quinta-feira, 12 de dezembro de 2013

F. Scott Fitzgerald - Four Books

F. Scott Fitzgerald
Four Books

Scott Fitzgerald Looks Into Middle Age
By EDWIN CLARK, April 19, 1925

     Of the many new writers that sprang into notice with the advent of the post-war period, Scott Fitzgerald has remained the steadiest performer and the most entertaining. Short stories, novels and a play have followed with consistent regularity since he became the philosopher of the flapper with "This Side of Paradise." With shrewd observation and humor he reflected the Jazz Age. Now he has said farewell to his flappers-perhaps because they have grown up-and is writing of the older sisters that have married. But marriage has not changed their world, only the locale of their parties. To use a phrase of Burton Rascoe's-his hurt romantics are still seeking that other side of paradise. And it might almost be said that "The Great Gatsby" is the last stage of illusion in this absurd chase. For middle age is certainly creeping up on Mr. Fitzgerald's flappers.
In all great arid spots nature provides an oasis. So when the Atlantic seaboard was hermetically sealed by law, nature provided an outlet, or inlet rather, in Long Island. A place of innate natural charm, it became lush and luxurious under the stress of this excessive attention, a seat of festive activities. It expresses one phase of the great grotesque spectacle of our American scene. It is humor, irony, ribaldry, pathos and loveliness. Out of this grotesque fusion of incongruities has slowly become conscious a new humor-a strictly American product. It is not sensibility, as witness the writings of Don Marquis, Robert Benchley and Ring Lardner. It is the spirit of "Processional" and Donald Douglas's "The Grand Inquisitor": a conflict of spirituality set against the web of our commercial life. Both boisterous and tragic, it animates this new novel by Mr. Fitzgerald with whimsical magic and simple pathos that is realized with economy and restraint.
     The story of Jay Gatsby of West Egg is told by Nick Caraway, who is one of the legion from the Middle West who have moved on to New York to win from its restless indifference-well, the aspiration that arises in the Middle West-and finds in Long Island a fascinating but dangerous playground. In the method of telling, "The Great Gatsby" is reminiscent of Henry James's "Turn of the Screw." You will recall that the evil of that mysterious tale which so endangered the two children was never exactly stated beyond suggested generalization. Gatsby's fortune, business, even his connection with underworld figures, remain vague generalizations. He is wealthy, powerful, a man who knows how to get things done. He has no friends, only business associates, and the throngs who come to his Saturday night parties. Of his uncompromising love-his love for Daisy Buchanan-his effort to recapture the past romance-we are explicitly informed. This patient romantic hopefulness against existing conditions symbolizes Gatsby. And like the "Turn of the Screw," "The Great Gatsby" is more a long short story than a novel.
     Nick Carraway had known Tom Buchanan at New Haven. Daisy, his wife, was a distant cousin. When he came East Nick was asked to call at their place at East Egg. The post-war reactions were at their height-every one was restless-every one was looking for a substitute for the excitement of the war years. Buchanan had acquired another woman. Daisy was bored, broken in spirit and neglected. Gatsby, his parties and his mysterious wealth were the gossip of the hour. At the Buchanans Nick met Jordan Baker; through them both Daisy again meets Gatsby, to whom she had been engaged before she married Buchanan. The inevitable consequence that follows, in which violence takes its toll, is almost incidental, for in the overtones-and this is a book of potent overtones-the decay of souls is more tragic. 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.

