While The Great Gatsby is his most well-known work, some critics agree with F. Scott Fitzgerald that Tender is the Night is his best work. After reading it, I am not sure I agree with that, but it certainly is deeper then his earlier works in its treatment of the inner thinking and psychological make-up (perhaps I should say psychosis?) of the protagonists, and in its portrayal of the disintegration of their relationship and world (paralleling the implosion of the post-War and early Depression society).
Tender is the Night, published in 1934, was Fitzgerald’s fourth novel. It had been nine years since his previous work (the aforementioned Gatsby). Much had happened in Fitzgerald’s life over those years, including the deterioration of his beloved Zelda’s mental health, not to mention the world going into depression. The darkness that had pervaded Fitzgerald’s life of late certainly carries over into the theme, plot and character development in the world portrayed in Tender is the Night. It reads like a slightly veiled autobiography of Fitzgerald’s life.
In the novel, Fitzgerald states:
One writes of scars healed, a loose parallel to the pathology of the skin, but there is no such thing in the life of an individual. There are open wounds, shrunk sometimes to the size of a pin-prick but wounds still. The marks of suffering are more comparable to the loss of a finger, or of the sight of an eye. We may not miss them, either, for one minute in a year, but if we should there is nothing to be done about it.
This one quote seems to sum up the disillusionment and pain that Fitzgerald has suffered. There is no moving on, the joy and ease of life is a thing of the past. Time, experience and the world cruelly march on.
One other quote, though unrelated to the above, seems very apropos to the world today where many seem to form their views on life, culture, morals, etc., from snippets of ‘information’ pumped into their heads by large media, even larger entertainment companies, Twitter, cliff notes and other abbreviated, non-objective sources resulting in dumbed down culture and an inability to see through demagoguery that pervades the world around them.
Either you think — or else others have to think for you and take power from you, pervert and discipline your natural tastes, civilize and sterilize you.
This edition from the Limited Editions Club is nicely done, and is just at the stage when the club, under Sidney Shiff, was starting to improve upon what many consider to be the low point of the LEC, that being through most of the 1970’s. I want to like the design and feel of this book, and I largely do. Yet, something just seems a bit off holistically. Perhaps the lotus design and the 1920’s-ish feel of the illustrations just seem slightly out of synch with the story and time in which it takes place? The disenchantment and reflection of life/society heading into an abyss seems like it would have been a good match with a more modernist, dark and even nihilistic look. Still, the book is very nicely done and I certainly recommend you having it in your library!
About the Edition
- Introduction by Charles Scribner III
- Gouache illustrations and original lithograph by Fred Meyer
- Lithograph printed by George Miller & Son, Gouache illustrations by The Meriden Gravure Co.
- Letterpress printing by The Stinehour Press under the direction of C. Freeman Keith, who is also responsible for the typographical design
- Text type is Monotype Garamond in 14 point size, and Castellar capitals
- Paper made at the Mohawk mill in Cahoes, New York
- Binding by Horowtiz & Sons, in an ochre-on-jade Lotus print from the Lee/Jofa line
- Signed by Fred Meyer and Charles Scribner III
- 8.5″ x 11″, 344 pages
Pictures of the Edition
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