a film with Fitzgerald in his final days, quoted in Ruth Prigozy, "Introduction: Scott, Zelda, and the culture of celebrity," The Cambridge Companion to F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ed. Ruth Prigozy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002. p 15. FSF's Contemporaries on Fitzgerald

….if he prefers to paint with startling vividness and virility the jazz aspect of the American scene, why not? Who can do it better —or as well? On the other hand, those who view with alarm both our riotous, unheeding young men and young women, their actions and reactions, are inclined to blame the F. Scott Fitzgerald school of fiction as much as the strident social saturnalias of Scotch and sex-consciousness that he chronicles. Roy L. McCardell, "F. Scott Fitzgerald — Juvenile Juvenal of the Jeunesse Jazz," Morning Telegraph, November 12, 1922. Reprinted in Conversations with F. Scott Fitzgerald....
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