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This review is taken from PN Review 25, Volume 8 Number 5, May - June 1982.

GATSBY'S SHIRT-LABELS F. Scott Fitzgerald, Poems 1911-1940, ed. Matthew J. Bruccoli (Bruccoli Clark, South Carolina) n.p.

This is a ludicrous book, but the blurb is at pains to point out that it is not a ludicrous book. 'These are not great poems, but they are poems by a great writer', it insists, which is like saying that these are not great rock buns, but they are rock buns by a great sculptor. 'Fitzgerald was a failed poet', it continues, and then the book goes on to provide two hundred pages of evidence.

In the Foreword, entitled 'Fitzgerald's Poetry: The Unreflecting Shield' (I almost expected to see the word 'Discuss'), James Dickey contorts like the Indiarubber Man. 'Why aren't the poems better? Really, why aren't they?' he asks, with what seems to be genuine bewilderment. After skimming over Fitzgerald's tendency towards 'the kind of period glibness which dates quickly; what we would now call cutesy or smart-ass', Dickey asks why the poems are so bad when some of Fitzgerald's prose is so very poetic. He decides that 'Fitzgerald's lyricism is deeply embedded in a sense of dream, and to employ it he has need of situations in which the dream has been built up by the preceding interaction between people', which seems to be a fair and perceptive answer to a problem which didn't need to be tackled in the first place because it was so marginal. Dickey goes on to sigh, 'One might conclude, then, that Fitzgerald's work here, his random reflections . . . as well as his attempts at serious poetry ...


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