Some Unfinished Chaos: The Lives of F. Scott Fitzgerald
Published by: University of Virginia Press
Imprint: University of Virginia Press
Sales Date: 2023-09-12
Published: September 2023
Imprint: University of Virginia Press
Page Count: 232 Pages
Dimensions: 139.00 x 215.00
232 Pages, 139.00 x 215.00 x 31.70 mm
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Surely enough has been written about F. Scott Fitzgerald, the man who coined "the Jazz Age" and symbolized the Roaring Twenties, whose very name conjures up a meteoric rise and an equally spectacular fall? But the better question might be, Why has so much ink been spent on a writer who completed only four novels, who fell from grace in the 1930s only to be resurrected twenty years later? The answer, according to the cultural critic Arthur Krystal, "is the problem that is Fitzgerald."
Drawn to the glitter of fame but aspiring to the empyrean heights of Joseph Conrad and James Joyce, Fitzgerald careened from the perfection of The Great Gatsby to the hack world of Hollywood screenwriting, penning stories that were either brilliant distillations of the age or superficial works of fiction. Like America itself, Fitzgerald was a work in progress, a self-created and conflicted human being striving for ideals that neither he nor the nation could ever live up to. Beset by contradictions, buoyed by hope, fueled by alcohol, unable to settle permanently in any one place, Fitzgerald possessed what John Updike aptly described as "an aptitude for chaos and a dream of order."
In this unusual and concise biography?more a layering of impressions than a chronological guide?Krystal gives us not only the peripatetic and turbulent life of a cultural icon but also the intellectual sweep of a period in history that created our modern America. Some Unfinished Chaos delivers a nuanced portrait of a man whose various sides embodied the trends, passions, and pursuits of the imperfect society that both glorified and dismissed him.
This is a biographical essay that rejects the allure of conclusiveness. . . . The writing in Some Unfinished Chaos is itself crisp, pointed and well-considered . . .Mr. Krystal is acute in his understanding of why, after The Great Gatsby, his subject's career never recovered from its loss of early promise and achievement. I haven't seen any more-striking formulation of the problem than is provided by the biographer's assessment of that loss as the central thing Fitzgerald seized upon: 'He saw what he couldn't have and knew he could write about it. . . . Failure was the shadow that stalked him because anything less than perfection was unthinkable.'William H. Pritchard, Wall Street Journal
Mr. Krystal's aim is to show why biographies of Fitzgerald are unstable, requiring a work such as his to highlight their variability, depending on the nature of the evidence selected and the biases of the biographer. . . . Fitzgerald scholars will have a good time arguing about this book, but Mr. Krystal's graceful, lucid style should have an appeal to all sorts of readers: They will enjoy seeing the lives of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald given a refreshing and searching treatment that will also demonstrate that how much of what they think they know about this couple cannot be detached from whatever biographies they have read. Carl Rollyson, The New York Sun
It?s wonderful to see a critic with Mr. Krystal?s gifts tackling a writer as elusive as Fitzgerald. He has cast new light on the writer?s life and work.James L. W. West III, Pennsylvania State University, author of The Perfect Hour: The Romance of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ginevra King
F. Scott Fitzgerald has been the subject of many, many biographical treatments. After you?ve noted Arthur Krystal?s meticulous research, and after you?ve marveled at and consumed his carefully crafted prose, you come away from his biography knowing one thing with greatcertainty: Fitzgerald was eminently unknowable, as an artist, as a man. Moreover, he was every bit as complicated as the burgeoning century with which he was in intimate conversation his entire brief and turbulent life. For nearly a century, though, that seemingly ?simple? fact hasbeen altogether missed by his biographers. That is, until now. Interrogating and expressly refusing to neatly reconcile Fitzgerald?s several ?lives,? Some Unfinished Chaos gets that complication right.Marc Dudley, North Carolina State University, author of Hemingway, Race, and Art: Bloodlines and the Color Line
If you enjoy Krystal's writing - painstaking, even-toned, quietly witty - you'll also want to look for his full-length book, Some Unfinished Chaos: The Lives of F. Scott Fitzgerald. It reads like a supersize essay, and I mean that as a compliment. Michael Dirda, The Washington Post
F. Scott Fitzgerald's prose defined a generation; it was turbulent, brilliant, troubling, troubled. He careened from obscurity to literary acclaim and then into seeming obsolescence, Krystal writes, his fall from grace as compelling as his rise. In this impressionistic biography, Krystal weighs Fitzgerald's genius against his shortcomings, approaching the altar of an icon with an affectionate agnosticism. The New Yorker
Presents an intelligent, sympathetic, witty, and personal rumination. Timely in its reliance on a wide range of primary and secondary sources and historical treatises, Krystal's book argues for a more nuanced evaluation of a complex author and man. . . A model of biography--clear in its rationale and aware of 'pitfalls,' namely the lure to let the behavior of a moment harden into a defining thesis. Joan Baum, WSHU Public Radio