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.
Camus, Albert. The First Man. Translated by David Hapgood. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1995.
First Man opens with Henri Cormery, the new manager of the Saint-Apotre property seeking help for his wife, in labor with their second child. But, the meat of the transcript is the son, Jacques Cormery, looking to understand he father he never met. With a deaf-mute mother and a contradictory tyrannical grandmother, Jacques’s quest for knowledge is slow-going. Henri Cormery died in combat when Jacques was just an infant and the women in his family are reluctant to remember anything. Most of the story centers on Jacques in the formative years, his education, his religion, his poverty and of course, his mother and grandmother. While most of the story centers on the bleakness of poverty and the restrictions placed upon Jacques because of that poverty, I liked the sly sense of humor Camus inserted throughout the story. Take this dialogue, for example: “How is it going?” “I don’t know, I especially don’t go in where the women are.” “Good rule…Particularly when when are crying…” (p 15). It just goes to show you that emotional women still drive men nuts. What I didn’t appreciate in First Man was how confusing an unfinished transcript could be. On page 8 Jacques’s mother’s name is Lucie, but by page 90 she is Catherine. Then there were the hundreds and hundreds of reference notes. It made reading slow and plodding at times.
As an aside, I have to laugh. Because I have been thinking of this as Camus’s last book I have been calling it The Last Man. Go figure!
Quotes I like, “She said yes, maybe it was no; she had to reach back in time through a clouded memory, nothing was certain” (p 80).
Reason read: June 19th is the anniversary of Revolution Day in Algeria.
Author fact: Camus’s daughter is instrumental in getting this work published. Even his wife wouldn’t release it to the public.
Book trivia: This is Camus’s last work. The handwritten manuscript was found with him after his fatal car accident in 1960. I think it is fitting that First Man is the last book written by Camus that I will read for the Challenge.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “North African Notes: Algeria” (p 159).