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F. Scott Fitzgerald's 100th Birthday
Authors on Fitzgerald
How others past and present view the man and his works


E.L. Doctorow: "Of that triumvirate of hero-novelists who came of age in the '20s, we may salute the big two-hearted pugilist and stand in awe of the mesmerist from Mississippi, but it's the third one we mourn, the Jazz Age kid, our own Fitzgerald. His was the most natural and unforced of the three authorial voices; his plots relied on minimal invention; his settings were for the most part the surroundings of his readings. All of that was working the high wire without a net. He lived rashly, susceptible to the worst influences of his time, and lacking any defense against stronger personalities than his own; and when he died, at forty-four, he was generally recognized to have abused his genius as badly as he had his constitution. Yet at his best, in The Great Gatsby, segments of Tender Is the Night, and the incomplete Last Tycoon, he wrote nearer to the societal heart than either of his august contemporaries."

About The Great Gatsby, T.S. Eliot said, "[It] has interested and excited me more than any new novel I have seen, either English or American, for a number of years. ... In fact, it seems to me the first step that American fiction has taken since Henry James ...."

Ernest Hemingway said, after reading The Great Gatsby, "When I had finished the book, I knew that no matter what Scott did, nor how he behaved, I must know it was like a sickness and be of any help I could to him and try to be a good friend. He had many good, good friends, more than anyone I knew. But I enlisted as one more, whether I could be of any use to him or not. If he could write a book as fine as The Great Gatsby, I was sure he could write an even better one."

Dorothy Parker saw Scott and Zelda riding down Fifth Avenue on top of a taxi after This Side of Paradise was published ­ "They did both look as though they had just stepped out of the sun. Their youth was striking. Everyone wanted to meet him."

Gertrude Stein wrote: "Gertrude Stein and Fitzgerald are very peculiar in their relationship to each other. She thinks Fitzgerald will be read when many of his well-known contemporaries are forgotten. Fitzgerald says that he thinks that Gertrude Stein says these things just to annoy him by making him think she means them."

H.L. Mencken wrote Fitzgerald that The Great Gatsby "is incomparably the best piece of work you have done. Evidences of careful workmanship are on every page. The thing is well managed, and has a fine surface. My one complaint is that the basic story is somewhat trivial-that it reduces itself, in the end, to a sort of anecdote. But God will forgive you for that."

John Cheever said that in Fitzgerald's work "there is a thrilling sense of knowing exactly where one is ­ the city, the resort, the hotel, the decade, and the time of day."

Joan Didion calls The Great Gatsby "one of the three perfect books I go back to, along with [Ford Madox Ford's] The Good Soldier and [Joseph Conrad's] Victory." She says that she wasn't able to fully comprehend the novel when she first read it in high school in Sacramento: "To really understand the book, you have to know about the east, about what it means to buck up against the east."

Tobias Wolff says that Fitzgerald "saw our American world ... with clearer eyes than any of his contemporaries."

Jean Cocteau wrote to Victor Llona: "Voulez-vous faire savoir à F. Scott Fitzgerald que son livre ma'a permis de passer des heures très dures (je suis dans une clinique). C'est un livre céleste; chose la plus rare du monde.

"Vous lui demanderez qu'il vous félicite d'en être le traducteur ­ car il faut une plume mysteriéuse pour ne pas tuer l'oiseau bleu, pour ne pas le change en langue morte." (Cocteau's italicization).

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