July 25, 2016

F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Short Autobiography
Edited by James L.W. West III

Life and the Writing Life – F. Scott Fitzgerald is among the great American stylists, in writing if not in life, though in his younger and more vulnerable years he personified the confident vitality and breezy radiance of the Jazz Age.  As West points out, “He wanted to make money and to be taken seriously – a difficult combination for any author to pull off.” Fitzgerald twice proposed publishing a collection of personal essays; his editor, the famed Maxwell Perkins, declined. In this collection, I find the early essays don’t offer much some 90 years later – but Fitzgerald’s later essays are timeless, weighted with valuable insights from a life being lived in less-sunnier days. “Later essays” is perhaps a misleading phrase in the life of an artist who died at 44. But Fitzgerald’s essays from 1926 and on include: “How to Waste Material – A Note on My Generation,” “One Hundred False Starts,” “Author’s House,” “Afternoon of an Author,” and “My Generation.” These essays – published after Fitzgerald’s first three novels, “This Side of Paradise,” “The Beautiful and Damned,” and “The Great Gatsby” – constitute a master class for any author.


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