There have been several biographies of F. Scott Fitzgerald—notably the ground breaking work by Arthur Mizener and the much more recent life by Matthew Bruccoli. Fitzgerald has a firm place in the canon of American literature. Essays and books on him continue unabated. Is there really a need for a new biography?
Meyers makes a good case for one while acknowledging the valuable work of his predecessors. He points out that readers have not been satisfied with extant biographies because the whole man and his essence have not emerged from the wealth of scholarship and new facts about him. This complain is often made about biographies of major figures. Inevitably, readers will find fault if they have studied the subject and formulated their own convictions. This is why biographies of major figures need to be rewritten each generation—not merely to accommodate and present new evidence, but to ask questions about the subject that new readers and different epochs pose.
Meyers presents some new material on Fitzgerald’s private life and love affairs, but more importantly he recasts the narrative of Fitzgerald’s life with an economy and sense of emphasis that distinguish his best biographies. Familiar stories are told with a deft touch and subtle awareness of how much weight to put on them. Meyers understands the intricate adjustments that are constantly made in our understanding of great writers.
If Meyers does not quite succeed in presenting the whole man, it must be admitted that no biographer can do so, for biography is by nature an incomplete form, subject to revision. The biographer never has all the evidence in hand and can never quite equal his literary cousin the novelist, whose material is self-generated and sufficient to itself.
Sources for Further Study
Booklist. XC, April 1, 1994, p. 1417.
Chicago Tribune. May 29, 1994, XIV, p. 3.
The Christian Science Monitor. May 10, 1994, p. 15.
Kirkus Reviews. LXII, March 1, 1994, p. 280.
Library Journal. CXIX, April 1, 1994, p. 98.
The New York Review of Books. XLI, August 11, 1994, p. 14.
The New York Times Book Review. XCIX, May 29, 1994, p. 14.
The New Yorker. LXX, June 27, 1994, p. 186.
Publishers Weekly. CCXLI, February 21, 1994, p. 238.
The Wall Street Journal. May 6, 1994, p. A12.