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January 17, 1942 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 1942-01-17

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PERSPECTIVES

Page Nie

SCOTT FITZGERALD'S FAILURE
.A Review, by James Allen

THE LAST TYCOON, published
with THE GREAT GATSBY and
certain short stories by F. Scott
Fitzgerald.
COTT FITZGERALD'S death last
year brought to a close one of the
most ragic and arresting careers
in modern American letters. More
even han Thomas Wolfe's early death
Fitzgerald's was lamentable; for there
is little reason to believe that Wolfe
could ever rise above what he had al-
ready done. The objecivity of which he
spoke in the Web and the Rock was
more asserted than exhibited either
there or in his subsequent work - his
was the more brilliant star, but one
unalterably fixed. Fitzgerald, on the
other hand, was at his death on the
threshold of a long awaited maturity,
all signs of promise about to be ful-
filled.
The Last Tycon, published posthum-
ously, is a Hollywood -story, and that'
in itself is enough to raise strong sus-
picions - following as it does an un-
conscionable amount of literary bilge
from that quarter. But in it there is
no trace of shopgirl romanticism or
jealous rancor. A true evaluation of
the novel is impossible since Fitzgerald
had not completed it nor made certain
intended emendations before he died,
but that which is written is done sure-
ly and 'with skill and passion. The
life of Marvin Stahr is limned without
the hesitance and apology that obscur-
ed so many of Fitzegrald's foregoing
characters. He had at last fastened
upon values that allowed him to exer-
cise his unquestioned talent and keen
perceptions to the utmost effect.

The very apotheosis of every line he
wrote about the Jazz age, Fitzegrald
was deeply concerned with the quest
for enduring values during the postwar
years. Edmund Wilson in his condes-
cending introduction to The Last Ty-
coon dismisses the early Fitzgerald nov-
els as "romantic projections" of the
author and that is what they were. Yet,
This Side of Paradise is a very moving
work even at this date and a valid com-
mentary on college life at a certain soc-
ial level. It stands out above the wave
of similar stories it inspired such as
Stephan Benet's Beginning of Wisdom
and the early novels of Percy Marks
chiefly because it denied the reassuring
promise of a return to pre-war mores
which was implicit in the others.
Throughout this period of change,
Fitzgerald sought the way out. Religion,
science and art failing, he choose upon
his own ego and trusted that in the vir-
tures of youth he had found his answer.
He believed in "A sort 'of insistence in
the value of life itself and the worth
of transient things." Or again, in a
story of the group horrendously titled
Flappers and Philosophers, he says:
"My courage is faith-faith in the etern-
al resilience of me-that joy will come
back, and hope, and sponteneity." Nec-
essarily, however; such a code is as
ephemeral as youth itself, and one's
eternal resilience must yield to age.
Perhaps this wistful faith is the clue
to the lack in Fitzgerald's work; cer-
tainly it was not an incapacity to write
both fluently and well. In This Side of
Paradise, his employment of poetry,
stream- of consciousness, and drama as
suited his whim wrought an extreme

diffusion as its total effect, but it was
a mistake unrepeated.
Any philosophy that is based on the
sufficientcy of one's own courage mere-
ly obscures many problems without at-
tempting their solution. So it was that
the .beautifully concieved novel The
Great Gatsby failed somehow to come
off. The narrator was constrained to
remain aloof and to be sure that al-
though he realized the scope and force
of Gatsby's dream and of its tragic de-
nial, he still realized that he must leave
this fellow to himself and draw no judg-
ments. The imagination and pace of the
novel raise it above the obstacles that
the author imposed by the telling. What
it lacks is the warmth, compassion and
sincerity that run thrugh even the most
brutal of Hemingway's stories. There is
a certain hesitance to speak out born
of that recurring notion that he must
remain sympathetic, yet aloof, and it
is for this very reason that we lose the
story in the telling. "Through all he
said, even through his appalling senti-
mentality, I was reminded of something
-an elusive rhythm, a fragment of lost
words, that I had heard somewhere a
long time ago." This from the egoist af-
ter Gatsby tells his story of privation
and destiny and the tragedy of a lost
dream.
But perhaps the most unfortunate of
all Fitzgerald's aberrations was his con-
viction that social grace and monied
position alter the basic moralities gov-
erning individual behavior. It is an
idea implicit in all of his earlier work
and supplies a valuable perspective for
examining that work. The idea finds
broadest expression in the opening par-
agraphs of his story The Rich Boy:

"Let me tell you a Ia the very
rich. They are different frtm you
and me ... They thi'nk aeep down
inside that they are her tan we
are, because we had t ise aer the
compensations and rea ..s of life
for ourselves. Even when they enter
deep into our world er siot below
us, they still think they 'rbetter.
They are different.
The observation in 2ied is past de-
nial, and is of consiira"C 1perceptive
worth. But Fitzgeraldc b ;ie"ed "they"
were right; that whate'. 1teir devia.
lions, the rich could do no s g unles
they were guilty of bet 'ci"u the clas.
"Acquiescense in this - Hemingway
remarked, "ruined him 'imtoh as an,
of the things that ro ."o it
is that the total imp",st'n cei'ated by
the narrator in The Grea tG'tsby and in
many of the short slt , - s that of a
freshman t the prom 'o observing
the antics of t e upper 'ass-men, ate
cepts them as correct i os myster-
ious fashion that they lon can under-
stand and that he dare to siestion.
It requires more effort as timre wear,
on, however, to be sure that a correci
manner with dinner a c"e and good
taste in liquor constitute an end to liv-.
ing. And at last, as he ' utst, Fitzgerald
gave it p. The finest of hI sho t storie>
-one not published in the group in
cluded with The Last Tycoon -wa.
Babylon Revisited. It as the final store
of his last collection, T al At Reveille,
and serves at once as a -valedictory to
the long and desperate saga he had'
written concerning the 2C'a sand a fore-
shadowing of the more iture art that,
(Continsted on P; .T, 7' elve)

