Showing posts from October, 2011

Art Imitating Life in Fitzgerald’s Novels

All great fiction is autobiographical since authors write most effectively about what they know.  More than most other writers, Fitzgerald drew upon his own feelings and experiences for his novels and short stories.  As he explained in his 1933 essay “One Hundred False Starts”:
     Mostly, we authors must repeat ourselvesòthat’s the truth.  We have two or three great and moving experiences in our livesòexperiences so great and moving that it doesn’t seem at the time that anyone else has been so caught up and pounded and dazzled and astonished and beaten and broken and rescued and illuminated and rewarded and humbled in just that way ever before.
Then we learn our trade, well or less well, and we tell our two or three storiesòeach time in a new disguiseòmaybe ten times, maybe a hundred, as long as people will listen.1
Yet Fitzgerald’s fiction was never just thinly-disguised autobiography; it was instead transmutedòor transformedòautobiography.  None of the protagonists of his novelsòAm…

Thomas Hardy

‘The reason why so few good books are written is that so few people that can write know anything.’ So said a man who, during a busy career, found time to add several fine volumes to the scanty number of good books. And in a vivacious paragraph which follows this initial sentence he humorously anathematizes the literary life. He shows convincingly that ‘secluded habits do not tend to eloquence.’ He says that the ‘indifferent apathy’ so common among studious persons is by no means favorable to liveliness of narration. He proves that men who will not live cannot write; that people who shut themselves up in libraries have dry brains. He avows his confidence in the ‘original way of writing books,’ the way of the first author, who must have looked at things for himself, ‘since there were no books for him to copy from;’ and he challenges the reader to prove that this original way is not the best way. ‘Where,’ he asks, ‘are the amusing books from voracious students and habitual writers?’ This…

Matthew Arnold: The Function of Criticism at the Present Time

Many objections have been made to a proposition which, in some remarks of mine[22] on translating Homer, I ventured to put forth; a proposition about criticism, and its importance at the present day. I said: "Of the literature of France and Germany, as of the intellect of Europe in general, the main effort, for now many years, has been a critical effort; the endeavor, in all branches of knowledge, theology, philosophy, history, art, science, to see the object as in itself it really is." I added, that owing to the operation in English literature of certain causes, "almost the last thing for which one would come to English literature is just that very thing which now Europe most desires,—criticism"; and that the power and value of English literature was thereby impaired. More than one rejoinder declared that the importance I here assigned to criticism was excessive, and asserted the inherent superiority of the creative effort of the human spirit over its critical ef…