sexta-feira, 1 de março de 2013

THE APPRENTICE FICTION OF F. SCOTT FITZGERALD: 1909-1917. Edited with an introduction by John Kuehl.

Edited with an introduction by John Kuehl.
The New York Times - May 2, 1965
Young Man With a Style

Edited with an introduction by John Kuehl.

After the homme manque, the femme fatale, Fitzgerald's vampiric destroyer, is the most vital character he ever created. She pervades the later fiction in this volume....His femme fatale, however, is no mere foil. From the heroine of "A Luckless Santa Claus' (1912) to the heroine of " The Pierian Springs and the Last Straw" (1917) she acts as the most persistent and powerful barrier to the protagonist's success. Her development into an independently significant figure represents one of the major achievements of these early writings, whose author told his secretary, "I am half feminine - at least, my mind is....Even my feminine characters are feminine." - "The Apprentice Fiction of F. Scott Fitzgerald."

This round-up of Fitzgerald's "apprentice fiction" consists of 13 stories and two one-act plays which he wrote between the ages of 13 and 21 for school and college publications. The editor has supplemented his general introduction with individual prefaces to most of the pieces. The book is attractively illustrated, although the photograph said to be Fitzgerald's father is actually of his maternal uncle.

Fitzgerald was precocious - his talent, as he once said, being in large part the poetic type that matures early - yet he was no demon of precocity like Rimbaud or Raymond Radiguet or Stephen Crane. He did not become a professional till the summer of 1919, following his unhappy but maturing romance with Zelda Sayre. After she had turned him down on the grounds that he couldn't support her, he rewrote his manuscript of a novel with the desperation that often succeeds, got it accepted and was in turn accepted by Zelda, who now become the archetype of the flapper heroines in the Jazz Age stories that poured from his pen. This dramatic transformation was still two years away when he completed the work in the present volume, aimed primarily at the Fitzgerald specialist or buff interested in tracing his themes and narrative devices.

As might be expected, the best pieces are experiments with the materials of 'This Side of paradise." "The Spire and the Gargoyle," a clumsy story inspired by Fitzgerald's academic failure, nevertheless breathes the almost mystical love of Princeton that would lend beauty and vitality to his college novel "The Debutantes," reprinted in Smart Set as it stands here, was incorporated into "This Side of Paradise" in a version so much rewritten and improved as to be hardly recognizable. "Babes in the Woods," on the other hand, was spliced into the novel with comparatively few changes, the verbal shimmer and ironic grace of the first version already approximating the standard which made Fitzgerald famous. Written at about the time that his college flame, Ginevra King, was throwing him over, this story based on their first meeting is remarkably objective, and here, if anywhere, we have the kernel of "This Side of Paradise."

"How do you mean he's heard about me? What sort of things? Asks the heroine, Isabelle. "He knows you're good-looking and all that," her friend replies, adding after a pause, "I guess her knows you've been kissed." Isabelle's resentment is downed by her awareness that in a strange city her reputation as a "speed" will help to launch her. Tossing around such firecrackers in 1917, Fitzgerald was setting up shop as the spokesman and enfant terrible of a generation which in retrospect seems refreshing innocent.

Unrelated to "This Side of Paradise" but biographically important is "Tarquin of Cheepside," another Smart Set reprint which Fitzgerald considered his undergraduate masterpiece. This fantasy of Elizabethan London describes Shakespeare being chased into hiding by the relatives of a woman he has just assaulted, and as soon as the danger passes, he sits down to compose "The Rape of Lucrece." In the energy of the writing not to mention Fitzgerald's self-identification with the hectic poet, there is the premonitory thrill of a big career but also a dangerous one, for Fitzgerald began with the Romantic premise that a writer should be a man of action experiencing his material at first hand, and in escapades of a different sort he would not always get off so lightly as the Shakespeare of his yarn.
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