If F. Scott Fitzgerald hadn’t suddenly died of a heart attack and had managed to finish his fifth novel, The (Love of the) Last Tycoon, it would have surely been his most mature and accomplished piece of work. Nevertheless, the incomplete draft of the novel still shows the author’s great craftsmanship in developing complex and tormented characters and in shaping the atmosphere of the 1920s like no other author. The (Love of the) Last Tycoon, although unfinished, takes place as one of the novels that set the standard in literature.
There have been critical disagreements as to the title that the author intended to use, hence the use of parenthesis. While the draft was titled The Last Tycoon, some of the notes of the author suggest he intended to use instead The Love of the Last Tycoon. Before his death, Fitzgerald managed to complete six chapters but the story was not even close to being finished, as the subject in The (Love of the) Last Tycoon is much more complex than any of his other four novels. For the first time Fitzgerald deals with a specific industry. Instead of focusing on debutantes, college boys, wild parties, and wild spenders of the twenties, Fitzgerald explores the glamorous world of the Hollywood studios. His main character, the Hollywood producer Monroe Stahr, had the potential of becoming his greatest character, greater even than The Great Gatsby (one of the greatest characters in world literature in my opinion). The misery and grandeur of Stahr’s life is explored with so much intensity and reality that the reader cannot help but admire Fitzgerald. And while Tender is the Night somewhat deviated from the writer’s style in The Great Gatsby, in his fifth and unfinished novel Fitzgerald is at his absolute best.
Monroe Stahr seems as a logical, more developed continuation of Jay Gatsby. The Hollywood producer is among the best in his guild – respected, ambitious, almost always right. Yet, his life is also marked by tragic events, betrayal, anguish, and unrequited love. Fitzgerald wrote the novel in the blend of first-person and third-person narrative. While most of the events are told through the point-of-view of Cecilia, the young daughter of his partner and a girl madly in love with him, other scenes are narrated, in which she was not present. Using such a technique, Fitzgerald manages to draw a complete portrait of his character – seen as a hero through the eyes of the woman who loves him and more objectively through a third-person narrative. Monroe Stahr, unlike any other Fitzgerald character, is inextricably involved with an industry, of which he has been one of the creators, and certainly one of the most admired and looked upon people. There are wild parties, but they do not form the center of the narrative, as in Fitzgerald’s other novels. Demise through alcohol, boredom with life, inability to cope with everyday problems does not constitute the majority of his characters – instead they are people driven by ambition and desire to succeed. And still, the passionate unrequited love is there – more real and more painful than ever.
F. Scott Fitzgerald did not have the time to finish his novel but the notes he left behind draw a somewhat comprehensive picture of what he intended to convey with his novel. Monroe Stahr, much like Gatsby (as the author himself stated) is a self-made man. Everything he accomplished was thanks to his own ambition and perseverance. In that sense, The (Love of the) Last Tycoon is not a novel about the path towards deterioration (as Tender is the Night) but about the last of the movie tycoons – a man with an extraordinary talent, who believed in perfection; a self-sufficient producer, who was always right; a man of great qualities, looked upon by his contemporaries.
I have almost completed a challenge that I set myself this year – to read everything that my three most favorite authors have written – Erich Maria Remarque, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I can say with a well-backed conviction now that Fitzgerald is among the greatest authors that have been born. He shows growth and development in his novels – and while This Side of Paradise represented the childish views of an author still too young, The Great Gatsby and The (Love of the) Last Tycoon are the culmination of an unprecedented literary talent.
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