Monroe Stahr is a top Hollywood film producer, seemingly secure, the man who hires and fires stars and writers, whose slightest mildly expressed opinion makes or breaks a production or a star. A repressed individual, we see nothing of the man behind the producer, certainly not when we, the readers, are taken through his typical day. He works all the time, a widower, scared of himself and thoughts of his past, as we discover later.
When, during a minor earthquake (in which no one was injured!!!), two women come sailing down an impromptu water course, on a film prop of the god Siva, Stahr spots two women, one of whom closely resembles his beautiful deceased wife. He has to find her. He sets all his Hollywood machinery into finding her, only he locates the wrong woman… at first. Then there is Celia, twenty year old daughter of Stahr`s dissolute partner, who has been in love with him for ever. The first chapters of the novel are written by Celia in the first person, although much of it concerns events that Celia could not have witnessed and the PoV drifts into third person omniscient for large sections. (You can hear the Writers Circle feedback here. “For me, this would have worked so much better with a consistent point of view, Scott.”) In fairness, what I read (what is published) is very much a first draft, and Fitzgerald, a vigorous editor, would have almost certainly fixed it, if he`d lived.
What made The Last Tycoon so magical were the vivid descriptions, largely of people, their actions, and the way they did things, of love and desire. Read this, for instance:
…already he knew the down on her neck, the very set of her backbone, the corners of her eyes and how she breathed – the very texture of the clothes she would wear.
She opened the door of the verandah and pulled in two wicker chairs, drying them off. He watched her move, intently, yet half-afraid that her body would fail somewhere and break the spell. He had watched women in screen tests and seen their beauty vanish second by second, as if a lovely statue had begun to walk with the meagre joints of a paper doll.
I love the detail, what he’s thinking, how it might have been, what it reminded him of. So much to learn! (How did I ever believe I could write?) You may wonder why on earth I’m including a photo of a solar light socket being used as an ashtray. To me, it’s so Fitzgerald, something good, in this case, environmentally green, being abused for something bad (smoking).
First published in 1941, this is Scott Fitzgerald`s last novel, which he didn`t finish, before he died of a heart attack… alcoholism, high living, and the stress and worry of having to provide for a wife with mental health issues. Almost as interesting as the novel itself is the Extra Material at the end of the book – a synopsis of the unwritten chatters, an account of Fitzgerald`s turbulent life and brief summaries of his other works.
Available from Alma Classics Ltd …but I borrowed it from the library.
I’ve spent today being a poll clerk in the Police and Crime Commissioner elections and local authority elections. The turn-out at our polling station was pathetic, so I was able to get on with other things during long lulls. I was going to finish this post and publish it while I was there, using 4G, but time, which had crawled this morning (starting at 6.30am), ran on bobbins during the last couple of hours. I also intended to write something profound about elections and polling, but the photos below will have to suffice, of wooden (and plastic) polling booths and ballot boxes like picnic bags. Very quirky and old fashioned.