A LIFE IN LETTERS by F. Scott Fitzgerald
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A smart selection from Fitzgerald's voluminous correspondence, tactfully annotated and chronologically arranged by Bruccoli (English/Univ. of South Carolina), who has collected and edited all of Fitzgerald's writings in over 20 volumes. Bruccoli provides a brief biography, subtle footnotes, and detailed chronologies at the beginning of each section, but Fitzgerald here speaks for himself and the familiar story takes on the ironies, texture, poignancy, and passion that often elude biographers. Fitzgerald appears in all his complexity, yet without much introspection. He had little interest in heavy-handed psychologizing. The external manifestations of character, personality, manners, and talent -- these he valued, and these, as the letters show, he had. Also revealed are his wit, charm, and ambition (to write the greatest American novel); his literary ideals, his self-criticism (especially after long periods of drinking), and his generosity (offering money to the chronically impoverished Hemingway even as he was appealing for advances on his own magazine stories, mostly for the Saturday Evening Post). His letters to his editor, Maxwell Perkins, are especially revealing about his craft, his good-natured response to criticism, and the selective way he accepted advice (fortunately, The Great Gatsby was not renamed Tancredi). The relationship between his life and his work is powerfully demonstrated in this brief collection: He writes This Side of Paradise to earn money to marry Zelda -- then they live like literary characters, until Zelda, from drinking and the misplaced ambition to become a ballet dancer, goes insane, her confinement and treatment inspiring and financed by Tender Is the Night. Perhaps the most touching letters are to his daughter, Scotty, who he feared would be victimized by simply being his child. A wrenching portrait of the trials of writing, the business of success, the proximity of genius and tragedy.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0684195704
Page count: 515pp
Publisher: Scribners