Critical Insights: F. Scott Fitzgerald
In-depth critical discussions of his life and works - Plus complimentary, unlimited online access to the full content of this great literary reference.
The hard-partying, insouciant twenty-something whose first novel spoke for a generation; the preternaturally gifted writer who struggled to master his talent; the dissolute alcoholic who watched the world pass him by before dying in obscurity-the faces of F. Scott Fitzgerald have fascinated readers for more than three quarters of a century. First bursting into the American consciousness with the evanescently lyrical This Side of Paradise, Fitzgerald seemed to have a charmed life. Overnight, he became wealthy, married the girl of his dreams, and set about living the sort of beautiful, stylish life most of us only dream of. But in time the grandeur faded, as it does from the lives of his best characters, in a haze of parties, marital discord, and squandered youth and potential. His later novels-The Great Gatsby and Tender Is the Night-though markedly better crafted than his first, failed to garner the sales of his earlier work, and in mid-1930's, exhausted from more than a decade of dissolution, he retreated to the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, to drink and pen a series of reflections on what he believed was his failed life. When he died in Hollywood only a few years later, few critics or readers missed him.
But despite the ignominy of his final years, the latter half of the twentieth century saw Fitzgerald resurrected into one of America's most beloved authors. As Don Noble, Professor Emeritus of the University of Alabama, notes in his introduction to this volume, "Fitzgerald is now safely and securely in the pantheon of American writers."
This volume in the Critical Insights series collects a variety of old and new essays on Fitzgerald and continues the work of rehabilitating his reputation and reexamining his work. Noble's introduction serves as a meditation on Fitzgerald's enduring relevance, pointing out how the major themes persisting across his work-wealth, success, love, youth, and tragedy-are also enduring themes within the American consciousness, and Elizabeth Gumport, writing for The Paris Review, offers a reflection on Fitzgerald's magical prose and his characters' magical thinking.
For readers studying Fitzgerald for the first time, a brief biography presents the essential details of his life, and a quartet of new essays offers a comprehensive introduction to his work. Jennifer Banach discusses the author's interpretation of the American Dream in the context of other American dreamers such as Benjamin Franklin and Horatio Alger, Jr., and Suzanne del Gizzo draws on recent scholarship on American consumer culture to evaluate Fitzgerald's complex attitudes toward wealth and privilege. Cathy W. Barks then provides a survey of the critical reception of the novels and short stories to demonstrate the rise, fall, and resurgence of Fitzgerald's reputation as a major American author. Finally, Matthew J. Bolton considers how screenwriter Eric Roth's adaptation of one of Fitzgerald's lesser-known stories, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," translates and reinvents this comic tale into a sentimental romance.
The third section of this volume presents a selection of previously published essays meant to deepen readers' understanding of Fitzgerald's work. Kirk Curnutt and Ruth Prigozy discuss Fitzgerald's place within and relation with 1920's youth culture and American popular culture. Scott Donaldson then considers Fitzgerald's relation with the South through an examination of his life and a grouping of short stories. Edwin S. Fussell takes up The Great Gatsby with an examination of Jay Gatsby's and America's relation to time and history, and Tender Is the Night is treated by Michael K. Glenday and James H. Meredith, with Glenday comparing Fitzgerald's Divers with their real-life model, Gerald and Sara Murphy, and Meredith locating the work within the genre of the war novel. Michael Reynolds makes a comparative analysis between Fitzgerald and Hemingway, arguing that both took as their ethical models the medieval tales of chivalry they read as children, and Milton R. Stern finds artistic merit in the usually discounted Pat Hobby stories. Lionel Trilling's classic essay on Fitzgerald from The Liberal Imagination is also reprinted here, along with Morris Dickstein's summary of Fitzgerald's brilliant, tragic career. Finally, novelist and screenwriter Budd Schulberg offers a personal reminiscence of his brief, hectic friendship with Fitzgerald as the two struggled to complete a screenplay in the late 1930's.
Rounding out the volume are a chronology of Fitzgerald's life, a list of his principal works, and an extensive bibliography for readers wishing to study this classic American author in greater depth.
Finally, the volume's appendixes offer a section of useful reference resources:
- A chronology of the author's life
- A complete list of the author's works and their original dates of publication
- A general bibliography
- A detailed paragraph on the volume's editor
- Notes on the individual chapter authors
- A subject index