This week in the War, 16–22 December 1940: Death of F. Scott Fitzgerald






Read any book on creative writing or, better still, spend time and money on a course. It’s Dallas to doughnuts your prof will thumb through a dog-eared copy of The Great Gatsby to illustrate a point:

Care in selection of the narrator. (Why did Fitzgerald choose Nick Carraway to tell Gatsby’s story?).

Importance of setting. (Long Island in the 20s, fast cars, and wild goings-on).

Symbolism, inevitability, the warning signs…

And, an aspect of TGG that I have always taken to: the revelation of a character, not all at once, but bit by bit, slowly throughout the novel. (Before Gatsby even appears, he is discussed and much anticipated).

Gatsby and his obsession with the fictionally beautiful Daisy is modelled—your creative writing prof will tell you—on Fitzgerald, himself, and his stormy relationship with his wife, Zelda. Both couples enjoyed the wilder side of life.

Scott and Zelda have surpassed their fictional counterparts, and surely made them jealous, with an ability to fascinate us even now. Books and movies that mention them abound. My personal favourites: Ernest Hemingway’s nonfictional A Moveable Feast and Paula McLain’s fictional follow-up The Paris Wife. The latter sums up Zelda in a single wonderful sentence, uttered by Hemingway’s wife after the two women meet in a Paris bar: “Her edges were already blurred when she stood to shake our hands, and she looked as if she cultivated that—a fine blurriness.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald died, 21 December 1940.

His books still uplift and enchant us with a by-gone age of glamour, and of style.

I say: Beam me up, Scotty.

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