Sunday, April 1, 2012

The book that launched the saga of Scott & Zelda

In March of 1920, F. Scott Fitzgerald published his first novel, This Side of Paradise, to popular acclaim. Its experimental style had more than a little in common with Portrait of an Artist by James Joyce, who also had struggled with a first draft of his debut novel (i.e., the posthumously published Stephen Hero).  In a previous incarnation, Scott's novel had been called The Romantic Egoist, and in submitting the revised manuscript to his editor, Max Perkins, Fitzgerald called it his "attempt at a big novel and I really believe I have hit it, as immediately I stopped disciplining the muse she trotted obediently around and became an erratic mistress if not a steady wife."

The book's success enabled Scott to marry Southern belle Zelda Fitzgerald, who had refused to tie the knot unless her swain showed more concrete signs of being able to support her in style. (Ironically, as it turned out, Zelda was more than a little erratic herself.)
In my campaign to have a go at some literary classics, I'm reading the Modern Library edition that we're carrying, and it's a beauty. The smoothness and sensuality of the paper, the elegance and crispness of the typeface, the ribbon bookmark—all combine for that touch of luxury, convenience, and elegance we all need at times in this world of digital reading devices.
We also have paperback versions of Tender Is the Night, The Great Gatsby, and The Beautiful and the Damned.

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