|The Rise and Fall of a Literary Friendship|
vs. Fitzgerald: The Rise and Fall of a Literary Friendship
by Scott Donaldson
Overlook Press (800-473-1312)
One friend in a lifetime
is much; two are many; three are hardly possible. Friendship needs a certain parallelism
of life, a community of thought, a rivalry of aim.
Who was Ernest Hemingway? F. Scott Fitzgerald? We hardly need to ask. They are several of the greatest writers of the 20th century, and will be remembered for their very different contributions to literature. But, these two men were also friends.
In "Hemingway vs. Fitzgerald," Scott Donaldson draws from a career in the study of Hemingway and Fitzgerald to create a complete story of the friendship between the two men. He writes about the triumphs they shared, along with all of the obstacles that intervened through the years to drive the men apart: alcohol, money, jealousy, and all. This book is an explorationcarried off with style and intelligencesteeped in hard facts and amazing detail.
We must begin at the beginning. The friendship was off to a rocky start when Hemingway and Fitzgerald first met in the bar Dingo. In their first meeting, Hemingway was put off "by Fitzgerald's excessive flattery and invasive interrogation." Asking, for instance, whether Hemingway had slept with his wife before they were married did not seem appropriate conversation, particularly from a total stranger.
But the meeting proved to be fortuitous. Fitzgerald was already much more well-known at the time, with his "Great Gatsby" just published, along with several volumes of stories. Although Hemingway had been a feature writer until 1924, he had not yet published anything of note: "only a handful of stories and poems."
"From the start," Donaldson says, "Hemingway had a knack of ingratiating himself with famous authors and making them his advocates." He would later make the acquaintance of Gertrude Stein, John dos Passos, Dorthy Parker, and others. Even though Hemingway was not well-known, Fitzgerald had already heard about him before their first meeting. He'd already told his editor Maxwell Perkins that Hemingway was "the real thing."
And, after that initial meeting, Fitzgerald immediately went to work for Hemingway, trying to help jump-start his writing career. Fitzgerald would continue to do what he could to help Hemingway's career, even after his assistance had become a nuisance to his friend. Fitzgerald's influence and literary advice went a long way toward pointing Hemingway in the right direction. His edits to Hemingway's work during the late 1920's (from around 1926 to 1929) were a great contribution.
And then there was the end. Donaldson writes, "The last time Hemingway and Fitzgerald saw each other was a showing in 1937 while Fitzgerald worked in Hollywood."
Scott Donaldson is the preeminent biographer and scholar of Hemingway and Fitzgerald and the author of "By Force of Will: The Life and Art of Ernest Hemingway" and "Fool for Love: F. Scott Fitzgerald". He is the editor of The "Cambridge Companion to Hemingway".