If Arthur Mizener's biography of Fitzgerald was in many ways that of a hatchetman, and Andrew Turnbull's that of a slightly...


SOME SORT OF EPIC GRANDEUR: The Life of F. Scott Fitzgerald

If Arthur Mizener's biography of Fitzgerald was in many ways that of a hatchetman, and Andrew Turnbull's that of a slightly too-polite ex-protÉgÉ, then Prof. Bruccoli's contribation must be judged as, at heart, that of a double-entry bookkeeper. Using Fitzgerald's own, certainly extraordinary Ledger, in which he recorded all monies earned from his writing from 1919 to 1936, Bruccoli can show us, for instance, that Hollywood in the late Thirties was not a scrap-heap for Fitzgerald--rather, a time of modest prosperity and decent living: rents, salaries, royalties all lend themselves to interpretation by Bruccoli. At times, this biography-throughaccounting approach is very successful; with the exact figures and needs at hand, Bruccoli clearly limns the horrifying extent of disarray Fitzgerald found himself in--alcoholic, psychiatric, literary--while writing Tender Is the Night. No telling has done it better, and the novel's great qualities seem all the more remarkable thereby. But if a biography of a major writer ought to combine and orchestrate the principles of literary analysis, history, sociology, and style, Bruccoli's is a dead fish. On young Zelda: ""At eighteen she was a celebrated belle with a domain that extended over Alabama and Georgia. She was like no one else and practiced a don't-give-a-damn code."" The Roaring Twenties ""were typified by the bull market and Prohibition."" Jay Gatsby ""confuses the values of love with the buying power of money."" And when not being sophomoric, Bruccoli frequently drops stray facts like water balloons out a window: ""Finney, an American bon vivant, was a popular figure at Antibes. Egon, Finney's police dog, liked to aquaplane but could not get started by himself, so he would pester Fitzgerald to help him."" Typically, no further explanations of this odd, half-told anecdote are provided--and, throughout, there's no discrimination as to the relative importance of the catchall data. Bruccoli's meticulous attention to his own (mostly tengential) research is what absorbs all the heat here, leaving none for Fitzgerald; so readers will be advised to stick with the imperfect Turnbull still, untfi a biographer comes along who can combine felicity and accuracy, drama and distance--as Bruccoli can't.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 1981


Page Count: -

Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1981