The Great American Disintegration

When a former colleague sent me a snippet from The New Yorker of September 22, 2014—a piece called “As Big As the Ritz,” by Adam Gopnik—the attention therein given to two recent books on F. Scott Fitzgerald caught my eye, not only because I had already acquired one of them, but because I was repelled by the treatment of those books.  Mr. Gopnik seemed to claim an intuitive identification with the famous author, one that justified a dismissal of critical or academic attention.  Fitzgerald was a writer of sentences, not a creator of larger structures, not a poet of the mythical method, but rather a writer more like—well, more like Adam Gopnik.  Perhaps this judgment would have surprised the author of “Babylon Revisited,” one of the best short stories ever written, if he had not been dead for nearly 75 years.

Perhaps also that same author would be surprised that his name is so well known, as he died thinking it was forgotten.  Also more than well known is the name of his rival, Ernest Hemingway.  Their best-known or even best books are a matched set, as Scott stung Ernest to action when he showed him the manuscript of The Great Gatsby, and The Sun Also Rises was the formidable result: moon versus sun, America versus Europe, and both narratives remarkable for their parallel treatments of religion, alcohol, love, war, and procuration. ...

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