Tag: Post WWI

Writers of the Jazz Age

Writers of the Jazz Age

Novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald

I love the imagery and depiction of the 1920’s idol rich in The Great Gatsby, so I read Tender is the Night, another of Fitzgerald’s novels written post WWI. The writing style is very different to that in The Great Gatsby and difficult initially to become immersed in. But I persisted and found this tragic love story very haunting and beautiful. This Jazz Age novel interested me for another reason. I set my novel, The Last Hotel (Tellwell) in Beaulieu-sur-Mer which is where the opening chapters of  Tender is the Night is also set but of course a century earlier. I was so surprised when I read the opening lines of the novel;

“On the pleasant shore of the French Riviera, almost halfway between Marseilles and the Italian border, stands a large, proud, rose-colored hotel.’

How’s that for coincidence! A hotel!

Except that my hotel is neither large nor pink. But it could be considered proud due the quality of its occupants, my lovely characters.

The French Riviera and Writers of the Jazz Age

The 1920’s Riviera was a magnet for writers like Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway to while away their summers mingling with other writers and artists. They would laze on the beaches glorying in the idyllic Mediterranean climate, and drink cocktails at sunset in their hotel bars. Somewhere in between they would pen a few words of their latest work in progress. To understand the frenetic jazz era, you must reflect on the horrors of WWI that wiped out a whole generation of young men. Then The Spanish Flu wiped out a heap more. The crazy pace and vanity of the 1920’s was a reaction to these tragedies. A sort of ’Live like you never have before’ mentality. We may see our own version of The Jazz Age once Covid-19 is over.

Who Was Francis Scott Fitzgerald?

Francis Scott Fitzgerald was born in 1896 in Minnesota. He was named after cousin Francis Scott Key who wrote the lyrics to the American national anthem. ‘Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light…’etc. Fitzgerald entered Princeton in 1913 and apart from study, he wrote musicals. He dropped out in 1917 to enlist in the US Army and before going off to fight in WWI he submitted his first hastily finished manuscript, A Romantic Egoist, lest he die in the fighting. None of us writers have that sort of deadline!

Of course, he survived to write the novels This Side of Paradise, The Great Gatsby and Tender is the Night. He and Hemingway stole all the best book titles! None of these masterpieces sold well in his time and he spiraled into alcoholism beside his mentally ill wife Zelda. He sadly died an untimely death at just 44, never achieving full recognition for his beautiful haunting prose.

 Ernest Hemingway

Fitzgerald’s life rather parallels that of Hemingway, another American who went to Paris after WWI. Both men with accompanying women and alcohol issues liked to travel around while they wrote, often spending long periods in The Riviera. Hemingway also frequented Spain and was fond of bull fights and hunting. I find his books rather shocking in their depiction of cruelty to animals especially bulls. Neither does he write with the beautiful flowing prose of Fitzgerald but instead in a blunt, terse way. Possibly a man’s writer. He too stole all the best book titles. The Sun Also Rises, To Have and Have not, For Whom the Bell Tolls and Farewell to Arms. They sound wonderful but sadly though they sound inviting, his writing is not for me. But it is interesting to see the different styles of these writers of The Jazz Age.

Australian readers check out and support Author Academy Bookstore; https://authoracademybookstore.com.au