Tuesday, January 13, 2015

"West of Sunset": Fitzgerald in Hollywood

How did I not know about this book until now, West of Sunset, by Stewart O’Nan, that imagines F. Scott Fitzgerald’s days in Hollywood?  Like, could a book be more perfectly written FOR ME?  Fitzgerald’s so-poignant Pat Hobby Stories, about an old, has-been hack of a screenwriter, has been on my Favorite Books Bookshelf for ages, and I’m pretty sure this one will never get squeezed off for lack of room.  These stories make my heart ache.

Best news of all:  Stewart O’Nan will be reading from the book on Wednesday, January 14, at 7 PM at Politics & Prose.  I will see you there!  (Unless the predicted snow/sleet/apocalyptic event actually happens as described.)  More info here.

Here’s Maureen Corrigan’s review from the Washington Post and an excerpt:

What interests him about Fitzgerald’s exile in Hollywood is not so much the glitter (although Humphrey Bogart, Marlene Dietrich and other stars make appearances), nor his love affair with gossip columnist Sheilah Graham (whose blond good looks evoked the young Zelda), but rather Fitzgerald’s anxious commitment to his work as a screenwriter. Most of the movies Fitzgerald was assigned to were dreck (although there was a short stint on “Gone with the Wind”). Nevertheless, sitting down every day in his office or the various furnished cottages and apartments he rented in and around Hollywood, Fitzgerald fueled himself with cigarettes and Cokes (or, frequently, something more potent) as he labored to make flimsy scripts better. Fitzgerald was always a worrier, relentlessly tinkering with “The Great Gatsby” and “Tender Is the Night,” even after the publication of those novels. It’s that F. Scott Fitzgerald — the worn-out yet relentless craftsman — whom O’Nan compassionately evokes in “West of Sunset.” 


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