Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was born in 1896 in St. Paul, Minnesota. He attended Princeton University, where he began writing what would become his first novel, This Side of Paradise. He left Princeton to join the army during World War I, though the war ended shortly after his enlistment. This Side of Paradise, published in 1920, was a critical and financial success and was followed the same year by his first story collection, Flappers and Philosophers, followed byTales of the Jazz Age in 1922. Fitzgerald went on to publish three more novels-The Beautiful and Damned, The Great Gatsby, and Tender Is the Night-and many more stories. He died in 1940, leaving his last novel, The Love of the Last Tycoon, unfinished.
People are seldom what they seem in this provocative collection of seven novellas from a writer who has been publishing in the New Yorker since the 1940s and whose Collected Stories was nominated for a National Book Award in 1975. In the one previously unpublished piece, "Women Men Don't Talk About," the children of an Irish-American seamstress spin a powerful myth around her absent husband until a charismatic stranger threatens to tear it apart. Women do most of the talking in all of these tales, while Calisher (In the Slammer with Carol Smith) unfolds around them sagas of infidelity, coming-of-age and family secrets. These novellas are full of complex characters, some worthy of their own full-length novels: the mysterious Dr. Bhatta and his uncomfortable neighbor, John Garner, in "Tale for the Mirror"; the tragic Guy Callendar and his ill-matched friends, Sligo and Marion, in "Extreme Magic"; and Tot and Nola, an unusual couple clinging to the fringes of the exclusive horse-race crowd in "Saratoga, Hot." Although she has sometimes been criticized for the density of her prose, Calisher's descriptions are undeniably evocative: "The air, once past the train-smell, came in pure and lively, the fresh vanilla perspiration of spring." For the sheer reading pleasure and challenge of dazzling writing, this collection is a winner. (Nov.)
Fitzgerald is having a big year (see News, LJ, November 1, p. 16). Not only were three scholarly titles published to celebrate his recent centenary (LJ 9/1/96), but this, his first novel, has now entered into public domain. Publishers are quick to take advantage of the opportunity, and two other editions of This Side have already appeared (Classic Returns, LJ 4/15/96). Though the most no-frills of the bunch, this version is also by far the cheapest.
"As nearly perfect as such a work could be . . . The glorious
spirit of abounding youth glows throughout this fascinating tale.
Amory, the romantic egotist, is essentially American." -The New
"[A] bravura display of literary promise . . . Fitzgerald's prose is capable of soaring like a violin, and of moving his readers with understated husky notes as well as with notes of piercing purity . . . Fitzgerald knew that glamour was bound to fail, that there is an ineradicable human instinct for it which is utterly mistaken." -from the Introduction by Craig Raine