Reading Notebook #9: The Loss of Dreams

From “Slow Fade” by Arthur Krystal, about F. Scott Fitzgerald in Hollywood (The New Yorker, November 26, 2009)

Fitzgerald’s scripts were hobbled by the same quality that lifted his fiction above the superficial: the complicated nature of his mind.

Although he came to believe that “life is essentially a cheat … and that redeeming things are not ‘happiness and pleasure’ but the deeper satisfactions that come out of struggle,” he always remained someone who depended to an unhealthy extent on the good opinion of others. …

The warring impulses in him never really subsided. … In life, he simply wanted too much.

He wasn’t so much a walking contradiction as a quivering mass of dreams and ambitions that, depending on how he was feeling and whom he was talking to, created a dizzying array of impressions. …

Fitzgerald’s own schoolmaster at Princeton … said [Fitzgerald] reminded him of all the Karamazov brothers at once.

… what draws us powerfully to his work is the sensitive handling of emotional yearning and regret. When he was revising “Gatsby,” he characterized the burden of the novel as “the loss of those illusions that give such color to the world so that you don’t care whether things are true or false as long as they partake of the magical glory.”

… Fitzgerald was not one to give up on dreams; if he had, he could not have written so beautifully, so penetratingly, about their loss.

Posted in Reading.

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the co-founder and editor of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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