Fitzgerald and Keats

“For awhile after you quit Keats all other poetry seems to be only whistling or humming.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby and people’s fascination with it is something I can’t quite put my finger on. It was only after I’d read it for the first time and that I began to learn about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s influences and possible influences that I began to understand more. I don’t know how The Great Gatsby is studied in school, how the material is taught or what topics are covered, however in my self-study of the book and Fitzgerald’s writings I became interested in his apparent preoccupation with John Keats.

Keats’ influence on Fitzgerald is something that seems to be generally overlooked, but that shouldn’t be ignored as I believe it’s an important key to understanding – and perhaps even enhancing one’s own enjoyment – of his works. Fitzgerald wasn’t alone in admiring or reading the Romantic poet: many of his contemporaries and fellow writers studied the Romantics, as well as the classics, in school and continued to read them later in life, as well as being influences on their own writings. Through his admiration – and possible idolization – of Keats, Fitzgerald sought to emulate him, as can be found in examples of his work.

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Wogan on Wodehouse

Last year I chanced upon a BBC documentary called Wogan on Wodehouse. Broadcast in 2011, Terry Wogan pieces together P.G. Wodehouse’s life and its parallels in his writings, often brilliantly inspired. Unlike some documentaries that try to uncover supposed hidden truths or darker aspects in an author’s works through their life, the parallels only further illuminate Wodehouse’s brilliance as a wordsmith and his ability in seeing the humour in life.

I believe I was between the ages of thirteen and fourteen when I read my first Wodehouse book, Carry On, Jeeves. Since then, I’ve read more of his books and enjoy them as much as I did upon first reading them, if not more so. After reading any of his stories, I always come away with a feeling that I can only describe as rich and uplifted. How he uses language is invigorating.

Most of the enjoyment that one gets out of reading his writing is his use of simile, alliteration, and witty, sometimes irreverent, allusions and references to Shakespeare and classical studies, usually the Romantic poets, and the Bible. All of which are handled deftly. His writing is such that he is one of those very few writers in which one derives more enjoyment by reading it himself than hearing it read out loud or narrated, as when listening to an audiobook.

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P.G. Wodehouse: A Life in Letters

This is a book I’ve been waiting to read for months! I put a hold on it at my library when it was still on order, back in September of last year, and finally was able to borrow it yesterday.

It is a treat.

P.G. Wodehouse: A Life in Letters, edited by Sophie Ratcliffe, contains several letters written by Wodehouse to family, friends, and great literary figures from back in the day such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie. It isn’t just strictly letters, though, as Sophie Ratcliffe has combined correspondence with biography, thereby providing context and insight. There are also footnotes, providing further context when need be such as social or historical references.

In light of this, I shall leave you, for now, with a quote from the introduction regarding his opinion said biographical context:

Wodehouse is also a writer whose works resist a certain sort of biographical approach. He disliked investigations into his personal life and circumstances, partly because he found them intrusive. […] And he also intimated that biographical context was, to a degree, irrelevant to understanding a work of art. Writing about Shakespeare, he noted that “a thing I can never understand is why all the critics seem to assume that his plays are a reflection of his personal moods and dictated by the circumstances of his private life. You know the sort of thing I mean. They say, “Timon of Athens is a gloomy bit of work. That means Shakespeare was having a lousy time when he wrote it.” I can’t see it. Do you find that your private life affects your work? I don’t.”