Re: RARA-AVIS: Nathaniel West

From: Patrick King (
Date: 20 Mar 2010

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    It is amazing that Fitzgerald's rep hit the dumps... it's hard to think of a better writer from that era. West was Fitzgerald's equal, I would say. Tragic loss. Those two were not just writers, they were violinists of the soul.


    Fitzgerald was a magnificent wordsmith but he had almost no understanding of the concept of plot in his novels. He shows great plot comprehension in his short stories, oddly enough. I think, apart from his personal behavior, that this is the reason his star has fallen so low. THIS SIDE OF PARADISE, THE BEAUTIFUL & DAMNED, & TENDER IS THE NIGHT really have no cohesive plots. They're meandering character studies. Such books seldom sell well, and with the exception of PARADISE, Fitzgerald's did not. THE GREAT GATSBY has a good plot but it's lifted completely from Emily Bronte's WUTHERING HEIGHTS even in being told from a more or less disinterested point of view.

    In his day, Fitzgerald and his wife were tabloid personalities on a par with Brad & Angelina. Their drunken brawls far surpassed Fitzgerald's books as topics for discussion. Like the modern pair, Fitzgerald's art suffered in the face of popular opinion about his life style. With the possible exception of Henry Miller, Fitzgerald was the finest writer of his time. He had difficulty meeting the concentration demanded of a novelist. His short stories are unequaled even by Maupassant, in my opinion.

    I agree that all of Sinclair Lewis' books are important and well worth reading. His plots are wonderfully developed and drive the characters instead of the other way around. He was an acquaintance of James M. Cain, but by Hoops' account, Cain couldn't stand him. It really galled Cain that Lewis was so successful. I've so far read ARROWSMITH, BABBIT, & ELMER GANTRY and each completely transported me to that time as few other books have.

    I've read all of Nathaniel West's work and love MISS LONLYHEARTS. I prefer Chandler's depiction of Los Angeles of that era than West's for the most part. Chandler's L.A. seems more real.

    Patrick King


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