Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

What is it about Fitzgerald? I mean, this one wasn’t particularly good, but there are flashes of brilliance throughout the prose. And the descriptions of how people relate to one another are spot on.

Who’s story is this? First you think it’s Rosemary’s, a young movie star on vacation in the south of France, who meets and falls in love with a thirty-something married doctor, Dick Divers. Then you think it’s Dick’s, whose wife, Nicole, was a former mental patient of his, under treatment for a breakdown after her father sexually abused her. (Did I read that? Is that what happened to Nicole? Or did I dream that up on my own. When stuff like that happens in books written before 1950 it’s never very explicit and sometimes it’s hard to remember.) And then you think it’s Nicole’s story, who has grown beyond her need for Dick and has an affair with someone who’s always been waiting in the wings for her. And a couple times Fitzgerald compares Dick to Grant, and he returns to it in the very last chapter, characterizing him as someone called out of obscurity to do great things but then returned to obscurity in Galena and forgotten about.

But as I said before, the way people are described interacting with one another—the young and inexperienced girl falling in love for the first time, the experienced professional essentially deciding to take her after her numerous advances, the wife moving on to a new lover when there’s nothing else for her to do, the lover thinking he has conquered something when in fact he’s had very little to do with it—it’s all so well told and so real, how they feel and how they think and how what they do is just a natural by-product of the other two. Makes me want to read it again.

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