December 22nd, 2016
(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: email@example.com
It’s an interesting personal quirk that I understand entirely the need of skill when giving a talk, but I’ve always discounted the skill of writing qua writing. This is Menken reviewing Fitzgerald:
What gives the story distinction is something quite different from the management of the action or the handling of the characters; it is the charm and beauty of the writing. In Fitzgerald’s first days it seemed almost unimaginable that he would ever show such qualities. His writing then was extraordinarily slipshod — at times almost illiterate. He seemed to be devoid of any feeling for the color and savor of words. He could see people clearly and he could devise capital situations, but as writer qua writer he was apparently little more than a bright college boy. The critics of the Republic were not slow to discern the fact. They praised “This Side of Paradise” as a story, as a social document, but they were almost unanimous in denouncing it as a piece of writing.
It is vastly to Fitzgerald’s credit that he appears to have taken their caveats seriously, and pondered them to good effect. In “The Great Gatsby,” highly agreeable fruits of that pondering are visible. The story, for all its basic triviality, has a fine texture, a careful and brilliant finish. The obvious phrase is simply not in it. The sentences roll along smoothly, sparklingly, variously. There is evidence in every line of hard and intelligent effort. It is a quite new Fitzgerald who emerges from this little book, and the qualities that he shows are dignified and solid. “This Side of Paradise,” after all, might have been merely a lucky accident. But “The Great Gatsby,” a far inferior story at bottom, is plainly the product of a sound and stable talent, conjured into being by hard work.