Scott Fitzgerald Turns a Corner
By THE NEW YORK TIMES, March 7, 1926

    The publication of this volume of short stories might easily have been an anti-climax after the perfection and success of "The Great Gatsby" of last Spring. A novel so widely praised-by people whose recognition counts-is stiff competition. It is even something of a problem for a reviewer to find new and different words to properly grace the occasion. It must be said that the collection as a whole is not sustained to the high excellence of "The Great Gatsby," but it has stories of fine insight and finished craft.
     That Scott Fitzgerald has realized the promise of his brilliant juvenilia in a short writing period of six years must be a bitter shock to those who saw in him a skyrocketing flash in the pan. To begin with he had the gift of words-of writing colorfully, movingly, of projecting emotions and humors through his language, shocked the purist. Also his early short stories see-sawed between the extremes of having matter and little form and slight form and something to say. He wrote the popular magazine story; he wrote delightfully amusing yarns, such as "The Camel's Back," and he wrote driveling hokum with a dash of cleverness. Then, as though to make up for pot boiling, he wrote strange and fantastic stories in unconventional magazines-most in the late-departed gayety of the old Smart Set. During this time he was slowly bringing the extremes of manner and matter into a more balanced saturation of craft and feeling.
     Dr. Henry Canby has recently argued that men are "getting a poor deal" in modern fiction. He complains that "to get real men in books one must go back to Dickens." This is hardly applicable to Mr. Fitzgerald. He, at least, has been occupied with the affairs of young men for some time. Of late his point of view has taken a satiric slant toward the grown-up children of the Jazz Age. In fact, the philosopher of the flappers has never neglected his sad young men, from the groping adolescence of Amory in "This Side of Paradise" to Gatsby; he has been an interested chronicler of the efforts of his sad young men to wrestle beauty and love from the world and the ladies. This pursuit continues, as is fairly obvious, in the present collection of tales. Thus it is that Mr. Fitzgerald has come to irony and pity, and the peace and wisdom that is inherent in partial success, as well as the disillusionment of dream.
     Something of the poet has always lingered near Mr. Fitzgerald. Like so many young men, he has a great respect for Dreiser. He tried realism as the medium for what he had to say. It wasn't quite the right approach. His temperament had too much of fantasy in its make-up. So more and more he has found in this indirect method of expression the way to express his feeling for what is lovely and his criticism of life. Here the poet, satirist and realist mingle in a world of make-believe that impinges sharply on reality.
     It is in this manner he calls out his overgrown flappers. His stories of "Gretchen's Forty Winks," "The Adjuster," and "Rags Martin-Jones" are topsy-turvy fantasy shot through with realistic detail that produces a poignancy of more than wistfulness. These gracious and selfish young dames discover that this world isn't their special toy. In these brief histories of vanity, restlessness, boredom, the sad young men struggle to hold their tinctured beauties until they discover that escape isn't across the horizon but within themselves.
     To "The Adjuster," Fitzgerald brings this observation, that "it is one of the many flaws in the scheme of human relationships that selfishness in women has an irresistible appeal to many men. Luella's selfishness existed side by side with a childish beauty, and, in consequence, Charles Hemple had begun to take the blame upon himself for situations which she had obviously brought about. It was an unhealthy attitude..." But before Luella can escape across the horizon to disenchantment beyond, she is caught in the movement of life, which we call experience. Instead of being bored and annoyed by persistent trifles, she suffers, feeling takes the place of precious sensibility and self pity, and she becomes aware of that:
     "We make an agreement with children that they can sit in the audience without helping to make the play... but if they still sit in the audience after they're grown, somebody's got to work double time for them, so that they can enjoy the light and glitter of the world. You've got to give security to young people and peace to your husband, and a sort of charity to the old."
     In spite of the fact that "Gretchen's Forty Winks" appeared in The Saturday Evening Post-still, after three readings-this simple story of misunderstanding between a young married couple remains our choice of this group of stories. It is written with insight and a lightness that deftly realizes the situation. It is rounded out with a craft that is about perfection. It accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do-and no more than that could be asked for.
     Yet it must be said, immediately, that "Absolution" is a penetrating and profound effort to articulate life in primal and dark conflict. It is simple and stripped of artifice. The poet and humanist in Fitzgerald is in this counting of the search of a boy and an elderly priest for absolute truth, in the conflicting presence of the demands of daily life with its common everydayness of people and trivial affairs.
     This book is a big advance over his previous stories. It distinctly marks a transition. The nine tales have a much greater variety. It is also time that Fitzgerald be given credit for creating other than youthful characters; his elderly people are excellent portrayals. He has written a book of mellow, mature, ironic, entertaining stories, and one of them, at least, challenges the best of our contemporary output.

