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F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Fiction

Hardback
, 248 pages
ISBN:
9781421412306
February 2014
$42.95

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F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Fiction

"An Almost Theatrical Innocence"

"Fitzgerald’s work has always deeply moved me," writes John T. Irwin. "And this is as true now as it was fifty years ago when I first picked up The Great Gatsby. I can still remember the occasions when I first read each of his novels; remember the time, place, and mood of those early readings, as well as the way each work seemed to speak to something going on in my life at that moment. Because the things that interested Fitzgerald were the things that interested me and because there seemed to be so many similarities in our backgrounds, his work always possessed for me a special, personal authority; it became a form of wisdom, a way of knowing the world, its types, its classes, its individuals."

In his personal tribute to Fitzgerald's novels and short stories, Irwin offers an intricate vision of one of the most important writers in the American canon. The third in Irwin's trilogy of works on American writers, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Fiction resonates back through all of his previous writings, both scholarly and poetic, returning to Fitzgerald's ongoing theme of the twentieth-century American protagonist's conflict between his work and his personal life. This conflict is played out against the typically American imaginative activity of self-creation, an activity that involves a degree of theatrical ability on the protagonist's part as he must first enact the role imagined for himself, which is to say, the self he means to invent.

The work is suffused with elements of both Fitzgerald's and Irwin's biographies, and Irwin's immense erudition is on display throughout. Irwin seamlessly ties together details from Fitzgerald's life with elements from his entire body of work and considers central themes connected to wealth, class, work, love, jazz, acceptance, family, disillusionment, and life as theatrical performance.

John T. Irwin is the Decker Professor in the Humanities at Johns Hopkins University. The first two books in his trilogy on American writers are Hart Crane’s Poetry: "Appollinaire lived in Paris, I live in Cleveland, Ohio" and The Mystery to a Solution: Poe, Borges, and the Analytic Detective Story, both published by Johns Hopkins.

"Irwin’s superb and visionary vista upon Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald extends the extraordinary panorama of critical insights into American literature for which Irwin is renowned. His studies of American hieroglyphics, of Poe, and of Faulkner, and above all his definitive book on the greatest modern American poet, Hart Crane, are now joined by another luminous commentary."

"The capstone book of his long and distinguished career."

"John Irwin’s personal identification with the life and writing of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his many years of reading, teaching, and studying Fitzgerald’s fiction are fully apparent throughout this extremely readable and insightful study. The breadth of Irwin’s book is evident in his confident command not only of iconic works like The Great Gatsby and Tender Is the Night but also in his frequent and pertinent use of less familiar stories and essays; its depth is equally apparent in his reliance on extensive quotations from Fitzgerald’s texts and in his abundant fresh and original analyses. This is a major contribution to Fitzgerald studies from a critic whose knowledge of and affection for his subject is evident on every page."

"It was another time, another place, another world—and John Irwin has caught with perfect pitch all the lost glitter and dubious glamour of Scott Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age and its sequel. Irwin pursues a powerful line of critical inquiry, the insight that Fitzgerald was theatrical to the core, always projecting the belief that life is a scene, or it is nothing. Discovering endless details of this theatrical persuasion, Irwin’s reader will learn the difference between observing and being observed—the staging contrast that shapes many short stories, as well as The Great Gatsby, Tender is the Night, and the unfinished Hollywood novel, The Last Tycoon. The age was a delusional period when Americans were drunk on diamonds, but Fitzgerald was also literally drunk, hence his fragmentary memoir, The Crackup. The difference shown here, however, is the degree to which Fitzgerald was intensely dedicated to the art of intelligent fiction, in which he melded story and style, Maupassant and Keats, one might say. Irwin digs deep into the early and later family biography; he avoids sensational accounts of the novelist’s marriage to Zelda, and he finally provides us with the first truly dynamic, detailed, and always elegant account of a writer whose poetic gifts were nothing short of miraculous."

"This is the best book on Fitzgerald's fiction. Irwin understands Fitzgerald and his work better and more interestingly than anyone else ever has. The single most important accomplishment of F. Scott Fitzgerald's Fiction is its revelation of the ways that social and professional theatricality shape and inform his writing, and particularly the two great novels, The Great Gatsby and Tender Is the Night. F. Scott Fitzgerald's Fiction is essential for an understanding of the writer and his work."

"This volume is an example of what happens when an expert takes a career's worth of teaching and study and elegantly applies it to a subject he loves. John Irwin... wastes nary a word in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Fiction considering Fitzgerald's life and what makes his stories so poetically heartbreaking. A must for Fitzgerald fans, and an enthusiastic push for those who've only read Gatsby once to explore the entire oeuvre."

"This is a luminous, eye-opening, deeply appreciative study about the writings of Fitzgerald, as opposed to yet another chronicle of his high life and hard times... Indeed, this is precisely the kind of book that's long overdue."

"Readers will find that [ F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Fiction] offers discerning analysis... deserving attention is Irwin's argument about the influence of music, particularly jazz, on Fitzgerald. Finally, treatment of "the mythical method" is revealing, considering that mythopoetic readers of literature are all but moribund. Remarkably, this book does not rehash previous close readings but incorporates the best of such criticisms."

"It is a testament to both the author's brilliance and the scrupulousness of his focus and approach that the book delivers on every conceivable level... Simply stated, now that "An Almost Theatrical Innocence" has arrive, we can agree that it was well worth the wait."

"John T. Irwin's F. Scott Fitzgerald's Fiction is a brave attempt... to give Fitzgerald the kind of resolutely non-fan-magazine scrutiny that Irwin has previously given to Hart Crane and Poe. he says some smart things about Fitzgerald's imagery--about, for instance, how ambiguous the idea of light is in his writing, so that the green light at the end of the dock is a protent of the shining illusory screen of the movies, standing for persistent illusion as much as romantic aspiration."

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