Earlier collections of Fitzgerald letters seem positively hagiographic (novelist as fallen angel) compared to this one....



Earlier collections of Fitzgerald letters seem positively hagiographic (novelist as fallen angel) compared to this one. That's because Professor Bruccoli has made the sound decision to include some letters from others, notably Zelda's from various sanitoria (1930 till 1940 or so)--and the inclusion of other voices often turns Fitzgerald's own voice, defensively, into a cajole, a whine, a desperate plea. As is frequently the case with a mop-up collection of previously unpublished letters, this one is heavy on the money matters, light on ""significant"" aesthetic documents (though Fitzgerald's hard-look letter to Hemingway about The Sun Also Rises is included). No matter: the letters between Scott and Zelda are what is extraordinary here. Scott to Zelda, 1930 (her first Swiss hospitalization): ""You were going crazy and calling it genius--I was going to ruin and calling it anything that came to hand. And I think everyone far enough to see us outside of our glib presentation of ourselves guessed at your almost megalomaniacal selfishness and my insane indulgence in drink. . . . We mined ourselves--I have never honestly thought we ruined each other."" Not bad--but Zelda was no slouch herself: ""Stop looking for solace: there isn't any and if there were life would be a baby affair. Johnny takes his medicine and Johnny gets well and a quarter besides. Think! Johnny might get some mysterious malady if left to develop and have it named for him and live forever, and if Johnny died from not having his syrup the parable would have been a moralistic one about his mother."" Ten years of exchanges like this (and grotesque ones between Scott and Zelda's doctors, Scott pleading with them to keep her confined) lend some credence to Nancy Mitford's sympathetic portrait in Zelda and, to some degree, tarnish our too pat image of Scott. In the end, of course, it's all terribly sad, as you expect these letters to be; but they also illuminate complication heretofore left in shadow.

Pub Date: April 1, 1980


Page Count: -

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1980