sexta-feira, 1 de março de 2013


Edited by Andrew Turnbull.
The New York Times - October 18, 1963
The Fitzgerald Years in Letters

Edited by Andrew Turnbull.

Here is the first full selection of Scott Fitzgerald's letters, assembled by Andrew Turnbull, his best biographer, and what makes the book worthwhile is that it does not speculate about Scott Fitzgerald - it is about him. Sometimes we are offered the original but settle for carbon copies. During the Hollywood and television blacklisting years a producer once asked for a "John Garfield-type." The story goes that the producer replied: "Sorry, I want a John Garfield-type." Nobody can find fault with this book as "a Fitzgerald- type."
The letters are so arranged that this thick volume forms a personal and literary history of the writer, his family, and his writing contemporaries. Because Fitzgerald wrote at length to his daughter and wife, we see clearer than ever, before what drove his engine of self-destruction so gallantly. He was pressed financially, ought to live high and was given a fearful choice - one always nagging extremely talented writers.

That choice was: Should he knock off little magazine stories and movie scripts for Shirley Temple or should he write new Gatsbys? The obviously poor choice he made is mitigated here somewhat in his own words, but not excused; Fitzgerald was too honest a literary person to rationalize about the junk on Grub Street or Vine Street. (It is not the doing of shabby jobs but their rationalization that show hypocrisy.) In the end, when he was writing "The Last Tycoon," he had decided to make a supreme effort to conserve his great talent, but illness cut him down. The letters reach a climax of life any novelist would envy.

One value of the letters is that they reveal brutally the combination of drudgery and creativity operating at once in a n artist's life. So many aspects of both appear in letters to his friend and to his editor, Edmund Wilson and Maxwell Perkins. Curiously, his letters to Ernest Hemingway are the only ones that seem to strike a false, Fitzgerald-type note; too gay and full of imitative bravado. Mr. Turnbull says of these newly discovered letters: "They show Fitzgerald's fascination with the Hemingway legend, his amused deference to the other's more commanding personality, and finally his dignity and magnanimity after Hemingway turned him down." In the Hemingway letters Fitzgerald always seems to be on the giving and seldom on the receiving end.
Nearly all the letters have a phrase or more worth repeating:

To Ernest Hemingway - "Riches have never fascinated me, unless combined with the greatest charm or distinction." To Edmund Wilson - "It was sun when we all believed the same things. It was more fun to think that we were all going to die together or live together, and none of us anticipated this great loneliness, where one has dedicated his remnants to imaginative fiction and another his slowly dissolving trunk to the Human Idea."

To his daughter - "Advertising is a racket, like the movies and the brokerage business. You cannot be honest without admitting that its constructive contribution to humanity is exactly minus zero. It is simply a means of making dubious promises to a credulous public."
Again to Scottie - "All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath."
To Joseph Mankiewicz - "I'm a good writer - honest."

This pathetic comment was addressed to Mr Mankiewicz because he had rewritten a screenplay that Fitzgerald had fashioned for M-G-M. "To say I'm disillusioned is putting it mildly," Fitzgerald continued. "For 19 years, with two years out for sickness, I've written best-selling entertainment, and my dialogue is supposedly right up at top. But I learn from the script that you've suddenly decided that it isn't good dialogue and you can take a few cuts off and do much better."

So Fitzgerald wrote Mr. Mankiewicz in 1938. It is interesting to ponder the relative values of American letters to this day: As writer-director of the current "Cleopatra" Mr. Mankiewicz was paid more money than Scott Fitzgerald received for every novel and word he wrote in his entire life.
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