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The Crack-Up Kindle Edition
This month's Book With Buzz: "The Lying Game" by Ruth Ware
From the instant New York Times bestselling author of blockbuster thrillers "In a Dark, Dark Wood" and "The Woman in Cabin 10" comes Ruth Ware’s chilling new novel. See more
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The book is made up of a series of short narratives that Fitzgerald wrote describing the world around him leading up to his death at the age of 44. As usual his writing is so incredibly lucid and eloquent that you are not only transported to the place but can sense the anguish and frustration that he feels with his life. Take this excerpt for example:
"The tempo of the city had changed sharply. The uncertainties of 1920 were drowned in a steady golden roar and many of our friends had grown wealthy. But the restlessness of New York in 1927 approached hysteria. The parties were bigger, the catering to dissipation set an example to Paris, the shows were broader, the buildings higher, the morals looser and the whiskey cheaper" - Pg. 30
The middle of the book is made of some lists that Fitzgerald was obsessed with making and the final section is filled with his personal correspondence. The letters between him and Hemingway are true gems.
The person I got it for likes poetry and essay type books, and he really enjoys this book.
The individual lives within culture and culture lives within the individual. In "The Crack-up" F. Scott Fitzgerald describes in bone clean prose what happens to the individual when culture cracks up; the individual cracks up with it. When it works, culture provides meaning to life, when it cracks up, life becomes meaningless. As Fitzgerald puts it, life becomes "an arrow shot from nothingness to nothingness".
This brief work is both sociology and literature of the first order; concise description and artistic revelation. It is far more than (as some reviewers suggest) just the confession of an alcoholic. It has lasting merit for the Liberal Arts, particularly the Humanities and the Social Sciences.
The autobiographical, "The Crack-up," 30 taut pages, is the centerpiece of this edition. It is not fiction, but a brief and unflinching account of the author's breakdown amidst the general breakdown of his era. It was written in 1936, six years after the crack-up of "The Roaring Twenties" (which Fitzgerald termed "The Jazz Age"). Four years after this work was published Fitzgerald, age forty-four, died of a massive heart attack. A year later America entered WWII.
The Roaring Jazz Age is a good description for the glittering, frenzied mania that was life in America closely following WWI. But the "boom" of the 1920's was followed by the"bust" of the 1930's. The glitter soon morphed into The Great Depression and its attendant horror, WWII. Who knew American culture could be so bipolar?
There are five additional briefer autobiographical pieces (in ascending annual sequence starting in 1931) that prefigure the central work, and one short coda published in 1937. Of the earlier pieces two were co-written with Zelda, Fitzgerald's plaintive wife, and are noteworthy for their brilliant satirical expression of disenchantment with places and things that first "glittered" then proved to be dross. In fact, the principal theme of Fitzgerald's life and work can be summed up in the old adage, "all that glitters is not gold."
The bulk of this edition contains Fitzgerald's notebooks. These are brief sketches of ideas and impressions in a scattered fashion that, I think, would be of interest to the specialist, but not the general reader. There are also a few of his letters, mainly to his daughter Frances and his editor, the noted critic Edmund Wilson. Reviewers that mention "short stories" must be referring to a different edition.
This is an extremely well made soft cover edition with sewn sections and resilient pages. Paper brightness and font are excellent. But a lot of the book's content appears to be filler to pad out the title piece, which is the one substantial work. If the reader can find this title in other well made books that have short stories or other noteworthy pieces I would recommend such other collections; if not, this edition is good even with its shortcomings. I rate five stars for the title piece, several other worthwhile selections and the superb quality of the book.
At the time of this writing a big Hollywood production of "The Great Gatsby" has just been released. Perhaps this portends a new interest in the work of Fitzgerald. His themes continue to have relevance to the once again glittering American culture, far more than those of his famous contemporaries, Ernest Hemingway or William Faulkner (among others). In any event, virtually all that Fitzgerald has to teach us about life and culture is contained in the accessible yet profound "The Crack up".
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