by Scott Donaldson ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 1, 1983
More a series of essays (keyed to significant moments or periods of Fitzgerald's life) than a full-fledged biography, Donaldson's study is built around the quickly stated premise ""that Scott Fitzgerald was driven to please other people, especially rich and prominent people."" Furthermore, as a ""histrionic personality the goal was to attract the admiration of others. During most of his life he measured success in terms of popularity and approbation rather than accomplishment."" So, with this plausible (but not especially illuminating) assumption always at hand, Donaldson explains the disappointing Fitzgerald output, the drinking, and the accumulating remorse; the real subject of The Crackup, then, becomes ""Fitzgerald's misanthropy, and the self-hatred behind it. . . . He had given too much in the past. He would give no more."" Likewise, the relationships with Zelda and Sheilah Graham are reviewed; so are Fitzgerald's farce/horror romances while hoteling in Ashville, North Carolina during the Thirties--as Donaldson tempers his stern, clinical approach with deep-felt sympathy. (See Andre LeVer's recent account of the same period for a slightly tighter, more detached summary.) But, when it comes to Fitzgerald's work, Donaldson's psychological treatment works far less well than it did in his comparable, vastly superior Hemingway study, By Force of Will (1977); here the analysis of the fiction seems unduly subordinate, often contrived to fit the Donaldson view of Fitzgerald's ""histrionic"" personality--a label/description which ultimately pails, seeming too vague and generalized (applicable, in fact, to almost all ambitious artists). If this thoughtful essay/portrait had arrived before the masterful, balanced LeVot biography, it might have had more impact as an antidote to the fawning criticism of Fitzgerald acolytes. As it is, with a Dutch-Uncle tone that is the harshest in Fitzgerald studies since Arthur Mizener's biography, it reads like an interesting--but far from surprising or important--sidebar to LeVot's impressive blend of demythified life-history with keen literary criticism.
Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1983
Page Count: -
Publisher: Congdon & Weed--dist. by St. Martin's
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1983
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