The title suggests something more significant than this collection of magazine essays delivers.
While the preface promises that this is “as close as we can now come to an autobiography” of F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896–1940), most of these pieces for the likes of the Saturday Evening Post, Ladies’ Home Journal, College Humor et al. are breezy and slight, lacking the scope, depth and detail of autobiography—you’d never know from this volume that he’d wed a woman named Zelda or the nature of the troubles that ensued—let alone the richness of his fiction. Frequently strapped for cash, Fitzgerald had apparently proposed such a volume on at least a couple of occasions to his legendary editor Maxwell Perkins, who didn’t think it to be worthy of a book. In fact, the title comes from one of the shorter pieces, a New Yorker casual from 1929 that traces a life through a progression of drink (“1923: Oceans of Canadian Ale with R. Lardner in Great Neck, Long Island”). Yet Fitzgerald fans will delight in the book’s engagingly playful tone (which has the author switching from first to third person in referring to himself), the struggles of the creative process (“It would be nice to be able to distinguish useful work from mere labor expended. Perhaps that is part of the work itself—to find the difference”) and the sense of literary mission in speaking to and for one’s own generation. In the cheeky “What I Think and Feel at 25,” Fitzgerald writes, “As old people run the world, an enormous camouflage has been built up to hide the fact that only young people are attractive or important.” But, as the same essay acknowledges, “When I’m thirty I won’t be this me—I’ll be somebody else.”
This volume will mainly interest those who have already read everything else by and about the author of The Great Gatsby.