What I learned from A&E’s F. Scott Fitzgerald BIOGRAPHY!

- Both F. Scott Fitzgerald and my other favorite author, Charles Dickens, share overlapping childhood experiences with poverty and father figures who fall short; FSF’s failed and led him to vow not to be a failure himself, while Dickens’ landed his family in the poorhouse but was a strong supporter of his son. 

- The father of Genevra King, FSF’s first love, told him that “poor boys don’t marry rich girls.” Ouch.  And a common theme was born!

- In college: dressed in drag for plays (all-boys school) and showed early signs of his eventual drinking problem. 

- On Zelda: “I fell in love with her courage, her sincerity, and her flaming self-respect.”

- Short stories essentially supported him and Zelda.

- Zelda on their lives in the early 20’s: “Very alcoholic and very chaotic.”

- Mid-20’s: Expatriation and The Great Gatsby!

- Zelda… cheated?!?

- This I knew, but it bears repeating (now): Gatsby was not — initially — as commercially successful as his first two novels.  What were those called, again?  (This Side of Paradise & The Beautiful and the Damned)

- Mid-30’s: 30 bottles of beer on average… a day??

- At the end of his Hollywood writing career, he spent two weeks polishing text for Gone with the Wind… until he was replaced.

How did such a profoundly talented man die in obscurity, disparaged by the media and largely out of print?  Now?  Statues, commemorative stamps, introductions, scholarly essays, high school reading schedules, English class paper assignments, and more.  What a life…

Give me a hero, and I’ll write you a tragedy.
FSF

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While watching “The Great Gatsby” (2000)

- WHY give away the ending in the first two minutes?  What is this, Romeo & Juliet?  Have I forgotten the prologue to The Great Gatsby (1925)?

- Paul Rudd’s a bit flat as Nick Carraway, though there are moments when Rudd’s affect offers an interesting reading of Carraway.

- Planting a mention of Dan Cody in Meyer Wolfshiem’s lunch dialogue?  Again, why? 

- This really is a TV movie.  Wow.

- Owl Eyes looks like Dr. T.J. Eckleburg?  Why?  Just… why?

- Sorry, Toby Stephens.  Robert Redford’s a difficult act to follow.

- The 2000 version and the 1974 version both suffer from a similar sense of malaise.  Mira Sorvino plays a half-convincing Daisy, but no one stands out enough to drive the pacing of this film.

- Since when did Gatsby become so open about Dan Cody??

- I’ll admit it: the Plaza Hotel scene isn’t bad.  I’ll go so far as to say it borders on good!

- Was it really necessary to show the scene with Myrtle getting hit?  At least it’s shown as a flashback.  And Daisy getting locked into the gaze of the Eckleburg billboard is an interesting interpretation.  Still, the hit seems gratuitous and is a bit lamely orchestrated.

- Either Rudd forgot to read this section thoroughly, or the script missed the point that, by the end of chapter 7, Nick is suspicious of Gatsby at best and Gatsby is consumed with waiting, barely noticing Nick is there at the end.  Instead, we get a big Gatsby smile and a tip of the hat from Nick.  Subtlety be damned. 

-If nothing else, the DVD includes a copy of A&E’s Biography on F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Score!

Overall, this version of The Great Gatsby is quite loyal to the novel.  Still, there is something missing between the page and the screen.  The pace holds at one steady drone, and the crux of the conflict — Gatsby’s doomed romanticism — seems incomplete here.  Rudd’s voiceovers work, but most other lines in the film are read with about as much enthusiasm as a disinterested high school English class.  I had read the mediocre (at best) reviews, so I shouldn’t be surprised here, but somehow I was expecting more.  I still have to point to the 1974 version as the best yet, and hope for better from Luhrmann’s forthcoming adaptation. 

Follow me in my quest to read all FSF wrote!

