Around the blogosphere:
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender Is the Night, the story of a psychiatrist who marries one of his patients, receives less attention than it should because The Great Gatsby shines so brightly in the firmament. Tender Is the Night does not have the hypnotic symbolic power or poetically distilled form of Gatsby. It is not quite so well made. It is an example of that kind of novel that Henry James characterized as a “loose and baggy monster.” All the same, it conveys emotions of loss and the breakdown of relationships that make it in some ways more of a human chronicle than is the perfect aesthetic artifact that is Gatsby.
I always felt that Tender Is the Night made more trouble for me as a reader than the more or less perfect Gatsby, and that trouble–at least at a certain time in my reading life–made it more interesting. I wish Born had said a bit more, both on this and some of his other points, but despite feeling truncated the piece is well worth reading. Thanks to Dust from a Distant Sun for the link.
– Ms. Tingle Alley unearths Mark Twain’s incensed reaction to a Victorian biography of Percy Shelley, Edward Dowden’s 1886 Life of Shelley. Dowden was much in Shelley’s thrall and seems to have raised more eyebrows than just Twain’s in brazenly defending the poet’s monstrous behavior toward his first wife Harriet, who ended a suicide. Interestingly, Matthew Arnold registered the same objection to Dowden’s exculpatory treatment of Shelley, though not nearly so acidly or entertainingly as Twain:
On the 9th of November 1816 Harriet Shelley left the house in Brompton where she was living, and did not return. On the 10th of December her body was found in the Serpentine; she had drowned herself. In one respect Professor Dowden resembles Providence: his ways are inscrutable. His comment on Harriet’s death is: “There is no doubt, she wandered from the ways of upright living.” But, he adds: “That no act of Shelley’s during the two years which immediately preceded her death, tended to cause the rash act which brought her life to its close, seems certain.” Shelley had been living with Mary [Wollstonecraft Shelley] all the time; only that!
I can’t go into detail about it just now, but I have a pet theory that the narrator of Henry James’s 1888 novella The Aspern Papers was partly modeled on Dowden. I’m hoping Carrie’s find may give me more ammo. Whether it does or no, it’s still Twain, and fine reading.