We gave it an A
Jeffrey Meyers knows how many beers a day (37) Scott Fitzgerald was up to when he briefly tried to give up gin. He knows about a mistress or two neglected by previous biographers. He has a firm grip on all the parties and pranks that marked the giddy ascent of Scott and his wife Zelda in the ’20s, and all the breakdowns and binges that marked her descent into madness and his into alcoholism and debt in the ’30s. But he’s particularly good on the nuances of Fitzgerald’s literary influences, friendships, and accomplishments. Meyers has already written excellent lives of Joseph Conrad and Ernest Hemingway, and in Scott Fitzgerald: A Biography he shows how crucial Conrad’s influence was on The Great Gatsby and sorts out the defensive dynamics of Hemingway’s constant bullying of his slightly older friend and rival. Fitzgerald emerges as a prize-winning divided soul: extravagant and remorseful, heedless and didactic, impulsive and steadfast, a charming man with an uncanny instinct (when drunk) for alienating people whose opinion mattered. He lived in reckless defiance of both his Irish-Catholic and his artistic consciences, but the excess fed the art even while it destroyed the artist.