My eldest nephew – who is now a 25 year old Oxford doctoral student – stayed with us for a couple of nights earlier this week. He had never been to our new house here in Potton. So for the first time we three took a Bedfordshire rural ramble nearby:
At one point I brought up F. Scott Fitzgerald during a kitchen talk. (Sometimes we discuss very DEEP subjects. LOL!) At my mention of Fitzgerald, my wife smiled and turned to my nephew (with me sitting right there) and declared, “He [meaning me] has a Fitzgerald fixation currently.”
Uh, I thought, no, I don’t…
R. J. Nello (@rjnellowriter) January 07, 2020
Fine, okay, yeh, maybe a little more than previously. But if so that is mostly because on my writing “hiatus” since October’s publication of my Tomorrow The Grace, I have read an excellent biography of Fitzgerald. I have also (for the first time) read his 1934 novel, Tender is the Night.
Last week my wife and I also binge-watched all nine episodes of The Last Tycoon Amazon Prime television series (2016-2017) which is (loosely) based on Fitzgerald’s unfinished final novel. (It contains some of the best recent television drama I have seen.)
In 2019, I had also read The Great Gatsby for the first time since I was FORCED to read it in high school. Unsurprisingly I had back then (as did many another school kid) HATED it. But in this re-reading (it is NOT a high school level book), I truly enjoyed it now AS AN ADULT.
At his untimely death at age 44 in 1940, Fitzgerald had completed three (THREE!) – This Side of Paradise, Gatsby, and Tender – of the 20th century’s great American novels. Of course few contemporary reviewers and book buyers seemed to realize that.
I thought also on my books thus far.
“Who you are?” I am not sure any of us ever really know who we are; but if I died tomorrow I would be reasonably content about my five novels being my writing legacy. They say what I want them to say.
I suppose if a writer knows anything about Fitzgerald’s actual life, few can help but see something of themselves in him. And we may shiver at the thought. By his death his novels had largely stopped selling (Gatsby sold about 15 copies in 1940), and his funeral attracted only a few close friends and family and little wider attention.
In a publishing career that lasted only about 20 years, he had had big success with his first novel, Paradise: it was a major critical and moneymaking hit – “the authoring double” that every writer dreams of achieving. After that, it became a perennial struggle for him to produce another critically praised and “saleable” novel, yet he kept hoping “the next one” would be “it.” The day he died he was still writing The Last Tycoon… which was completed the following year by a long-time writer friend who cleaned up the draft and filled out the story based on Fitzgerald’s surviving notes.
Have a good weekend, wherever you are reading, and perhaps writing in your own personal quest for “the double,” in our world. 🙂