Minnesota Roots and A List of Books

images  Before Prince created the Minnesota Sound, Jason Diamond reminds us that F. Scott Fitzgerald was a native Minnesotan.  In his article for the travel section of the New York Times – Tracing F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Minnesota Roots – Diamond reviews the Minnesota places haunting many of Fitzgerald’s work.

“He wrote The Beautiful and the Damned in the yellow Victorian home with the wide porch on Goodrich Avenue and took strolls along White Bear Lake, about 10 miles to the north, in his mid-20s, newly married and having just published his first book – it was the place where he was inspired to set and write Winter Dreams.  Minnesota, it seemed, was good to him.”

I had never read “Winter Dreams,” and found the short story free online -you can read it here –  Winter Dreams  full of Minnesota references.

Fitzgerald was a prolific writer but in 1936, as he was  convalescing in a hotel in Asheville, North Carolina,  he offered his nurse a list of 22 books he thought were essential reading – none of his were on the list. 

These are books that F. Scott Fitzgerald thought should be required reading. Have you read any of them?

  1. Sister Carrie, by Theodore Dreiser
  2. The Life of Jesus, by Ernest Renan
  3. A Doll’s House, by Henrik Ibsen
  4. Winesburg, Ohio, by Sherwood Anderson
  5. The Old Wives’ Tale, by Arnold Bennett
  6. The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiel Hammett
  7. The Red and the Black, by Stendahl
  8. The Short Stories of Guy De Maupassant, translated by Michael Monahan
  9. An Outline of Abnormal Psychology, edited by Gardner Murphy
  10. The Stories of Anton Chekhov, edited by Robert N. Linscott
  11. The Best American Humorous Short Stories, edited by Alexander Jessup
  12. Victory, by Joseph Conrad
  13. The Revolt of the Angels, by Anatole France
  14. The Plays of Oscar Wilde
  15. Sanctuary, by William Faulkner
  16. Within a Budding Grove, by Marcel Proust
  17. The Guermantes Way, by Marcel Proust
  18. Swann’s Way, by Marcel Proust
  19. South Wind, by Norman Douglas
  20. The Garden Party, by Katherine Mansfield
  21. War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy
  22. John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley: Complete Poetical Works

The Great Gatsby

cugat_1Before seeing the new movie version of The Great Gatsby, I wanted to reread the book.  Images of Robert Redford still emerge when I think of that West Egg mansion; before replacing them with Leo, I wanted Fitzgerald’s words again.

In an interview, the current movie’s Director claimed that more copies of the book had been sold during the weeks of the movie preview than in Fitzgerald’s lifetime.  A publishing disaster that did not meet the expectations raised by his first bestselling novel – “This Side of Paradise” – The Great Gatsby’s biggest sales were to Fitzgerald himself, who bought copies to thin the shelves, and sold the movie rights to the book for a mere $16,000.

Fitzgerald’s language is sometimes florid, always precise, and wickedly elusive with double entendre.  The author claimed that “Gatsby started out as one man I knew and then changed into myself…”   Knowing Fitzgerald’s doomed romantic life and reading his descriptions of shallow “careless” characters with opulent parties and lifestyle, it’s easy to imagine the “Jazz Age” – even without the expensive Hollywood sets.

Of course, the book is always better than the movie and the Hollywood ending usually strays from the author’s – this movie is no exception, yet the famous words that end the novel and are inscribed on the Fitzgerald gravestone are the same:

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

But if you really want to enjoy the show, forget the 3D glasses and read or re-read the book first.  You will thrill at the many echoes of Fitzgerald’s words.

Check out my review of   Z – A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald