Review of West of Sunset in Historical Novel Society

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In 1937, author F. Scott Fitzgerald travels to Hollywood to salvage his writing career as a screenwriter. He’s considered a has-been – his masterpiece, The Great Gatsby, was published in 1925 – and his rampant alcoholism doesn’t help. He struggles on with screenplays only to be replaced by other writers, then he must scramble for another job to offset his huge debts. His wife, Zelda, once the darling of the Jazz Age, has had several nervous breakdowns and is confined to an asylum back east. Scott visits her dutifully, but he’s worn out by her unpredictable nature.

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Two Noteworthy Articles About Gatsby and West of Sunset

From The Columbia Chronicle:

The Great Gatsby 90th Anniversary: 90 years ago on April 10, 1925, F. Scott Fitzgerald published his literary opus, “The Great Gatsby.”

 

From The Daily News of Newburyport:

F. Scott Fitzgerald returns in “West of Sunset,” a re-creation of his movie years

The American trio of Fitzgerald, Faulkner and Hemingway continues to live – notably, in fiction.

Two recent books that created fictional treatments were “The Paris Wife,” about Hemingway’s first, and “Zelda,” a fictional look at the tempestuous relationship between Fitzgerald, the brilliant if drunken wordsmith, and Zelda, his talented flapper-wife who was institutionalized in her final years.

And there was the highly amusing movie, “Midnight in Paris,” by Woody Allen.

My favorite send-up character in that film  was Hemingway: “Are a real man? Do you want to box?” (This after a dozen drinks).

Anyway, Your Scribe just finished “West of Sunset,” by Stewart O’Nan.

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Review of West of Sunset in The New Yorker

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Briefly Noted

WEST OF SUNSET, by Stewart O’Nan (Viking). This novel of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s last years tracks him as he hacks away at Hollywood screenplays, perpetually menaced by poor health, poor finances, and a sense of his rusting legacy. Drowning in memories of a world “all promise and sweet fumbling,” Scott struggles not to disappoint his teen-age daughter, falls for a mysterious gossip columnist, and visits the institutionalized, tragically unstable Zelda. The narration wanders between wistful elegy and snappy one-liners delivered by, among others, Ernest Hemingway, Humphrey Bogart, and Shirley Temple. O’Nan’s adroitness with atmosphere and period detail makes Fitzgerald’s dreams of creating worthy work, even with his best days behind him, absorbing and poignant.

[The New Yorker]