Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Gatsby Week, Day 2: "A Curious Book"

Here’s the 1925 review from The New York Times of The Great Gatsby.

Enticing excerpt:
“With sensitive insight and keen psychological observation, Fitzgerald discloses in these people a meanness of spirit, carelessness and absence of loyalties. He cannot hate them, for they are dumb in their insensate selfishness, and only to be pitied. The philosopher of the flapper has escaped the mordant, but he has turned grave. A curious book, a mystical, glamourous story of today. It takes a deeper cut at life than hitherto has been enjoyed by Mr. Fitzgerald. He writes well--he always has--for he writes naturally, and his sense of form is becoming perfected.”

And here’s a review of The Pat Hobby Stories, about a down-and-out Hollywood film writer, published as a collection in 1962, another of my favorite Fitzgerald works, though I haven’t read it for a long time. (Yes, it’s on the “favorite books shelf.”) The stories were first published in Esquire in 1940-1941, one after the other.

Enticing excerpt from the review:
“The seventeen stories in this volume are short-- their author was short-winded and hoarding his strength for his novel-- but they are the work of a master hand. The prose is lean, swift and deadly accurate. The tone is typical of Fitzgerald after his crack-up: utterly detached, stripped of all illusion, yet compassionate enough to win sympathy for a protagonist who is essentially a rat-- and reveals it in such stories as "Pay Hobby's Christmas Wish" (a foredoomed scheme to frame a producer) and "Pat Hobby's College Days" (a disastrous attempt to capture a campus prank in a scenario). Other stories, like "Pat Hobby's Secret" and "The Homes of the Stars" are agonizingly funny, and throughout the book the irony, the little curls of humor keep one smiling. If these aren't the greatest stories Fitzgerald ever wrote, they are important to an understanding of his career, and they belong to the small company of works that genuinely evoke Hollywood.

And here’s his New York Times obituary…rather chilling:

“…Roughly, his own career began and ended with the Nineteen Twenties. "This Side of Paradise," his first book, was published in the first year of that decade of skyscrapers and short skirts. Only six others came between it and his last, which, not without irony, he called "Taps at Reveille." That was published in 1935. Since then a few short stories, the script of a moving picture or two, were all that came from his typewriter. The promise of his brilliant career was never fulfilled….”

You can find even more about Fitzgerald at this helpful New York Times site.

P.S. Amusing Iowa connection from the obituary: After the war, “He went to work for the Barron Collier advertising agency, where he penned the slogan for a Muscatine, Iowa, laundry: ‘We keep you clean in Muscatine.’”


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.