75 years ago this month, Tender is the Night was published. In a friend’s copy of the book, Fitzgerald inscribed the following:
“If you liked The Great Gatsby, for God’s sake read this. Gatsby was a tour de force but this is a confession of faith.”
Apparently Fitzgerald was practical as well. In a letter to Max Perkins, he wrote, “Don’t forget my suggestion that the jacket flap should carry an implication that though the book starts in a lyrical way, heavy drama will presently develop.”
And it’s true, the book does start in a lyrical way. The first sentence:
“On the pleasant shore of the French Riviera, about half way between Marseilles and the Italian border, stands a large, proud, rose-colored hotel.”
Although it’s true that heavy drama–or at least drama–does follow, the novel is lyrical throughout.
“The water reached up for her, pulled her down tenderly out of the heat, seeped in her hair and ran into the corners of her body. She turned round and round in it, embracing it, wallowing in it.”
“…he kissed her and was chilled by the innocence of her kiss, by the glance that at the moment of contact looked beyond him out into the darkness of the night, the darkness of the world. She did not know yet that splendor is something in the heart; at the moment when she realized that and melted into the passion of the universe he could take her without question or regret.”
Here’s a great example of how to stay in the body of a character (after Dick learns of the death of his father): “He felt a sharp wince at the shock, a gathering of the forces of resistance; then it rolled up through his loins and stomach and throat.”
Finally, the best definition of love I have ever come across: “a wild submergence of soul, a dipping of all colors into an obscuring dye.”
Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald died at 44 of a heart attack.