Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Fitzgerald and His Pat Hobby Stories

Though I've re-read F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby within the last few years - if you're looking for The Great American Novel, here it is - it's been a long, long time since I've read any of his short stories. This might be a good reason to dig into at least the Pat Hobby stories:
When F. Scott Fitzgerald died in Los Angeles in 1940, he'd been laboring for a year and a half on "The Last Tycoon," a novel about a charismatic movie producer named Monroe Stahr. Published posthumously, this uncompleted manuscript would be called—by, among others, Edmund Wilson—the finest work of fiction ever written about Hollywood.

On weekends during those same creative months, Fitzgerald dashed off (for quick cash) a batch of tales involving a much different Hollywood type: a down-at-heels scriptwriter named Pat Hobby. The 17 Hobby episodes, printed in Esquire magazine between 1939 and 1941 and later collected into "The Pat Hobby Stories" (Scribner), complement "The Last Tycoon" and fill out his vision of the movie-town that fed and inspired him in his final years. The unfinished "Tycoon" is a masterpiece of modern-romantic tragedy. "The Pat Hobby Stories" is an acerbic comedy—one where the laughs often stick in your throat.

Fitzgerald's story is a tragic one - yes, much of it self-inflicted - but I liked how, at the end there, he was working on coming back to life. And, right up to the end, he was devoted to his daughter, Scottie. These stories sound like they may shed a little light of how things were before they ended.

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