F. Scott Fitzgerald:
A Bibliographical Journey!

DID READ:
This Side of Paradise (1920)

Flappers and Philosophers (1920) - Short Story Collection

The Beautiful and Damned (1922)

Tales of the Jazz Age (1922) - Short Story Collection

The Great Gatsby (1925)

All the Sad Young Men (1926) - Short Story Collection [.pdf]

READING:

Trimalchio: An Early Version of The Great Gatsby (1924; 2000)

The Basil & Josephine Stories (1928; 1973) - Short Story Collection

F. Scott Fitzgerald (Andre Le Vot, 1983)

WILL READ:  (*I do not have copies of the indented selections; bolded selections may be difficult to gain access to)

    Spires and Gargoyles: Early Writings, 1909-1919 (1909-19; 2010)

The Vegetable, or From President to Postman (1923) - Play [.pdf]

    The Basil, Josephine, and Gwen Stories (1928; 2009)

    Tender is the Night (1934)
Taps at Reveille (1935) - Short Story Collection [.pdf]
The Crack Up (1936; 1945) - Essays & Correspondence
    My Lost City: Personal Essays, 1920-1940 (1920-40; 2005)

    The Love of The Last Tycoon (1941)
    Pat Hobby Stories (1940-1; 1962) - Short Story Collection
    The Lost Decade: Short Stories from Esquire, 1936-1941 (1936-41; 2008)
The Price Was High: Fifty Uncollected Stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1920-1941; 1979)

I just completed this third collection of short stories from one of THE premier American writers of literature in the 20th century.  All The Sad Young Men is the collection that followed The Great Gatsby (1925), and there are fragments here and there that are reminiscent of the characterization and larger themes present in Fitzgerald’s masterpiece.  Although his first three pairs of novels and short story collections had been released every couple years previously (1920-1926), there would be a long wait for his final pair, Tender is the Night (1934) and Taps at Reveille (1935).

When you click the link above, simply scroll down to the section titled “All the Sad Young Men;” this collection consists of “The Rich Boy” through “Gretchen’s Forty Winks,” though the editors of this incredible online resource have attached several other stories of interest that were mostly unreleased but written around the same time period.

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Watching “One Week”…

…starring Joshua Jackson, one of my all-time favorite actors.  One of those guys who I can watch and be drawn in completely, every nuance and quip and footstep. 

What would you do with one week left to live? 

Much like the movie, I have no definite answers, only the general feeling that far too much of life is consumed by distraction, caught between daily distractions and the “vastness” of the unknown.  The latter may be interesting to explore, yet the former is better described as the nonsense of paperwork and ass-covering and government forms and interacting with those who seek to control what little portions of others lives they are able to grasp, to possess what little they may.

As regards my own life, this film filled me with two desires:

First, to extricate myself from the mindless nonsense of daily drama and paranoia.

Second, to write.  To finish the overdubs for my album.  To put the finishing touches on my third poetry collection.  To return to that novel I’ve had on the backburner for… three years.

As the film ends, so will I end this post.  My nod here goes to Tennyson:

"To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."

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Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board.
Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God, 1937)

No better view than through this window on the roof.  Open road, rock music, warm breeze, and sunshine.  These are the perfect moments of my life.

No better view than through this window on the roof.  Open road, rock music, warm breeze, and sunshine.  These are the perfect moments of my life.

A much more complex and thematically arranged collection than his 1920 short fiction collection debut (Flappers and Philosophers), Tales of the Jazz Age is as good as the first in many places, stronger in several key aspects, and yet lacks some of the youthful originality of the former in certain regards.  On the whole, this offers a richer, more rewarding reading experience, and it should go without saying that Tales of the Jazz Age is one of the FSF essentials!

For once, I have no — or, at least, few — words!  This is a link to full text copies of pretty much EVERYTHING F. Scott Fitzgerald ever wrote, and much of what was written about him.  It is truly staggering just how exhaustive this online library/resource is.  I found The Vegetable (FSF’s 1923 attempt at a lucrative play) and was able to not only fill the gaps in my .PDF of All the Sad Young Men (1925) but also to compile Taps at Reveille

This page has cemented my realization that I will NEVER be able to read all that he has written!  :-)

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