So Long September

What an absolutely bonkers month. September was…How to describe September? The family had a reunion of sorts. The island suffered its fifth shock of the season with a quadruple murder. Running was another head-scratcher as I officially resumed physically therapy for my twisted hips. But. But, But! I was able to log over 30 miles. Nowhere near the 70+ I wanted, but it’s something. At least I haven’t stopped entirely. And the reading? Here are the books:

Fiction:

  • Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald (AB/print)
  • The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman
  • Burton And Speke by William Harrison (fictionalized history/historical fiction…whatever)
  • My Dream of You by Naola O’Faolain (AB/print)

Nonfiction:

  • O Jerusalem! by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre – Confessional: didn’t quite get all the way through this)
  • Everybody was so Young: Gerald and Sara Murphy, a Lost Generation Love Story by Amanda Vaill
  • Living Well is the Best Revenge by Calvin Tomkins

Series continuations:

  • Passions Spin the Plot by Vardis Fisher
  • Henry James: the Treacherous Years (1895 – 1901) by Leon Edel

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • Boat Runner by Devin Murphy (fiction!)

Tender is the Night

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. Tender is the Night. Read by George Guidall. Prince Frederick, MD: Recorded Books, 1996.

Reason read: F. Scott Fitzgerald was born in September…

How many people remember this from their English lit days? Tender is the Night is a study in the push-pull of relationships at their strongest and weakest. Dick Diver is a wealthy psychiatrist who falls for the mentally unstable Nicole Warren. A doctor marrying a patient begins as a dance between crazy and sane. Both are wealthy, society driven people with magnetic, charming personalities. The French Riviera serves as the backdrop and Mr. and Mrs. Gerald Murphy serve as the inspiration for the the first half of Tender is the Night. Zurich, Switzerland and Fitzgerald’s relationship with his mentally ill wife, Zelda, help finish the rest of the story. Overall, it is a tragic display of how mental illness infects like a contagion, bringing down even the most solid of minds.

Lines I liked, “He had long been outside the world of simple desires and their fulfillments, and he was inept and uncertain” (p 206) and “Well, you never knew exactly how much space you occupied in people’s lives” (p 211).

Author fact: Fitzgerald was a Princeton graduate.

Book trivia: Tender is the Night bombed commercially. Just goes to show you, you can’t judge a book by its sales. It’s now considered Fitzgerald’s masterpiece. Another piece of trivia: Tender is the Night was made into a 1962 film starring Jason Robards (who played Heidi’s grandfather in a much later movie).

Nancy said: Tender is the Night needs to be read with Everybody Was So Young by Amanda Vaill and Living well is the Best Revenge by Calvin Tomkins.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the previously mentioned chapter called “Companion Reads” (p 45).


Back to School September

September starts out with sunny skies and a promise of a return to normalcy. What is “normal” anyway? I’m hoping to run without pain (have a whopping 72 miles scheduled). I’m also hoping to get back on track with the reading:

Fiction:

  • Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald –  in honor of F Scott Fitzgerald’s birth month.

Nonfiction:

  • O Jerusalem! by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre
  • Burton and Speke by William Harrison – in honor of September being Curiosity Month (and isn’t that what exploring as all about, being curious?)
  • Living Well is the Best Revenge by Calvin Tomkins – in honor of F Scott Fitzgerald’s birth month (& the reading of Tender is the Night)
  • Everybody was So Young by Amanda Vaill – in honor of F Scott Fitzgerald’s birth month (& the reading of Tender is the Night)

Series Continuation:

  • Passion Spins the Plot by Vardis Fisher – to continue the series started in August in honor of the day Butch Cassidy robbed a bank in Idaho.

Early Review for LibraryThing:

  • The Boat Runner by Devin Murphy (the first fiction I have received in a long time!)

Last Tycoon

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Last Tycoon. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1941.

