To me, the last ten or so pages of The Great Gatsby are among the very most beautiful prose I have ever read. I last read The Great Gatsby (1925) just before I began my blog in July of 2009. I liked last few pages of the book so much that I read them at least five times before putting the book down. I have Tender is the Night but somehow I have have been demotivated from reading it so far. Today I was looking through my Twitter timeline and I saw a reference to an article in The Telegraph (U.K. newspaper) online edition saying that "Babylon Revisited" was the best of Fitzgerald's short stories, "One of the finest short stories in the English Language".
Fitzgerald (1896 to 1940-USA) along with his wife Zelda are now cultural icons of the Roaring Twenties in the USA where people thought the money and the good times would never end. (I am currently watching the 12 part series on the HBO Cable channel Broadway Empire is set in the 1920s in Atlantic City New Jersey. It depicts the Jazz age era with which the work of Fitzgerald is normally associated. For a 21th century equivalent, imagine Charlie Sheen on a bad night!)
"Babylon Revisited" is told mostly in dialogue. It takes a bit to figure out exactly what has happened to our lead character as he is very misleading in his conversations and may in fact be in bad faith himself. As the story opens Charlie is in a bar in Paris once fashionable with affluent Americans. The great crash on wall street has just occurred the previous year and many people do not have the money they once did and everyone is cutting back (hum..sound familiar to anyone?) The roaring twenties are over. I do not want to give away much of the plot line of this story as it was fun for me to try to think through the conversations to see the truth behind them.
The conversations are just great. We wonder if Charlie is as blind to reality as he seems. Here is a sample of the prose
"He woke up feeling happy. The door of the world was open again. He made plans, vistas, futures for Honoria and himself, but suddenly he grew sad, remembering all the plans he and Helen had made. She had not planned to die. The present was the thing--work to do and someone to love. But not to love too much, for he knew the injury that a father can do to a daughter or a mother to a son by attaching them too closely: afterward, out in the world, the child would seek in the marriage partner the same blind tenderness and, failing probably to find it, turn against love and life".
Take a second and reflect on what is said here about parent/child relationships-do you agree?
"Babylon Revisited" can be read online. If you have not yet read The Great Gatsby (I am not saying this is a flawless novel as it is not but the last few pages, IMO, are just wonderful-and yes I know I already said that) it will be a good sample for you. (If you do not like this story I would predict you will not like The Great Gatsby).
If you are a fan of the work of Fitzgerald or are interested in American literature in the 1930s, you really will be rewarded by this story. The Great Gatsby is for sure a canon status work and I would also include this wonderful story.
If you have read other works of Fitzgerald or have any reading suggestions for me please leave a comment.