If F. Scott Fitzgerald saw his books today, he’d be horrified. Not because of the writing — though perhaps all those ?breathless waif’s and ?ceaseless summer’s would grate — but because the dust jackets would have you believe that he never wrote about anything but breathless waifs and ceaseless summers. Penguin Classics is finally publishing a series that gets Fitzgerald right.
The books are hardcovers of his novels (and one set of short stories), and they’re done up in lively Deco motifs that evoke the gogo aspects of the Jazz Age Fitzgerald so deftly satirized. Beyond that, though, they don’t say much. And that’s the idea. Instead of serving up a canned plot summary and a lame watercolor of a flapper in pearls, they urge you to appreciate his prose above all else.
The books are designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith. They’ll be released this fall to mark the 70th anniversary of Fitzgerald’s death.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, of course, had the misfortune of being stranger than fiction, and as a result — as any high school student halfway through The Great Gatsby CliffNotes will tell you — his writing is often better remembered for how it salaciously mirrored his personal life than for how stylish it was. It’s a damn shame.
Bickford-Smith offers a corrective. The books pay homage to Fitzgerald the writer — not Fitzgerald the tragic character — by excerpting his prose inside the jacket: “You’re the only girl I’ve seen for a very long time that actually did look like something blooming” and “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past” (possibly the best last line of any book ever). The point is that, with Fitzgerald, all the aesthetic pyrotechnics you need can be found in the writing itself.