Phillip Thompson

Crime Fiction writer

I recently ran across an ancient copy of Tender is the Night. It was buried in one of my many boxes of books in the basement. I have no idea how I came into possession of this novel — I’m guessing it was a high school reading assignment, and I just hung onto it.

It’s not a first edition. In fact, after reading the fascinating introduction, I’m not exactly sure which edition I’m reading. Presuming I got the book in high school, it was already a reprint of an edition after the first (and maybe subsequent editions). Hence, the introduction.

Apparently, writing this novel gave F. Scott Fitzgerald fits (not a good thing for a guy who wasn’t exactly emotionally stable). It took him nearly a decade to write it — and the original manuscript totaled more than 400,000 words. Yes, 400 THOUSAND. And Fitzgerald remarked at the time that he “only had 15,000 more” to write. And when it was finally finished and published, he didn’t like the end product. So he wanted to “fix” it by deleting some scenes, moving others around and rewriting still others. This, apparently, was accomplished in his second edition, which had the novel told in chronological order. Still, he wasn’t entirely satisfied and fussed with this novel for years, perhaps until he died.

Part of the reason for his obsession was the fact that Tender is the Night was not all that well-received. He was worried that no one would remember the novel. Well, someone remembered it well enough to assign it to high schoolers 35 years later as mandatory reading. I have to admit, though, I don’t remember much about it. So I’m going to re-read it and see what I learn this time through.

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