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Tender is the Night ()

Modern Library Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century (28)

It is often said that every writer has, at least, one good book in him.  Sadly most of them only have one.  This certainly appears to be the case for Fitzgerald.  The Great Gatsby, while flawed (see review), is nonetheless a great novel.  Gatsby is a tragic figure motivated by a self destructive pursuit of his vision of the American dream.  Dr. Dick Diver, the central character of Tender is the Night, on the other hand, is naught but a dissipated wastrel.  As his wife, who he met while he was working as a psychiatrist & she was interred in an asylum, gains mental stability & some kind of shaky personal wholeness, he descends into drink & carnality & ends the novel roaming from town to town practicing medicine briefly before moving on.  Diver is the kind of insipid navel gazing character who has plagued the Century's fiction.

Tom Wolfe, touring in support of his new novel, has launched himself on a jeremiad against the Modern novel & novelist.  His central point is that novelists need to stop looking inward and look without.  He's saying, Go out into America & tell the wonderful stories that you find there.  There are wonderful stories, waiting to be told, but our greatest novelists are cloistered in Universities, Manhattan apartments, etc., picking at the scabs on their own psyches & the vomiting forth their internal monologues.  Tender is the Night seems to be a victim of this Modernist disease, too autobiographical & self absorbed to tell us much of value about the wider world.


Grade: (C-)


F. Scott Fitzgerald Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: F. Scott Fitzgerald
    -SHORT STORY: F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Winter Dreams” (Library of America)
    -PODCAST: Poured Over: Min Jin Lee on The Great Gatsby (BN Editors/August 31, 2021, Barnes & Noble)
    -PODCAST: Mike Palindrome on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Masterpiece: From The History of Literature Podcast with Jacke Wilson (LitHub, August 14, 2023)
    -VIDEO: The Great Gatsby Explained: How F. Scott Fitzgerald Indicted & Endorsed the American Dream (1925) (Open Culture)
-ESSAY:The Crack-Up: How individual and civilisational identities collapse. (Peter Hughes, 2 Feb 2023, Quillette)
    -ESSAY: How the Male Point of View Shapes the Narrative of The Great Gatsby: Jillian Cantor Reimagines Fitzgerald’s Classic Novel from the Perspectives of Women (Jillian Cantor, February 1, 2022, LitHub)
    -ESSAY: On Jay Gatsby, the Most Famous North Dakotan: Sarah Vogel Traces the Humble Midwest Origins of an Iconic Character (Sarah Vogel, November 2, 2021, LitHub)
    -ESSAY: Why Do We Keep Reading The Great Gatsby? (Wesley Morris January 11, 2021, Paris Review)
    -ESSAY: The world's most misunderstood novel (Hephzibah Anderson, 9th February 2021, BBC)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: On Heartbreak, Absence, and Falling in Love with The Great Gatsby (David Stuart MacLean, January 21, 2021, LitHub)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: The Imperfect and Sublime ‘Gatsby’ (Min Jin Lee, January 21, 2021, NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of Some Unfinished Chaos: The Lives of F. Scott Fitzgerald by Arthur Krystal (William H. Pritchard, WSJ)

Book-related and General Links:
-Enchanted Places: The Use of Setting in F. Scott Fitzgerald's Fiction
    -F. Scott Fitzgerald Links
    -USC: F. Scott Fitzgerald Centenary Home Page


Holy crap, a review on your site I can actually agree with.

Yeah this book is zilch compared to Gatsby.

- The Joker

- Jul-23-2008, 19:11


I'd have to agree with you on this oj. My first exposure to literary fiction was The Great Gatsby (which I have now read several times, and I consider a masterpiece). This led me in my mid-teens to consume Fitzgeralds entire cannon several times over. I became a Fitzgeraldan connoisseur, and like other F.Scott experts I proclaimed Tender to be his greatest work.

I grew up though. By the end of college I was fervently arguing with my English professors that Tender isnt even comparable to Gatsby in terms of quality and vision. Several years after that, after twice giving up trying to read through Tender, I finally realized that all of Fitzgeralds novels other than Gatsby are failures in storytelling. In my opinion no one compares to Fitzgeralds use of descriptive language, but thats all he offers in Tender is the Night, Beautiful and the Damned, and this Side of Paradise. That and a running commentary on the emptiness of his own life. You are right in saying that is the malaise of modern literary fiction, the greatest symphony in the world cant make John Cage sound beautiful, and the Fitzgeralds masterful use of the English language cant make me care about his empty characters and their pointless pursuits.

- Shelton

- Sep-01-2006, 11:57


Have you read any of Fitzgerald's short stories? I only partially enjoyed Gatsby, but I was genuinely and pleasantly surprised by many of his short stories.

- Timothy

- Oct-17-2003, 23:11