Some Sort of Epic Grandeur: The Life of F. Scott Fitzgerald Hardcover – Oct 1981
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From Library Journal
Epic indeed, this is the definitive biography of Fitzgerald, plain and simple. There's no reason to own another. (LJ 10/1/02)
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
"Matthew J. Bruccoli is always able to look through the events themselves to the essential fact about Fitzgerald: his existence as an artist, and not only to how it came about, but what it came to. Some sort of epic grandeur is exactly what Fitzgerald had. It is a perfect title for this book, for the grandeur is there, in the struggle to create memorable work. I fully expect that this will be the indispensable biography of a very great American writer, for the spirit of the man is in the facts, and these, as gathered and marshaled by Bruccoli over thirty years, are all we will ever need. But more important, they are what we need." - James Dickey; "Impeccably researched...both comprehensive and judicious... Bruccoli brings Fitzgerald vividly alive." - Newsweek; "This masterpiece contains exactly what we need to know about this dazzling figure." - Publishers Weekly; "It is difficult to imagine any work on Fitzgerald and his literary product that will supplant this one." - The New Yorker; "Indispensable and definitive." - The Times Literary Supplement --This text refers to the Paperback edition.See all Product Description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The material on Sheila Graham, Scott's lover in Hollywood, was also intriguing. Graham's own book about Scott is a great read, but the author brings out elements to the story which Graham omitted. I was genuinely sad when Scott dies and the narrative concludes. The debauchery, booze and high times of the Flapper era are all here. This is a highly recommended, beautifully tribute to one of the great writers of the past 100 years.
Bruccoli covers every aspect of Fitzgerald's life and includes several bits of correspondence to really give readers a look inside Fitzgerald's thinking. --Perhaps my favorite thing about the book is that it does not sentimentalize the author (which I myself have a habit of doing). Fitzgerald is spelled out here in all his glory, yet, we also get to see his unflattering side...paranoia, arrogance, unharnessed alcoholism, and downright neurosis.
F Scott Fitzgerald was a brilliant man whose life became legend. It is my humble opinion that Bruccoli has written the most thorough and best possible biography. Simply put, the read is fascinating. It might be 600 pages, but you will fly through it. It is "never dry" (like Fitzgerald :)) and always entertaining. For Fitzgerald fanatics like myself, this book is a must, but I am convinced that anyone who takes to "human interest" stories would find themselves engulfed in its pages.
Also recommended: "The Romantic Egoists"...a scrapbook collection put together concerning the lives of the Fitzgeralds. It is packed with pictures and is a wonderful companion to the biography. It was also published by Bruccoli.
The book opens with an interesting literary hook as we follow the last few hours in the life of Fitzgerald on December 21, 1940. He is an unemployed screen writer living in Hollywood at the apartment of his companion Sheilah Graham. On the previous day, he had symptoms of a heart problem. That morning on the 21st, he was working on "The Last Tycoon." He was sitting in a chair, stood up, grasped the mantlepiece, collapsed, and died at age 44.
That book is one of seemingly dozens of short stories on F. Scott, Zelda his wife, and others. The book is not a seamless story but is a chronoligcal collection of short - almost disconnected - stories about his life and works.
It is an excellent reference book to consult as you read the works of Fitzgerald. I found the book on its own too dry with too many facts and it gives no idea of what the writing was like. It was not until I read "This Side of Paradise" did I understand what all the fuss was about with F. Scott Fitzgerald, and it was at that point the present biography came to life. For example, I quote a passage from Chapter 2 of Book I, as Amory sits on the steps of his dorm at Princeton after his first day on campus:
"Now, far down the shadowy line of University Place a white-clad phalanx broke the gloom, and marching figures, white-shirted, white-trousered, swung rhythmically up the street, with linked arms and heads thrown back:
"Going back-going back,
Going back-going back-
Going back-going back,
Amory closed his eyes as the ghostly procession drew near. The song soared so high that all dropped out except the tenors, who bore the melody triumphantly past the danger-point and relinquished it to the fantastic chorus. Then Amory opened his eyes, half afraid that sight would spoil the rich illusion of harmony."
One learns more about Fitgerald's writing from that passage than the entire biography.
Having said the above, this is a fact filled reference book that acts as a wondeful guide and supplement to the F. Scott's life and the background for the works. There are many photographs and other documents among the 61 short chapters. I especially liked the ledger notes that were kept by Fitzgerald that clearly outline the characters and plot details for the books. Bruccoli has included a huge notes section and appendix at the back of the book, about 100 illustrations, plus many more documents. I have read many interpretations of "Tender is the Night" but it is a lot clearer when you actually read the author's own notes as produced here in the present biography.
Highly recommend: excellent collection of short stories and documents.
I would give it five stars except for an extremely irritating tendency Bruccoli has to be dismissive of almost all of Fitzgerald's short stories. Bruccoli is way too arrogant about pronouncing dozens of the stories F. Scott wrote as being "minor," or "disappointing," or even "embarrassing," while reserving his praise for a select few, such as "May Day" and "The Rich Boy." Personally, having read every one of FSF's currently collected short stories (well over 100 in all), I don't rate "May Day" or "The Rich Boy" very highly, but I love lots and lots of the "commercial" ones Bruccoli dismisses. I think he should leave the assessment of which stories are good up to the reader. Bruccoli's literary analysis -- of Fitzgerald's novels -- is outstanding, but the short stories should not be so dismissed (even if Scott himself at times dismissed them and hated having to write them to earn money).