- Fitzgerald and Hemingway
As always The Great Gatsby, The Sun Also Rises, and A Farewell to Arms are ubiquitous in studies of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. Yet we also see this year some new critical territory charted, including literary-biographical treatments of Hemingway and Pauline Pfeiffer, and Hemingway and William Faulkner; syntheses of Hemingway studies and critical race theory; and deeper views of Fitzgerald’s composition process and influences. Given the wealth of scholarly attention these authors routinely receive, I have been selective in discussing works in detail; the final paragraph of each essay section lists additional items of interest.
i F. Scott Fitzgerald
Michael K. Glenday’s F. Scott Fitzgerald (Palgrave) is a confidently written, self-assured, and persuasive study combining careful textual analysis, critical reception, and social context. For Glenday, “although the art [Fitzgerald] made may have drawn from the life he lived, it was never subordinate to it.” In this view Fitzgerald was a conflicted, nuanced author attuned to the cultural scene. Glenday speaks particularly to how Fitzgerald’s lived and self-presented lives enrich the study of his work. He opens with a late Fitzgerald letter to Max Perkins that, despite being “strangely valedictory,” displays “a refusal to allow his reputation to be extinguished.” This letter illuminates the struggles [End Page 175] and successes that textured most of Fitzgerald’s career: “his lifestyle was certainly one that at times played fast and loose with convention.”
Fitzgerald’s was “a voice that expressed the coming of the modern,” a claim Glenday examines in the novels and selected stories. The “air of risk-taking vitality” he attributes to This Side of Paradise, for instance, underscores Fitzgerald’s other novels. Each reveals various artistic and thematic challenges to a status quo, such as various “characters who … transgress the norms of permissible conduct” or the “radical severance from the burnt-out life he had been leading” identifiable in his Hollywood screenwriting. Glenday’s analyses of Fitzgerald stories—for example, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “A Short Trip Home,” and “The Swimmers”—are useful and welcome, since Fitzgerald’s novels tend to dominate critical attention. The book is aimed at a broader audience, so Glenday does not make any radical, bold, or convoluted claims. Yet the direct style and critical voice of F. Scott Fitzgerald make it an excellent portal for Fitzgerald studies. One can apply Glenday’s claim, articulated in his conclusion, to any of the novels: “Although renowned as the chronicler of opulent wealth, its personifications, gestures, signs and ruinations, Fitzgerald’s imagining of that world was often clarified in starkly oppositional terms.” Ultimately, this fine study effectively demonstrates Fitzgerald’s dialogue with his culture while advancing a sense of the author as publicly situated yet richly private, layered, and emotional.
In Fitzgerald’s Mentors (Alabama) Ronald Berman examines the influence of Edmund Wilson, H. L. Mencken, and Gerald and Sara Murphy on Fitzgerald’s professional growth, literary work, and philosophical outlook. Berman discusses these mentors both individually and collectively, in the process offering a clear reading of the many communications among them and with their mentee. He argues that Fitzgerald did not passively or unreservedly absorb the advice Wilson, Mencken, and the Murphys offered; rather, he “found his mentors often to be admirable, but that was no reason to believe them. His stories show the baffling connection between high-minded advice and real behavior. … The stories are small fields of intellectual battle.” This two-way relationship makes Fitzgerald’s Mentors an engaging, readable text that highlights the kinds of “learning,” “teaching,” and writing Fitzgerald did in response to them.
Wilson’s mentoring primarily boiled down to “education” and easing Fitzgerald’s “entry into the intellectual world.” Berman argues for [End Page 176] various “echoes of Wilson” in Fitzgerald’s work, such as wealth, “the nature of democracy in America,” and the author’s coming “into conflict with precisely those institutions important to his mentor” (such as Princeton). Mencken significantly influenced Fitzgerald’s handling of language. Yet Fitzgerald also turned away from Mencken: “During the early 1920s, Mencken kept telling him how to write about social reality, and Fitzgerald kept eluding him...