F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Collection of Critical Essays

F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Collection of Critical Essays

F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Collection of Critical Essays

F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Collection of Critical Essays

Excerpt

by William Troy

Of course, in any absolute sense, Scott Fitgerald was not a failure at all; he has left one short novel, passages in several others, and a handful of short stories which stand as much chance of survival as anything of their kind produced in this country during the same period. If the tag is so often attached to his name, it has been largely his own fault. It is true that he was the victim, among a great number of other influences in American life, of that paralyzing high-pressure by which the conscientious American writer is hastened to premature extinction as artist or as man. Upon the appearance of The Crack-Up, a selection by Edmund Wilson of Fitgerald's letters, notebooks and fugitive pieces, it was notable that all the emptiest and most venal elements in New York journalism united to crow amiably about his literary corpse to this same tune of insufficient production. Actually their reproaches betrayed more of their own failure to estimate what was good and enduring in his writing than his acknowledgeable limitations as an artist. If Fitgerald had turned out as much as X or Y or Z, he would have been a different kind of writer -- undoubtedly more admirable from the standpoint of the quasi-moral American ethos of production at any cost, but possibly less worth talking about five years after his death. And it might be said that Fitgerald never hovered so close to real failure as when he listened from time to time, with too willing an ear, to these same reproaches.

But Fitgerald brought most of it on himself by daring to make failure the consistent theme of his work from first to last. (Similarly Virginia Woolf used to be accused by the reviewers of being a sterile writer because she made sterility her principal theme.) It is perhaps only adumbrated in This Side of Paradise ; for the discovery of its hero Amory Blaine that the world is not altogether his oyster is hardly the stuff of high tragedy. The book is interesting today as a document of the early twenties; nobody who would know what it was like to be young and

Scott Fitgerald -- the Authority of Failure, by William Troy. From Accent (Autumn 1945). Copyright 1945 by the Estate of William Troy; Leonie A. Troy, Administratrix. Reprinted by permission of the Estate of William Troy; Leonie A. Troy, Administratrix.

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