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Saturday, 24 November 2012

"Trimalchio" and "The love of the last tycoon"

1/ To save you from googling, "Trimalchio" is a complete early draft of "The great Gatsby". It's necessary to add that Fitzgerald was not satisfied with the name "The great Gatsby" and the only reason it's not called anything else was that when he reconsidered and suggested a few other titles it was too late to change (other names considered were "Gatsby", "Trimalchio in West Egg", "Among ash-heaps and millionaires", "On the road to West Egg", "Under the red, white, and blue", "Gold-hatted Gatsby" and "The high-bouncing lover"). 

Some main differences between "Trimalchio" and "The great Gatsby": 
- In "Trimalchio" Nick's more critical and judgemental in a way, less neutral, less objective. His attitudes and opinions are more obvious. Many of his comments were later removed. 
- In "Gatsby", I think, Nick's tone when he narrates the story, describes Gatsby and makes some comments on him sounds positive. 
- In "Trimalchio" Gatsby's obsession with celebrities is clearer.
- In "Trimalchio" the gap between Gatsby and Daisy is greater, or at least clearer, especially when Daisy makes some comments on the people at Gatsby's party. Many sentences were cut, removed. Fitzgerald didn't keep the part involving the hair cut. However, even if it sounds contradictory, in "Gatsby" she seems more distant, more far away, from Gatsby. The depiction of Daisy in "Gatsby" is also more negative, though I can't really say why.
- In "Trimalchio" Tom doesn't think Gatsby's an Oxford man- "He did! Like hell he did! He wears a pink suit." This detail is changed in "Gatsby"- he makes some investigation, which, albeit a very small alteration, is very meaningful in the depiction of Tom. 
- Chapter 6 and 7 were rewritten. 
- The confrontation was rewritten. The confrontation becomes shorter. In "Trimalchio", before that Daisy already talks about leaving her husband and even thinks of running away (but Gatsby doesn't agree), at the confrontation he does talk but also asks questions and makes Daisy speak and admit, too. Whereas in "Gatsby", facing Tom, Gatsby talks more and appears more hopeful and thus, in the end, becomes more shocked and disappointed, not expecting Daisy's reaction.
- In "Gatsby" he's more clearly defeated.
- In "Gatsby" Nick says "You can't repeat the past." In "Trimalchio" he says "Daisy's a person, not just a figure in your dream".
- Mr Gatz meets Nick twice in "Trimalchio", once in "Gatsby".  
- The unfolding of Gatsby's character and past is done differently. In "Gatsby", his career comes out bit by bit in the course of narrative, as suggested by Maxwell Perkins. Unlike "Trimalchio", it doesn't have the scene where he confesses the whole story to Nick. He, besides, also talks less- many quotations were removed. I don't deny that he's a bit vague, in both versions, but unlike many people including Fitzgerald and Perkins I don't see it as a defect- Gatsby should be mysterious, just like his shadowy business and double life, and somewhat distant, just as he keeps a certain distance from other people. 
- In "Trimalchio" characters talk more, sometimes seem to analyse themselves or speak their thoughts and opinions, for instance, Gatsby says "You know, old sport, I haven't got anything. I thought for a while I had a lot of things, but the truth is I'm empty, and I guess people feel it. That must be why they keep making up things about me, so I won't be empty. I even make up things myself." Lots of such sentences, including many of Nick's comments on other characters, were removed when Fitzgerald edited the book, so thoughts, ideas and themes become more subtle in "Gatsby", but that's also what makes the final book a true masterpiece, for he of course doesn't have to say everything in his own words but, instead, leaves some space for us readers to fill in.

2/ As I consider myself a huge fan of Fitzgerald, after reading "The great Gatsby", "This side of paradise" and "Tender is the night" I've just finished "Trimalchio", an early version of "The great Gatsby" and "The love of the last tycoon", his last, unfinished book, a 1st draft. Each is a nice read on its own despite its unfinished state and flaws, but most importantly both of them do help me very much in seeing and gaining an insight into the way Fitzgerald worked, how he planned and structured a book and prepared the outline, how he developed his stories and changed details, switched things around, edited his novels, etc.

