Thursday, June 21, 2012

Review: The Cruise of the Rolling Junk

The Cruise of the Rolling Junk
By F. Scott Fitzgerald
Hesperus Press November 2011
92 pages
A birthday gift

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I am doing an abysmal job of reading and reviewing something by F. Scott each month. My last post on Francis is from March and I am appropriately ashamed. So today we will look at The Cruise of the Rolling Junk and soon we will look at Tales of the Jazz Age, a collection of short stories. Next month, I will be (re) reading The Great Gatsby. I would love for you to join me!

The Cruise of the Rolling Junk is a recent release of Fitzgerald's articles detailing the adventure that he and his wife Zelda had on the way to visit her parents. The duo set out from Connecticut to drive to Zelda's childhood home in Alabama in a car they dubbed 'the rolling junk.' 

Shortly after the publication of The Beautiful and the Damned, Fitzgerald wrote  about their trip with the hope of making some quick money from a major magazine. Unfortunately, the only magazine that would accept his travelogue was Motor magazine. For a few hundred dollars, Fitzgerald's account appeared in three installments in 1924.

Although this is a very quick read, I found it incredibly indicative of Fitzgerald's style as a writer. While this purports to be a true retelling of their trip, we know that there are several key issues which are misrepresented, or lied about. This is the fascinating thing about this writer, though. His fiction has many shades of truth and his supposed non-fiction has the flair for the dramatic which inspires Fitzgerald to make their story better (even if it is untrue). 

There are also many things the reader can take from this slim book about  Fitzgerald as a person. We get an intimate look at the relationship of F. Scott and Zelda - the way they fought, the way they constantly tried to triumph over the other in wit or humor, and the way alcohol and money figured heavily into their ups and downs as a couple.

Through the eyes of our intrepid travelers, we view a country that is still healing from war and is riddled with racism. Zelda is deeply grieved by the ways her beloved South has changed since she was a young girl living there and enjoying 'peaches and biscuits.' F. Scott is incredibly uncomfortable when he has to stop in a black town in order to get some gas and wishes he had purchased a gun. While such overt racism is difficult to stomach today, our author is certainly not alone in his feelings in the 1920s. 

There is a comedy of errors feel throughout this book - the ways in which the car breaks down, the irresponsible spending of money, the finding of more money, and the final stroke of bad fortune (spoiler!) when it is revealed that Zelda's parents are not at home to receive them! It is fun to read, but what makes it excellent is that the humor is only thinly obscuring the real issues for both the Fitzgeralds and the country at large.

If you are a newbie to the writing of F. Scott Fitzgerald, this is a great way to dip your toe into the waters in less than 100 pages. If you are a lover of his remarkable stories, you will want to add this one to your shelf as perhaps the last piece of newly released writing we will ever have from a very talented writer.

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