Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Reading Week in Review: Fitzgerald Week Comes To an End

Well everyone, Fitzgerald Week is finally coming to a close. I really enjoyed chatting about my favorite writer with you all this week, but I look forward to taking on other subjects in the weeks ahead. Fitzgerald's Birthday was a smashing personal success for me this year. During the day, I got two calls for job interviews, and I had the chance to talk to some of my closest friends on the phone. The night ended with a cake my parents got for the occasion that proudly proclaimed "Happy Birthday, Fitz!" That's right. Even my parents play into my delusions now.

I read two Fitzgerald-related things this week: his short story "Winter Dreams," and the graphic novel The Left Bank Gang. The Left Bank Gang, written by my favorite graphic novelist, Jason (one-name only), pictures the Lost Generation bumming around Paris as animals/cartoonists who struggle with their art, their families, and their poverty. Tired of being poor, Hemingway cracks a plan with Ezra Pound, James Joyce, and Fitzgerald to rob the purse of a prizefight. The whole thing falls apart as humanity's darker, jealous side takes over. It's a sad story that takes drastic liberties with these famous writers' lives, but it's a fun and breezy read nonetheless. The Hemingway character is very well-written, and Fitzgerald is in full-on tragedy mode here. I recommend it to anyone who's interested in the Lost Generation or just a really good, action-packed story.

"Winter Dreams," meanwhile, was also a good read. I hadn't read this story, one of Fitzgerald's most famous, in years. It meant a lot more to me now that I'm older. The famous Fitzgerald scholar, Matthew J. Bruccoli, introduces the story by claiming that it provided some of the inspiration/work for The Great Gatsby. Like most of Fitzgerald's short stories, it's about lost love, but the ending is quite poignant, and the fate of former-heartbreaker Judy Jones is sad indeed. Fitzgerald's stories are beautifully written, particuarly the stuff from this mid-1920s time period.

In non-Fitzgerald reading, I finished Ivan Turgenev's novel, Fathers and Sons, earlier this week. I was inspired to read the book after seeing Gary Shteyngart's awesome NPR piece about it. I can't compete with Shteyngart's views on the book, and I agree with him that it's awesome, so I suggest you look at his piece to see why. Turgenev was writing at the same time as Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, but he did it in a much smaller space. Fathers and Sons is about 1/6 the size of War and Peace. It was a fantasic read - entertaining and intelligent at once. The characters are put together very well, and I was pleased by Constance Garnett's translation. (For those of you who don't know, Constance Garnett is a fascinating figure, translating nineteenth century Russian novelists in the early twentieth century at amazing speed). This book would make a great jumping off point for anyone looking to get into nineteenth-century Russian literature, arguably the greatest literary period/place in history. It's an absolutely wonderful, and wonderfully quick, read.

Speaking of Turgenev, I learned an interesting fact about that man that links into my Tolstoy problem which you've all heard about here several times (the problem being his pomposity, of course). Apparently, Turgenev was always getting into political and literary fights with Dostoevksy and Tolstoy, despite being sometime friends with both. Once, Tolstoy became so angry with Turgenev that he challenged him to a duel, only to back off on it later. A duel! This is why I love Russian literature, people...

No comments:

Post a Comment