My thoughts on "The love of the last tycoon": 
- As usual, his writing's beautiful and insightful and I believe, especially after reading "Trimalchio" and comparing it to the final version, it would have become another masterpiece if he hadn't died then, though I'm not sure whether to agree with the majority of critics who call it his best book- personally I think any comparison is irrelevant and unnecessary. 
- Considering that both books are written about Hollywood, I think this novel is better, much, much better than "The Pat Hobby stories" (a collection of 17 short stories also by him). 
- 1 of the things I think he might have changed is the point of view. Though Fitzgerald makes it clear in his notes that Cecelia doesn't actually tell the story even though once in a while that seems to be the case, many critics and reviewers have criticised this inconsistency. 
- Another thing he might have changed is the characterisation of Kathleen, because it's revealed in his notes that he was very concerned with it. However from my personal point of view I don't see any problem except that she's a big vague. 
- Also, Cecelia not recognising Stahr albeit knowing him well is a significant literary device but is unconvincing, which I think Fitzgerald might have changed as well. 
- Stahr is most fascinating when working. 
- This novel is a continuation of Fitzgerald's essential theme of aspiration, but, as pointed out, Monroe Stahr is his only unflawed hero. I don't see Stahr's excess of discipline and reason as a flaw, even if he's sick and tired- in fact, such a physical condition makes his strong will, sense of responsibility and love for work become more admirable. Not only is he the only truly successful man in Fitzgerald novels, but he's also remarkably stronger than the male protagonists in previous novels, since Fitzgerald had the tendency to characterise and portray men as being romantically weak and women as being stronger. 
- I agree with Fitzgerald that "unlike "Tender is the night" it is not a story of deterioration- it is not depressing and not morbid in spite of the tragic ending"
- This novel is new and different, especially because Fitzgerald describes an entirely different world- Hollywood. But I personally think in a sense it's a combination of "The great Gatsby" and "Tender is the night". 

3/ Some of his advice on writing: 
- "Begin with an individual, and before you know it you find that you have created a type; begin with a type, and you find that you have created— nothing." 
- "Don’t be a bit discouraged about your story not being tops. At the same time, I am not going to encourage you about it, because, after all, if you want to get into the big time, you have to have your own fences to jump, and learn from experience. Nobody ever became a writer just by wanting to be one. If you have anything to say, anything you feel nobody has ever said before, you have got to feel it so desperately that you will find some way to say it that nobody has ever found before, so that the thing you have to say and the way of saying it blend as one matter—as indissolubly as if they were conceived together...
Let me preach again for a moment: I mean that what you have felt and thought will by itself invent a new style, so that when people talk about style they are always a little astonished at the newness of it, because they think that it is only style that they are talking about, when what they are talking about is the attempt to express a new idea with such force that it will have the originality of the thought." 
- "You don't write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say." 
- "The talent that matures early is usually of the poetic [type], which mine was in large part. The prose talent depends on other factors—assimilation of material and careful selection of it, or, more bluntly: having something to say and an interesting, highly developed way of saying it." 
- "You've got to sell your heart, your strongest reactions, not the little minor things that only touch you lightly, the little experiences that you might tell at dinner." 

Some other things I learn from Fitzgerald: 
- Plan and structure. You have to know your characters perfectly. 
- Observe. Look. Listen. Feel.
- Don't say what is unnecessary, don't underestimate readers. Leave some space for readers to fill in. 
- Pay attention not only to the story as a whole but also paragraphs, not only paragraphs but also sentences, not only sentences but also words. 
- Don't rush. While I can't say Fitzgerald's slow writing is the ideal method for writers work differently and do what they find most efficient and effective, they all edit carefully and try to shoot for some kind of perfection. 

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