Books of The Times
By JOHN CHAMBERLAIN, April 16, 1934

     The critical reception of F. Scott Fitzgerald's "Tender is the Night" might serve as the basis for one of those cartoons on "Why Men Go Mad." No two reviews were alike; no two had the same tone. Some seemed to think that Mr. Fitzgerald was writing about his usual jazz age boys and girls; others that he had a "timeless" problem on his hands. And some seemed to think that Doctor Diver's collapse was insufficiently documented.
     With this we can't agree. It seemed to us that Mr. Fitzgerald proceeded accurately, step by step, with just enough documentation to keep the drama from being misty, but without destroying the suggestiveness that added to the horror lurking behind the surface. Consider Dr. Diver's predicament in being married to a woman with a "split personality" deriving from a brutal misadventure in adolescence. He had married Nicole against his better judgment, partially because she brought him memories of home after years spent abroad. He was drawn into accepting her money, for reasons that living up to a certain income and "cushioning" existence were bound up with the cure. His husband-physician relationship to Nicole, involving constant companionship, cut him off from his practice, and he thought wistfully at times of how the German psychiatrists were getting ahead of him.
     With all these factors preparing the ground, it would merely take the sight of an uncomplicated girl (Rosemary) to jar him into active unrest. And when Nicole, subconsciously jealous of Rosemary, comes to a new phase of her disease, and attempts to throw the car off the road when Dick is driving with her and the two children, it is enough to give any one the jitters. Weakness indeed! The wonder to us is that Dick didn't collapse long before Mr. Fitzgerald causes him to break down. And when he does collapse, his youth is gone, it is too late to catch up with the Germans who have been studying new cases for years. This seems to us to be a sufficient exercise in cause-and-effect. Compared to the motivation in Faulkner, it is logic personified.

Scott Fitzgerald's Tales
By EDITH H. WALTON - March 31, 1935

     According to his publishers, Mr. Fitzgerald has chosen for inclusion in this volume the best short stories that he has written during the past decade. It is a curious and rather disturbing admission, coming as it does from a writer of Scott Fitzgerald's stature. The characteristic seal of his brilliance stamps the entire book, but it is a brilliance which splutters off too frequently into mere razzle-dazzle. One wishes for more evidence that he has changed and matured since the days of "Flappers and Philosophers" and "Tales of the Jazz Age."
   Most in key with those earlier books are the three stories grouped under the heading, "Josephine." With a kind of deadly accuracy, Mr. Fitzgerald describes a specimen of the predatory young who makes Mr. Tarkington's Lola Platt seem like a milk-and-water baby. Josephine is sixteen-beautiful, ruthless and fickle. Whether or not he is earmarked as somebody else's property she goes out and gets her man with an appalling directness. Proms and tea-dances are her natural habitat, and she takes a certain pride in being considered fast. She dates-more, perhaps than Mr. Fitzgerald realizes-but her wiles and adventures are undeniably comic.
     Better, and poignant as well as amusing, is the longer sequence of stories which deals with a pre-war boy in his middle teens. Though his method is different from Booth Tarkingtion's, Mr. Fitzgerald approaches at times the same startling veracity. Basil Duke Lee is a bright, sensitive, likeable boy, constantly betrayed by a fatal tendency to brag and boss. He knows his failing, especially after the minor hell of his first year at boarding school, but again and again he is impelled to ruin an initial good impression. Two of the Basil stories-"He Thinks He's Wonderful" and "The Perfect Life"-are small masterpieces of humor and perception, and Mr. Fitzgerald is always miraculously adept at describing adolescent love affairs and adolescent swagger.
     A full half of "Taps at Reveille" is given over to these tales of youth. The remaining stories vary greatly in mood and merit. "Crazy Sunday," which has Hollywood for a setting, is clever but contrived; "Majesty," for all its irony, has a strangely hollow ring; "One Interne" is entertaining, but get nowhere and has no real characterization. Even "The Last of the Belles," with its undertone of regret for youth and bright gayety, fails to make a point which one can regard as valid. Far better is "A Short Trip Home," a ghost story which yet can be considered as definitely realistic.
     Three of the stories point toward directions which Mr. Fitzgerald might profitably take. "A Trip to Chancellorsville," in which a trainload of light ladies is catapulted unawares into the realities of the Civil War, is restrained irony at its best. "Family in the Wind," the story of a Southern town ravaged by tornadoes and of a drink-ridden doctor who stumbles on salvation, strikes a new and healthy note. "Babylon Revisited," which seems oddly linked in spirit to Mr. Fitzgerald's latest novel, "Tender is the Night," is probably the most mature and substantial story in the book. A rueful, though incompleted, farewell to the Jazz Age, its setting is Paris and its tone one of anguish for past follies.
     It has become a dreadful commonplace to say that Mr. Fitzgerald's material is rarely worthy of his talents. Unfortunately, however, the platitude represents truth. Scott Fitzgerald's mastery of style-swift, sure, polished, firm-is so complete that even his most trivial efforts are dignified by his technical competence. All his writing has a glamourous gloss upon it; it is always entertaining; it is always beautifully executed.
     Only when one seeks to discover what he has really said, what his stories really amount to, is one conscious of a certain emptiness. "Taps at Reveille" will bore no one, and offend no trained intelligence, but when one remembers how fine a writer Mr. Fitzgerald could still be, it simply is not good enough.

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