Tender is the Night – F. Scott Fitzgerald (Part 1)

June 12, 2012

Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Chapters I-XVI


I was very excited to read this, my first Fitzgerald.  A contemporary of Hemingway’s, loved by Murakami, a big name in twentieth century literature.  Plus, I was in Nice at the time, and there aren’t many things I love more than reading a book set in the same exotic locale I’m travelling.

From the first page, there’s no doubt the man can write.  His greatest strengths are his descriptions of characters and social situation, achieved by an unflinching grasp of human nature and an ability to communicate emotions and tensions in a clear, palpable manner.

He’s one of those authors who throw about bold truisms and judgements.  Many writers who use this style make assertions that don’t hold up to reflection, but most of the time Fitzgerld rings true.

But what the hell is he writing about?  The first time I read The Sun Also Rises, I missed the sub-text and though it was just about the idle, hedonistic elite.  Tender is the Night seems to just be about the idle, hedonistic elite.

Fourteen chapters in, and all that’s happened is a naïve, romantic seventeen year old starlet, Rosemary, has fallen in love with a married man, Dick Diver, and been sucked in to his proto-hipster lost generation clique.  Give me something, Scott…


And then you have a chapter like chapter fifteen where Fitzgerald’s insight into the core of people is on full display, when the romance reaches its climax and Rosemary suddenly becomes interesting as she is shown to be both naïve and calculated without any contradiction.


A Moveable Feast – Ernest Hemingway

May 8, 2012

Me at Shakespeare and Company, Paris

A Moveable Feast is Hemingway’s memoir of his early days in Paris and his friendships with literary figures such as Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald.  It presents a romantic image of a starving artist, unable to afford wood for heating, gambling on horse racing to escape the bread line, but working everyday with great dedication to perfect his craft.

Hemingway’s portrayal of his first wife, Hadley, is full of affection and regret.  “[W]e were very poor and very happy”.  This contrasts with how he depicts his more famous relationships.  His Stein is a semi-tyrannical gossip lacking discipline towards her work.  Scott Fitzegerald was a neurotic alcoholic.  Zelda Fitzgerald was a manipulative and promiscuous harpy.  Only Ezra Pound completely escapes his vitriol.  The book is both a cautionary tale on the trappings of riches and success, and a surprisingly bitchy tell-all. Read the rest of this entry »