The tone of The Crack-Up is often nostalgic, bordering upon self-pity. Fitzgerald’s unblinking analysis of his shattered dreams and life strikes those who admire his work as candid and moving. Those who view him as an overrated writer find the pieces to be further evidence of his stunted emotional development, his perpetual adolescence. Few, however, can fault the stylistic grace of the articles. Fitzgerald was always a fine wordsmith, one whose metaphors and similes were rich but seldom purple. A memorable example is his extended comparison of the broken writer to a cracked plate.
The book’s motif of loss and bittersweet longing is established in the opening paragraph of the first piece. When “Echoes of the Jazz Age” was published in Scribner’s Magazine in November, 1931, Fitzgerald was only thirty-five years old, but he was already looking backward rather than forward. He introduces the word “nostalgia” in the seventh line of the article and closes by bemoaning the fact that those of his generation will never feel so intensely again as they did during the 1920’s. He acknowledges that some readers will diagnose his condition as “premature arteriosclerosis.” “My Lost City” was bought by Cosmopolitan magazine in July, 1932, but never published. This article, as its title announces, continues to develop the theme of a time and place which are irretrievable. The city is New York, and Fitzgerald chronicles...
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