Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Sunday, January 30, 2011

"Babylon Revisited" by F. Scott Fitzgerald

"Babylon Revisited" by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1931, 20 pages)

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.

Mel u


Rebecca Chapman said...

I am probably going way out on a limb here, but I have never understood the fascination with F Scott Fitzgerald. I enjoyed The Great Gatsby but I would never sya it was one of the best books of all time, which it is often heralded as. I have tried reading other books by him and haven't enjoyed that as much as I did The Great Gatsby and I didn't enjoy that all the much really. Maybe there is something wrong with me, sigh.

Mel u said...

My fondness for Fitzgerald comes from my reaction to the last ten or so pages to THE Great Gatsby-sometimes I get carried away!

Jessica said...

I have a collection of his short stories and I ust checked and Babylon revisited is in there so thanks for the review.

I love Fitzgerald but I read Tender is the Night before The GReat Gatsby and love them both.

Farheen said...

You must read 'Tender is the Night'. I admit that nothing can surpass The Great Gatsby (especially once you see the film with a very young and handsome Robert Redford as Gatsby) but Fitzgerald's other works are equally good. I would also recommend 'The Beautiful and the Damned'.
I try and re-read The Great Gatsby every year. Such beautiful prose just has to be read again and again.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Fitzgerald isn't my favorite author, by any means, but I've definitely loved some of his books. The Great Gatsby and the collection of short stories in Babylon Revisted are both filled with such beautiful writing. Tender is the Night has been on my TBR shelf for too long. I'm hoping to read it this year.