I’ve been reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night over the past few weeks, and while I usually wait until I finish reading a book in its entirety before writing a post (except that time I was compelled to write about The Narrow Road to the Deep North, and possibly a few other books way back), I’ve been getting this feeling like I need to write this now or else I’ll forget things and won’t be able to adequately communicate my thoughts on the book afterwards.
This is the first book I’ve read from Fitzgerald. As with many great books I read these days, this one was recommended by a friend (one whom I trust and respect for her taste in books, which I suppose is important for someone like me who seems to inherently have some subconscious bias in favour of those who like to read books). I’ve been meaning to read one of his novels for a long time now, but my TBR list is forever growing, and sometimes I have trouble prioritising. In honesty, left to my own devices, I probably would have gone with his best-known work, The Great Gatsby, in preference for his lesser-known novels. Perhaps, even, I would not have gotten around to reading anything else.
But now that I’m reading Tender is the Night, and I’m almost finished, I’m finding it hard to imagine any of his other work possibly being better than this. And I’ve heard very mixed reviews from people about Gatsby. Do I still want to read it, or leave my experience with Fitzgerald’s work at TITN? It’s a weird predicament because usually when I love one novel, I want to read everything else that the author has written.
I think perhaps Gatsby has been tainted by the fact it was a set text in high school (not for my class, though – luckily we got Pride & Prejudice instead), and a lot of the less than enthused opinions of it are from high school friends for whom the text was dulled by having to deconstruct it.
But I digress.
Back to Tender is the Night: It’s an extraordinarily poetic book that is always seeming to say more than what the individual words represent. It’s sort of like the difference between saying “please don’t go” and “please don’t leave”. On the surface, there’s very little difference, but, given some thought, you can see different shades of emotion between the two.
Or, you know, I could just be overthinking this. I sometimes wonder if authors sometimes just write things because it feels right for the story, and they’re not really trying to portray a theme or explore a discourse or convey any particular message… Maybe in the same way an artist might paint something because it looks good, and then a connoisseur comes along and assigns meaning to it all.
Sometimes, without fully understanding why, I get this feeling with TITN like I’m reading something very profound, as if absorbing these words is expanding my mind and deepening my character. There seems to be a lot of complexity in what could essentially be a very simple storyline.
It is definitely a book that I would read again (and I believe that is a true test of a book’s greatness, irrespective of whether or not I ever actually get around to reading it again). Maybe it’s a bit presumptive to be saying that I’d read it again before I’ve even finished it the first time, but I’m feeling pretty confident about this.