Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Distasteful Is the Night

I don't think I've ever read F. Scott Fitzgerald's last complete novel, "Tender Is the Night," all the way through. But after reading two Zelda bios in the last two weeks and learning that this particular novel deals with the so-called "turning-point" in their marriage, I had to give it another go.

It's fine. Fitzgerald is usually psychologically relatively astute when it comes to group dynamics. (He get kudos, at least, for TRYING, in this case.) But at one point I started running into enough annoying, ridiculous stuff like this (about the main character's wife, an 18-year-old love interest, and a random hanger-on):

"Their point of resemblance to each other and their difference from so many American women, lay in the fact that they were all happy to exist in a man's world -- they preserved their individuality through men and not by opposition to them. They would all three have made alternatively good courtesans or good wives not by the accident of birth but through the greater accident of finding their man or not finding him."

This kind of thing isn't the main jist of the novel, but it crops up enough to make me start to view the whole thing with distaste. Fitzgerald's prose is often beautiful enough to make me not want to dislike him. But the above makes me tilt toward dislike, similar to whatever D. H. Lawrence book I was reading years ago when he suddenly started declaring a 6-year-old girl (a 6-year-old girl!) to be a "bitch" and a "seductress," representative of all women.

I only very vaguely care about authors' personal proclivities, but when they start presenting said proclivities in their work as TRUTHS, I do indeed have a problem with it.

Fitzgerald died in 1940, at age 44. His smug novel about the beginning of his real-life wife's psychological breakdown, published in 1934, was, appropriately, his last.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Well, this was the psychology of the day -- that women's mental health required them to be fundamentally dedicated to the happiness of their man and from that happiness came their own. It was expected that healthy women would live this way -- just as the clitoral orgasm was considered immature compared to the vaginal thrusting alone orgasm.

So, while it's tiresome to read such stuff, the culture of the day has be examined in addition to what the author says.