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and sexual entanglements. His selfimposed isolation is short-lived. It's the summer of 1998. The president of the United States is embroiled in the Monica scandal, and sex is on everyone 's mind. Coleman Silk, a former dean of faculty and professor of Latin and Greek at Athena College, searching out the new writer in town, knocks on Zuckerman's front door, insisting that he write Silk's story. The seventyone -year-old man admits to an affair with the much younger Faunia Farley, an illiterate part-time farmhand and janitor at the school where he used to teach. Silk explains that he resigned from his beloved job two years earlier under the pressure of unfounded charges of racism. The event was absurd, Silk explains. After the semester-long absence of two students, he benignly asked the class, "Do they exist or are they spooks?" Unbeknownst to him, the missing students were black, and they appear to have wreaked havoc on his carefully planned life. Angry and still humiliated, Silk contends that the "spook" incident killed his strong-willed wife and helped to estrange him from his four children. Furthermore, his longtime colleagues, many of whom he hired, fail to come to his defense. In fact, one, Delphine Roux, a French feminist, seems bent on his further destruction. But what has Silk even more defeated is the burden of a fifty-year-old secret that no one, not wife, children or colleagues , could begin to understand. The Human Stain is Roth's final installment in his trilogy of postwar America that began with American Pastoral and continued with I Married a Communist. In all three novels, history permeates the lives and minds of his characters. Roth's prose, while at times too full of story-stopping high rhetoric, is fiery and dramatic. Raising perplexing issues of public and private morality, race and sexuality , Roth's novel is a memorable depiction of a modern-day witchhunt . (KS)¦3f< ^L Reviews by: Brad Summerhill, Anthony Varallo, Jack Smith, Kay Neth, Melissa Solis, Kim Ball, Anthony Russomanno, Jim Steck, Robert Cowser, Kris Somerville MR Lost Classic Trimalchio: An Early Version of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald Edited by James L. W. West HI Cambridge University Press, 2000, 192 pp., $39.95 Trimalchio, the book that F. Scott Fitzgerald later turned into The Great Gatsby, might seem a kind of dry run, something between presentable draft and American masterpiece. Fitzgerald 's first novel, 77ii's Side of Paradise, had been a popular, if not critical, hit. His second, The Beautiful and Damned, was a turgid letdown, a troubling example of a master stylist aiming to forge a reputation but not having much to say. 182 · The Missouri Review Prior to The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald 's finest work was his short stories. Unlike those first two novels, which were poorly paced and unevenly conceived, Fitzgerald's best early short stories have a crisp bite to them, an understanding and competence that the novels do not. With less to manage (at least in terms of a word count), Fitzgerald excelled. But then there is The Great Gatsby and before that Trimalchio, two fine short novels, the one an acknowledged masterpiece . Trimalchio is the book that Gatsby might have been. Casual readers may even find little difference between the two. In both, Jay Gatsby is rich and mysterious, and Tom Buchanan is brutal and reckless. Daisy powers both narratives and both men. Narrator Nick Carraway is obscure and far less impartial than he lets on. And yet in Trimalchio we sense Fitzgerald's confidence more than we do in the finished novel. He writes as if detached from an audience —any audience—with his only intention to serve the overall quality of the work. Some of the fussy, overly cautious modifications that would later mar Gatsby are absent, and the opening to Trimalchio might be the finest in any of Fitzgerald's fiction. "I feel I have an enormous power in me now," Fitzgerald wrote to Maxwell Perkins, his editor at Scribner's, in the spring of 1924. Gatsby was underway, and still Fitzgerald felt the drag of his earlier failures. "If I ever win the right to any liesure [sic] again I will assuredly not waste it as I wasted this past time," he went on. "Please believe me when I say that now I'm doing the best I can." Throughout two years of work and a host of major alterations, the novel's conception remained constant , with Gatsby at its center. Everything else, from the novel's basic structure to its title, was scrutinized and reworked until Fitzgerald the novelist, with all of his concomitant ambitions, mastered the complex polyrhythms of prose that came to define Fitzgerald the artist. One might contend that Fitzgerald 's initial failures with the medium of the novel in some part gave him the subject for Gatsby and assured its eventual success. From its opening pages, even the rougher Trimalchio is a poignant case study of failure. Vaulting ambitions, crushed ideals and repentant dreams abound throughout Nick Carraway's reconstruction of Jay Gatsby's story. As the pared-down version of Gatsby, Trimalchio ultimately says less in fewer words. But what was to become the grace of Gatsby has a different, harder resonance in Trimalchio. If The Great Gatsby is the ultimate proof of Fitzgerald's talent, Trimalchio is still more than a rough draft. Raw and edgy, Fitzgerald's prose practically dances across the page. For all of its subtle, flawed deviations from the finished work, the book possesses a charm that Fitzgerald never realized so completely again. It is a labored, honest work, seemingly written without a contrived thought. Years later, in an inscription to his fourth novel, Tender Is the Night, Fitzgerald wrote, "If you liked The Great Gatsby, for God's sake read this. Gatsby was a tour de force but this is a confession of faith." Trimalchio, seen from the historical vantage point of charting an artist's development, is both. The Missouri Review · 183 Cryptically chilling, slightly lessbrilliantly links what might have fluent, and with more bristle aroundbeen to what was. the edges, Trimalchio is the one instance in the Fitzgerald canon that—Colin Fleming "I forget. Is it he or his prose thafs sinewy?" 184 · The Missouri Review ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 182-184
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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