I’m currently reading for another criticism, and it’s tough going. Who would have thought Tender is the Night is heavy lumber? I bought the book at an estate sale. The people were moving from California to the East Coast (cheaper). They packed and took what they wanted and left the remainder to the public: 17 boxes of books. No one needs Tender is [anything] in their library. Indeed nothing in California is tender except people’s feelings and sensitivities.
I made the mistake of glancing at the Introduction. Sentence One: “To the end of his life Fitzgerald was puzzled by the comparative failure of Tender is the Night, after the years he spent on it and his efforts to make it the best American novel of his time.” I decided to read something else. Chapter One. My first thought – Fitzy has to stop writing about the lives of Ivy League trash, their troubles and tribulations. His books have Yalies, Crimson boys and Tiger Tims. He should write about a car mechanic instead of killing in in Gatsby. Write about a minister, mining engineer, but no more of good-for-nothing-Ivy-League-brats, people and characters that are indistinguishable in Fitzy’s mind, identical characters in his books and a uniform lump of mush. After all, Fitzy doesn’t want to write a string of romance novels. He’s purportedly writing “the best American novel of his time.” So the Ivy League is why he failed.
It’s difficult to go to a clumsy sentence after a nonsensical line of dialogue. The problem is voice – narrative, third person, third person familiar, stream of consciousness, etc. Fitzy mixes voices and voice. Sometimes the voice isn’t consistent from participation to participation.
In Chapter One Fitzy quotes The Rose and the Ring [I’m not making this up!]: “‘The best I can wish you, my child,'” so said the Fairy Blackstick in Thackeray’s The Rose and the Ring, ‘is a little misfortune.'” I don’t know why this quote appears. It has nothing to do with the character, Richard Driver aka [Ivy League] Lucky Dick. And it’s so profound a thought that comes from the Fairy Blackstick, who modifies the cliche, Life is not always a bowl of cherries. Or, PUT ANOTHER WAY, It’s called the pursuit of happiness because the goal of happiness is elusive. There will be setbacks and detours. In the end you may be unhappy or believe happiness is somewhere else. OR, PUT ANOTHER WAY, Life is a series of speed bumps until you die. Then it becomes a freeway.
I cannot tell why Fitzy quoted this mundane, ill-put point from The Rose and the Ring, unless Fitzy was simply being himself: pretentious and Ivy League. Look at me. I’ve read an important book [never been made into a movie, but there is Guns and Roses]. Because reader sees this quote in my book, they will believe my book is profound and it and my writing and significant.
It will be a while to read Tender is the Night, so long I fear that I may never write about it. It is best to read snippets and my reactions and post immediately. Thereby, I may get to the end, without Tender in the Night killing me off.