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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

What Fitzgerald might have done had he lived to complete The Last Tycoon

One can only imagine that F. Scott Fitzgerald would have improved The Last Tycoon had he lived longer and worked on this novel to the finish; he was a famous reviser, unafraid to dramatically change earlier drafts, and the surviving notes - included in the Scribner edition - about his plans for TLT and an outline of the complete plot as he'd planned it - show how engaged he was in his writing: not among the first-thought, best-thought school, far from it. So, well, what would he have changed? First of all, I suspect he would have ditched the whole idea of the young woman, Cecilia, daughter of a producer, as the narrator; if she truly is to become the love interest of Stahr, the eponymous tycoon, she's completely inappropriate as a narrator: compare Calloway w/ his detached insouciance and his sharp insights. Second, one hopes he would have improved the plot as he worked further into this novel. The finished text concludes with Stahr getting in a ridiculous fist-fight w/ a union organizer (a "red"); it would be way better if that organizer were introduced earlier and that the tensions between labor and management were a significant theme from the outset. Third, there are many opportunities to make this a story of crime, murder, revenge - a la Gatsby - but FSF in his plot outline avoids them all and has Stahr die in a plane crash. That's a cheap way out of the story - anyone knows that if you're killing the protagonist it shouldn't be just some random (and extremely rare) event. Then, please, let us hope FSF would have given up on the complicated chapter he outlines in which 3 kids come across the wreck of the plane and start purloining materials from the crash such as Stahr's briefcase. This plot device is not only preposterous but it takes the novel off into a divergent course - these kids have nothing to do w/ the Hollywood story, such as it is. And why would he have Cecilia narrate the whole story from a sanatorium, where she is dying of TB? All told, except for scholarly interest and for those lay readers curious about how FSF developed a plot, the best thing editors could have done w/ TLT would be to trim it of everything except the Hollywood stuff - make it a short (or long) story. As it stands it's a mess - and it's clearly not something FSF would have owned it its published form; still wondering how the adapters will develop this story: Stay w/ FSF's outline and notes? Or develop it as they see fit?

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