A Classics Challenge in January: Talking about The Author

A Classics Challenge hosted by Katherine of November’s Autumn is underway.

The plan is to read, and write about, seven classics in 2012.

On the 4th day of every month, Katherine will be posting a prompts to encourage discussion …

“Who is the author? What do they look like? When were they born? Where did they live? What does their handwriting look like? What are some of the other novels they’ve written? What is an interesting and random fact about their life?”

I’m reading The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald.

Who was he? Let’s consult GoodReads:

“Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was an American writer of novels and short stories, whose works have been seen as evocative of the Jazz Age, a term he himself allegedly coined. He is regarded as one of the greatest twentieth century writers. Fitzgerald was of the self-styled “Lost Generation,” Americans born in the 1890s who came of age during World War I. He finished four novels, left a fifth unfinished, and wrote dozens of short stories that treat themes of youth, despair, and age.”

Enough to place him. But I don’t want to think about the author too much as I read, I want to focus simply on the book. When I’m done though, I would like to read more about the man and his milieu. Any recommendations?

I first encountered Fitzgerald when I was fourteen. I was at school, exams had finished but there were still a couple of weeks of term left. The weather was warm, nobody was too inclined to study, and so our English teacher decided to show us a film of a classic novel.

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald.

I’ve no idea why she picked that film – we had been studying D H Lawrence and Thomas Hardy – I can only assume that she had a limited choice, or that she particularly loved the film.

I fell in love with a period, a style, a world I hadn’t know existed.

I hurtled though all of Fitzgerald’s novels:

This Side of Paradise (1920)
The Beautiful and Damned (1922)
The Great Gatsby (1925)
Tender Is the Night (1934)
The Last Tycoon (1941)

Just the five.

And then I put him to one side.

Until a few months ago when I began thinking about rereading some classics. And I thought Fitzgerald should go on the list, that I should see if he really was that good, or if a shy, small-town teenager has simply been bedazzled.

The Great Gatsby is a small book and it would be easy to race through the pages, but I am deliberately taking it slowly and giving myself time to think.

I think it will be an approach that is pays dividends …

11 responses

  1. Off topic I know but I have just seen the film ‘Midnight in Paris’ and from your comments about the era I think you would really enjoy it too. Don’t want to spoil the plot! I have read and enjoyed a few of Scott Fitzgerald’s novels too.

  2. Midnight in Paris is very good and so is The Great Gatsby. I would like to reread it this year also. Have you heard about the new film adaptation coming out Christmas 2012? Leo DicCaprio plays Gatsby.

  3. I think Fitzgerald the man is very well revealed in his letters, especially those he wrote to his daughter Scottie. And of course there is the biography of his wife Zelda by Nancy Milford. Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast shows Fitzgerald in Paris in the 20s athough I find Hemingway the most unreliable of narrators when it comes to Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald’s mistress after Zelda’s institutionalization, Sheilah Graham, wrote a book about her years with Fitzgerald when he was writing in Hollywood and drinking himself to death. I can’t remember the title of that one though.

  4. I still haven’t read this novel, or anything but short stories by Fitzgerald. I’m currently reading some newspaper articles that Margaret Mitchell (of Gone With the Wind) wrote for the Atlata-Journal before she began her novel. She interviewed the roomate of Fitzgerald before he published The Great Gatsby. He was fairly unknown at the time — just making a splash with a prior novel (This Side of Paradise.). I thought it was pretty cool to come across that. 🙂

  5. Fitzgerald is one of those authors who seems to have passed me by. I have Gatsby lurking on my shelves though, so perhaps this will be the year. The author certainly sounds fascinating enough.

  6. I had to read this at school and I am afraid to say it put me off for life and I really do not know whether I could read it again. I have not read any of his other work so perhaps that is the place to start.

    I am enjoying these posts which are part of this challenge,

  7. Has been a long time since I read The Great Gatsby and that was the only Fitzgerald I’ve ever read and I can’t even remember whether I liked it or not. Maybe time to try him again.
    I too am savouring my reading this month and taking my time – especially with Mr Hardy which I’m loving.

  8. I’ve heard many good things of The Great Gatsby and am looking forward to the new film they’re making. I know very little of him and hadn’t realized he wrote so few novels but am delighted with the idea of short stories as I plan to read more of them this year.

    Thank you for your post, Jane! 🙂

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