It’s too bad this was never finished. I think this would have been my favorite Fitzgerald book. Even incomplete, I like it better than anything else I have read. This is a simple yet complicated story about love. She loves him. He loves someone else. That someone else is set to marry anyone else but him. Classic love square. You have to feel sorry for Monroe Stahr. He is lovestruck by a woman who strongly resembles his deceased wife. As a man in the movie business he has the money and the power to woo Kathleen into a brief relationship, even despite the fact she is engaged to be married to someone else. Meanwhile, there is young Cecilia, a junior at Bennington College, just willing Stahr to look at her, to notice her. It is her voice that tells the entire story. Fitzgerald explains the first and third person narrative. What Cecilia is not witness to, she imagines. “Thus, I hope to get the verisimilitude of a first person narrative, combined with a Godlike knowledge of all events that happen to my characters” (p 164).

One of my favorite scenes is Stahr’s treatment of a letter Kathleen addressed to him. He manages to not read it for three hours and is proud of his restraint. Why? What difference does it make when he opened it, immediately or three hours later? The fact of the matter is he opened it anyway.

As an aside, this is going to sound awful, but in a way I am glad Fitzgerald died. The story is beautiful as it is – unfinished yet simple. His plans for the rest of the book are over the top: murder plots and a Stahr dying in a plane crash. Children stealing from the dead and their subsequent trial. Cecilia in a sanitarium (like his wife, Zelda?). Like I said, it all seems over the top.

Lines I liked, “His dark eyes took me in, and I wondered what they would look like if he fell in love” (p 22), “It was more intimate than anything they had done, and they both felt a dangerous sort of loneliness, and felt it in each other” (p 102), “What people are ashamed of usually makes a good story” (p 117), and “It would come in some such guise as the auto horns from the technicolor boulevard below, or be barely audible, a tattoo on the muffled dream of the moon” (p 144).

Reason read: F. Scott Fitzgerald was born in September.

Author fact: Fitzgerald died of a heart attack while writing The Last Tycoon. According to the forward, he had just written the first episode of Chapter six. Sad.

Book trivia: The Last Tycoon is narrated by a junior co-ed at Bennington College, but the story is more about Monroe Stahr.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Literary Lives: the Americans” (p 145). This book actually doesn’t belong in the chapter. “Literary Lives: the Americans” begins with this sentence, “If you want to know more about a writer, before or after reading his or her book, here are some top-notch literary biographies” (p 144). The Last Tycoon is not a biography of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

 

 

 


Far Side of Paradise

Mizener, Arthur. The Far Side of Paradise: a Biography of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1951.

This was my third nonfiction read for the month of September. I don’t know what got me on this reality kick (as opposed to fiction). But, I’m glad I did. Far Side of Paradise was a very interesting read.

Originally written in 1941, Mizener takes great care to weave an analysis of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work into the details of his life. The result is a well balanced biography, bringing “Scott” as he is referred to throughout the book, alive on many different levels. Mizener put a great deal of research into writing Far Side but his style is not dry, nor overly academic. The entire biography is peppered with humor and an easy conversational style. “Meanwhile he [Fitzgerald] had begun to write and had become St. Paul Academy’s star debater (no one had found means to shut him up)” (p 18) is just an example of the humor embedded in Mizener’s biography. The only thing I really found missing were pictures. I would have enjoyed seeing the styles of the 1920s and 30s. The stories of the parties the Fitzgeralds used to have are hysterical.

Another favorite line (a quote from Zelda, Fitzgerald’s own wife): “‘It seems to me that on one page I recognize a portion of an old diary of mine which mysteriously disappeared shortly after my marriage, and also scraps of letters which…sound to me vaguely familiar. In fact, Mr Fitzgerald – I believe that is how he spells his name – seems to believe that plagiarism begins at home” (p 125).

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter, “Literary Lives: The Americans” (p 145). Pearl calls Mizener’s biography of Fitzgerald “one of the best” and while I haven’t read that many, I definitely agree this was a great book.