Saturday, January 17, 2015

Tender is the Night

Tender Is the NightTender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This novel was written, rewritten, scrapped and begun again, scavenged for parts, and rearranged over a period of about ten years. Unfortunately the novel as published still wasn't what it might have been.  Fitzgerald apparently recognized this as he observed (to his editor Maxwell Perkins), "If I had one more crack at it cold sober I believe it might have made a great difference." It was a rough decade in Fitzgerald's life and much of the material in the novel reflects the troubles of his own life and marriage (alcoholism, mental illness, depression) which makes it rather troubling reading if you are familiar with Fitzgerald's biography.
Like other Fitzgerald work much of the writing is stunning in its clarity and dazzling in its poetry.
"Her once fair hair had darkened, but she was lovelier now at twenty-four than she had been at eighteen, when her hair was brighter than she. Following a walk marked by an intangible mist of bloom that followed the white border stones she came to a space overlooking the sea where there were lanterns asleep in the fig trees and a big table and wicker chairs and a great market umbrella from Sienna, all gathered about an enormous pine, the biggest tree in the garden. She paused there a moment, looking absently at a growth of nasturtiums and iris tangled at its foot, as though sprung from a careless handful of seeds..." (p. 24)
"I prefer people whose lives have more corrugated surfaces..." (p.72)
Unfortunately the tight controlled structure for that writing which makes the Great Gatsby a masterpiece is missing here. This novel is a bit of a ramble in time and space and who exactly the focus of the novel is supposed to be (Dick Diver and Rosemary seem to be fighting for the spotlight) remains unclear. The scope of the novel also wavers, sometimes it focuses tightly on the personal tragedies of the characters, and sometimes it seems to pull back to say something larger about the world that it doesn't quite succeed in saying.

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