Stewart on Rick Kleffel’s The Agony Column; Asheville and Savannah This Week

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Read the review and listen to the podcasts of West of Sunset on Rick Kleffel’s The Agony Column!


Stewart is on the last leg of his tour — Asheville and Savannah this week:

Asheville, NC
ABA Winter Institute
The Man in Room 441: A Conversation About F. Scott Fitzgerald, With Maureen Corrigan, Stewart O’Nan, and Erik Larson
Tuesday, February 10, 2015 – 10:20am to 11:45am

Asheville has a rich literary history.  Included among the authors with ties to the city  is one of the 20th century’s greatest novelists, F. Scott Fitzgerald.  (His wife, Zelda was treated at Asheville’s Highland Hospital, a psychiatric facility.) Maureen Corrigan, author of So We Read On: How the Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures (Little, Brown) and Stewart O’Nan, author of West of Sunset (Viking, published January 2015), a novel of Fitzgerald’s last years in Hollywood, will share their insights and observations about the writer, his works, and his times. The conversation will be moderated by bestselling author Erik Larson, author of Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania (Crown, to be published in March 2015).
Room:
Heritage BR – A, B

Savannah, GA
Savannah Book Festival, 2/14/2015 4:10-5:10PM
http://www.savannahbookfestival.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/final-schedule-2015.pdf

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West of Sunset Interview in Mental Floss; 1/30/2015, Two Events in Seattle

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Q&A: Stewart O’Nan on Fictionalizing F. Scott Fitzgerald

For all that has been written, said, extrapolated from, and culturally metabolized about F. Scott Fitzgerald, the last few years of his life are often dismissed as a steady downward slide from writing The Crack Up, published February 1936 in Esquire, to his premature death of a heart attack in December 1940 at just 44 years old.

But it was during that time that Fitzgerald moved to Hollywood, reinvented himself, repaid his debts and fell in love for the final time. Of course, he also failed to finish a new novel, felt the impact of his worsening health, and struggled to maintain a relationship with his beloved but committed wife, Zelda. It’s not the expat parties in Paris of the 1920s so often associated with the author. But it was an interesting time in the life of one of the most celebrated literary figures of the 20th century. In his newest novel, West of Sunset, Stewart O’Nan presents a fictionalized account of these final years, bringing to life scenes of Fitzgerald in Hollywood. We talked to O’Nan about fictionalizing such a famous figure and what he learned about Fitzgerald in the process.

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Stewart is in Seattle today for two events!

Seattle, WA

The Pub @ Third Place Books, 1/30/2015
http://www.thirdplacebooks.com/rav-auth-event

Elliott Bay Books, 1/30/2015
http://www.elliottbaybook.com/event/stewart-onan

More Reviews of West of Sunset and an Interview

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There are really three stories here woven into one compelling narrative: Fitzgerald’s attempt at professional reinvention, his romantic quest to re-create with Graham the once-electric love he shared with Zelda in the 1920s and his guilt-driven obligation to support his scattered family by paying for Zelda’s hospitalization and his daughter’s education at prep school and later Vassar.

Any one of these stories by itself would be interesting. Skillfully woven together, they comprise the best Golden Age Hollywood novel to come down Sunset Boulevard in years.

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“West of Sunset” is deeply researched, but the book wears it lightly — true events and real-life people are seamlessly woven into O’Nan’s imagined world. And the author’s prose, as always, is simple but eloquent — somehow, magically, he makes it look easy. Figures like Bogart and Fitzgerald’s friend/foe Ernest Hemingway are fully realized, not just characters used for perfunctory name-dropping.

Best of all, though, is O’Nan’s main character. “West of Sunset” is a big-hearted and fascinating look at this complex man — a troubled genius who was half inside a celebrity’s glamorous life and, poignantly, half outside it.

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Q: Why F. Scott Fitzgerald?

A: It’s F. Scott Fitzgerald at that time in his life. I wondered how he could come back from what he had gone through. I’ve always been a big fan of his essay, “The Crack-Up.” When everything that you care about has been lost, where do you go from there? For him, it was Hollywood.

Q: What were your main concerns when you started working on the book?

A: Well, first off, I’m not from Los Angeles. I’m not a West Coast guy. I’ve visited, of course, but I don’t know that much about that place or that time. The challenge was how to get back into the spirit of the place when he was there. It helped that Scott was a fish out of water when he went, too, so I could see it through his eyes that way.

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Review of West of Sunset from USA Today; Interview in Boston Globe; 1/26/2015 7pm, Books Inc. @ Alameda, CA

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By Kevin Nance , Special for USA TODAY

Is anything more poignant than genius in decline? It’s hard to imagine after reading West of Sunset, Stewart O’Nan’s almost unbearably bittersweet portrait of the once-great novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald’s sad yet darkly glittering final years in Hollywood.

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Stewart O’Nan read everything F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, including his love letters to his wife, Zelda, for his new novel based on the writer’s last few years. “We think of Fitzgerald as a tragic writer, but he’s very ironic and wry,” he says. O’Nan was in town last week to read from his new novel, “West of Sunset.”

BOOKS: What are you reading currently?

O’NAN: I’m reading “The Most of It” by the poet Mary Ruefle. This book is sort of prose poetry. She writes like Lydia Davis: skewed, small short stories. I’m a big Davis fan. I love Russell Edson, too, a prose poet guy in the ’70s, who’s kind of absurdist. I always go back to the surrealists, too. I like anyone who’s making something goofy and whacky.

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Stewart will be at Books Inc. tonight in Alameda, CA!

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