F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Five Types of Amazon Critic
October 01, 2012

How to pan the great works of literature on Amazon? Meet the five varieties of one-star amateur reviewer:

The Importance of Being Earnest
July 28, 2011

The Pale King By David Foster Wallace (Little, Brown, 548 pp., $27.99) Fate, Time, and Language: An Essay on Free Will By David Foster Wallace (Columbia University Press, 252 pp., $19.95) Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace By David Lipsky (Broadway Books, 320 pp., $16.99) I. Today we think of the 1920s as a golden age of American fiction. But to Edmund Wilson, looking back in 1944, the most striking thing about this modern generation, which he did more than any critic to foster, was its failure to reach full development.

David Thomson on Films: ‘Midnight in Paris’
June 01, 2011

Opening in May and reaching out into the early summer, Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris is an artful and shameless encouragement of going back to Paris. I suppose that’s better than artless and shameful, but, from a director who is aged 75 now, wouldn’t it be nice to feel some age and regret, to say nothing of this being the last time he’ll see Paris with the euro stronger than a two-day old croissant?

Against Beauty
March 16, 2010

One of the running jokes in On Beauty, Zadie Smith’s third novel, is that its main character is philosophically opposed to beauty. Howard Belsey is a professor of art history at Wellington College, and like all middle-aged professors in campus novels, he is a ludicrous figure--unfaithful to his wife, disrespected by his children, and, of course, unable to finish the book he has been talking about for years. In Howard’s case, the book is meant to be a demolition of Rembrandt, whose canvases he sees as key sites for the production of the Western ideology of beauty. “What we’re trying to ...

The Mogul Empire
March 06, 2010

Irving Thalberg: Boy Wonder to Producer Prince By Mark A. Vieira (University of California Press, 504 pp., $34.95)  There are times of such chaos and promise, danger and daydream, when all of us hope for a superb and flawless leader. If he can swing it, we are off the hook. But he need not be a hero who turns into a tyrant. He is not necessarily strong, fierce, and Herculean. Indeed, it may add to his charm, to his magic, if he is slight, youthful, on the pretty side, and--better still--dying.

The Hunger Artists
January 18, 2010

Dancing In the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression By Morris Dickstein (W.W. Norton, 598 pp., $29.95) Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits By Linda Gordon (W.W. Norton, 536 pp., $35) American Hungers: The Problem of Poverty In U.S. Literature, 1840-1945 By Gavin Jones (Princeton University Press, 248 pp., $38.50)   “Let me tell you about the very rich,” F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in a story of 1926, at the height of the economic boom and his own creative powers.

Edmund Wilson at TNR
January 01, 2010

F. Scott Fitzgerald famously called Wilson his "intellectual conscience," and some considered him the twentieth century's preeminent man of letters. From his perch as TNR's literary editor, and then as a roving correspondent, critic Edmund Wilson was in large part responsible for the introduction of literary modernism to American culture.

The Usefulness of Cranks
September 30, 2009

Paradise Found: Nature in America at the Time of Discovery By Steve Nicholls (University of Chicago Press, 524 pp., $30) American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau Edited by Bill McKibben (Library of America, 1,047 pp., $40) Defending The Master Race: Conservation, Eugenics, And The Legacy Of Madison Grant By Jonathan Peter Spiro (University of Vermont Press, 462 pp., $39.95) A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir By Donald Worster (Oxford University Press, 535 pp., $34.99) A Reenchanted World: The Quest for A New Kinship With Nature By James William Gibson (Metropolitan Books,

Princeton Diarist: Military Academy
January 29, 2007

A few weeks ago, Andrew Delbanco wrote eloquently in The New Republic about the strange silence of his university in this time of war ("War College," December 11, 2006). Most people don’t think of Columbia University as an island of stillness and detachment. In Morningside Heights, as in Israel, any four people usually have eight opinions and express them with articulate fury. Yet Columbia holds its peace about Iraq—and, according to Delbanco, shows few traces of its active participation in America’s other wars. Princeton University, where I work, does feel like an island, "rising," as F.

Cambridge Diarist
January 16, 2006

When Eugene McCarthy died a month ago, I rushed to compose what I wished to be a meditation on what the man had meant to me, to my generation, and to our history. But eulogies always suffer from the press of deadlines, and so I decided to get an opinion of what I wrote from a truth-teller I've known since the 1968 campaign. I read my piece to John Callahan, a professor of English at Lewis & Clark College and the author of books on Ralph Ellison and F. Scott Fitzgerald, the harshest of the truth-tellers.

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