"So I finished this book last night. Maybe not the greatest novel ever, but the right book at the right time. I have hated F. Scott Fitzgerald since 10th grade. At 15 I was not ready to read The Great Gatsby. I didn’t get it and I didn’t like it. I liked Star Wars. Lord of the Rings was as high brow as I got those days. I liked to read, but I liked light-sabers and long-swords, not moody billboards. A decade later I still like light-sabers and longwords, but I am able to appreciate literature a bit more, or at least one would hope given I just finished my masters in Lit at Oxford. I borrowed Tender is the Night from my girlfriend because it checked the major box signifying a good climbing trip read: it was long. Long books are essential to survive rain delays. Well I dove in, still loathing Fitzgerald, and emerged yesterday suitably shaken. I will not spoil the story, but decadent 20-something americans living beyond their means in Europe on the edge of a collapse hits pretty close to home when one is a 25 year old American living in Oxford. The beauty and curse of Oxford is that it allows you to fake being decadent. With innumerable black-tie dinners, balls, etc., not to mention my predilection for getting ‘research’ funding the visit medieval libraries in, say Italy, one begins to think one has money. Sipping a mid 80’s Bordeaux, or say, 1950’s Port- on the college of course- in a tuxedo while lounging in a medieval garden leads to delusions of grander. As a Sub-Dean, I have seen people ‘crack’ the way Fitzgerald describes, and his evocation of an American who has enough money to peak in the door but is always waiting to see when everyone’s glass is full to offer to buy a round is haunting. Basically, I had to grow into Fitzgerald. Hemmingway is an accessible ex-pat. His terse style and rollicking narratives play up (parody?) the adventure seeking American where as one can almost read Fitzgerald’s Hemmingway-esq Tommy Baraban as the ironically Gallic foil to his own American anxiety embodied in Dick Diver. In the end Fitzgerald’s restraint makes the book. What he does not say overwhelms what he does say. Just like most of the teeny boppers in Oxford, content to stick to their alcho-pops at lurid bops, would spit out an Americano as too bitter or harsh, the teenage reader of Fitzgerald is so unprepared for his balanced cocktail of money, booze, sunshine, and regret that he or she- or me in this case- doesn’t get it at all. Even if they do, they don’t ‘dig it,’ in 90’s parlance. On the other hand, a decade later, Tender is the Night goes down like a real Old Fashioned after a long, hard, days work."
(read more of Zack Stone's work here)