THE VISION OF HUGH FITZGERALD
. Continued from Page Two

that night at Princeton, watching the
red tail-lights of the cars disappear in
the South. There is a lost loneliness
about every little fire man has ever
built in the vast and speechless night.
Every fire men build is but one of that
fiery chain of the billion little flames
that have burned from the Klondike
around to Turkestan. And all of our
dead ancestors sat around these billion
little, lost fires, looking west. The West
was a promise and a hope of new homes
to them. But the East was always a
recollection of old familiar places, too.
Whenever some barrier, like the Atlantic
Ocean or the size of the Earth, stopped
them, even for a little while, they al-
ways turned their eyes back East as
Americans do now. We are always hav-
ing to focus our thoughts from West to
East, and back, looking for a new, real,
permanent home. So that as long as
we look into campfires, women will
weep, calling the names of dead fai-
,ies, and men will find themselves sud-
denly puzzled and restless and sad
again. And the weariness will be un-
ending. The great salmon of the West
must spawn before it can die. Bruised
and smashed, it must leap once more,
try yet 'again, to surmount the final
boiling rapids, and fall into the still
pool. Talk of race death; no race can
die whi e it wants as fierely as ours
does! 'The old' tribes, the nations that
have found fulfillment and asked only
for Peace, France and Holland and
Italy may die: But the wave of the
West sil runs bright and swift with
terrible, insatiate wanting and weari-

ness. It is as if our fathers, like think-
ing, striving, unutterably laboring sal-
mon, had come down the red and blue
rivers of the East to America, carrying
the seeds of our flaming return with
them. It is as though all the mighty
sweep and promise of America had been
only an immense salt sea where the
race might burgeon and grow great for
the ghastly and triumphal return to the
still pool, to the fulfillment of Faust's
dream, and the final death at the top
of the tower of the centuries!
H, JIM! There is the whole truth of
our lives revealed. We are all of
us caught, carried away by the primal,
inherent desire in our blood. Out of
the East our fathers came, and filled
as with the seeds of our Homelessne.p
and will to return. Out of the South,
out of this vast land of extremes, have
come to us dreams and fevers to drive
us mad, and send us beyond the farthest
mountains. We have grown fat, rich,
thoughtless, blundering, self-sure, bru-
tal and desireful, so that we can face
our flaming and savage return with-
out flinching. We do not want to go
back; so many of us are weary only
with dreaming of the deserts that are
to cross. It's a long, long way to Tip-
perary, and a longer way to the East.
We have to be sentimental and foolish
and vainglorious, else we could not
bear the journey. But we cannot stay
home, either; cars, homes, cities, roads,
dams, buildings, cannot conceal the
fact that our hearts 'are homeless. So

weary, Jim? The legions have just
begun to march, sleepy and soiled and
uncertain of the way ahead. So dis-
contented, Jim? But the story of Ameri-
ca is a long shout of discontent, the.
discontent of Harry Pulham and Bill
King, of Studs Lonigan and Bigger
Thomas, of the Joads and Ted Babbitt,
Dodsworth and Gene Gant. Our dis-
content is the fuel that drives us and
consumes us. It is the malarial blaze
in our brains that will make rulers
of us.
America was a savage continent once,
and if we conquered it greatly, so it has
shaped us also. There are a million sav-
age places of shade and death left
among us, by the cypress swamps and
the lonely reaches of great rivers, and
along the hedgerows and stream-banks.
There are creatures we should not think
to see, scarlet and livid, among us.
There .are ghosts in the cornfields. An
insane quality in the distances and ex-
tremes of the West has driven Ameri-
cans all a little mad. We have drunk
too much swamp water, and known too
much desire, al of us. Like the shape-
less ripples that pass under the water
of Hovey's Lake, are the dark and shape-
less ripples of potential prodigious evil
that flow under the surface of our tidal
struggle for world power. No man, not
Roosevelt nor Hitler, could have in-
stilled the hate, the fear, the greed and
-lust for blood, that we have felt these
last two years. They are things of the
(ark forests and forty-foot canebrakes.
The jaguar paw of the South holds us
always.

The world will be nc bttetr because
there has been an AmE"ica. The wastE
and discontent of this w aderful world
of the West, "so various, sc beautiful,
so new," is a weight like he sou of the!
tears of eternity. We are wsted, Jim
The world will hate us, and beasick and
bloodlessly white becau Sf 'us But we
must think that it will n it, e must
have a cause, a dream, a promise te
ourselves, or we can neve ' racaount thi
last rapids.
We are part of two imsaes; we our-
selves are only bubbles o an immens
wave, the wave of our years, the wave
that sweeps east towad I eland and
Dakar. We ourselves may al sick wit
all our - unanswered casres, and fin
the paltry but perfect cnat of deatc..
But as we are part o athe America o'
all time, we are part of aother image.
'or our nation, our net s:e, ill leap
in the sparkling spraN 'ane like-,
great silver and crim'cn itLaised sa-
mon. Our brothers' son- 'rI be Cae-
sars; and their sonsiv- t I the stia
pool, where they will kit "h =?e, Wer ae
the Beginners, the first eeration ti
see that the true cos a =af our race
has turned East and ?acrate sat last. Our
fathers were the Lost. Ceation, fo.
they stood at dead cents varing to a I
directions, so that ther mawLasses failel
them. Oours will not. Ntilsryou, Jim,
nor I, nor any in the ay that wen«
south from their home . amop in the
still of that July nig t, aim ever finca
rest. But our grear- 9eat-grands.
'will. We are the 'Beginner_ .

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