Authors We Love: F. Scott Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald was born on September 24, 1896, in st. Paul, Minnesota, to a family of small businessmen. His ancestors, who had once been rich and powerful, have faded down to his parents’ generation. In 1913, supported by relatives, he attended Princeton University, an aristocratic institution of higher learning in the eastern United States. But he had no interest in his studies, often missed classes and failed exams, and focused almost entirely on social activities. He managed to get into the school’s literary group, was invited to the most famous clubs, shook off his country accent, and developed a standard “advanced” English, trying to subtly erase differences of birth. In 1915, when Princeton’s theater troupe toured the United States with his comedy “The Evil Eye,” he was barred from performing with the group because of his grades.

In the spring of 1917, the United States entered World War I, and Fitzgerald joined the army. In late 1918, Fitzgerald left the army and headed to New York, where he found only a job writing the words for a little-known advertising agency. In June 1919, his lover Zelda lost patience and called off the engagement. Early experiences led to Fitzgerald’s lifelong sensitivity to money. In 1919, Fitzgerald returned home with nothing. Published in February 1920, the novel “This Side of Paradise” became an instant hit for its vivid sense of The Times, and the first edition sold out in a few days. Magazines began to scramble for him.

On December 21, 1940, Fitzgerald died of a heart attack caused by alcoholism at the age of 44, leaving behind an unfinished work, “The Last Tycoon”.

He is a legendary author with a flourishing life, but his outstanding literary understanding and writing abilities did not leave him with a glorious ending.

-Coreen C. 

The works of F. Scott Fitzgerald is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. They may also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

The Million Pound Note by Mark Twain

Man with a Million (1954) - IMDb

The Million Pound Note is a novella written by American writer Mark Twain and published in 1893. It tells the adventures of Henry Adams, an American boy who is an impoverished clerk in London. Two rich brothers in London made a bet to lend Henry an uncashable million-dollar note to see how he would wind up in a month. Instead of starving or being arrested, Henry became rich and won the heart of a beautiful lady. This article reproduces the satire and humor in the master’s novels with slightly exaggerated artistic techniques and exposes the money-worship ideology in the early 20th century.

At the beginning of the novel, Henry floats too far out to sea in his small sailboat. When he arrived in London, Henry had no one with him. After using up his last dollar, he was left without food and clothing. While Henry loitered hungrily in Portland Square, a child threw a pear with a bite thrown into the gutter. Henry stared hungrily at the muddy treasure, drooling. Just as the reader was nervous that Henry was about to grab the “treasure”, “Please come in” — just five short words, like a bolt from the blue, released the reader’s nerves. Henry’s life changed.

The young man in the novel is a true portrayal of Mark Twain. In Nevada, Mark Twain was a journalist in Virginia City, Nevada’s gold and silver region. Mark Twain was not immune to the gold rush, and he was sensitive to rumors and new opportunities. At that time, many miners who had discovered gold and silver mines were selling their shares in New York City to raise money, and Mark Twain invested all his savings, and even all his royalties, in buying silver mines.

-Coreen C.

An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser

This story starts with a very poor Griffith family being Christian missionaries and singing on the streets. The oldest son in this family Clyde desperately wants to escape poverty and therefore left his family to work in Kansas city at a very luxurious hotel. While he was working there, he and his friends were in an accident that killed a little girl which prompted him to escape to Chicago. There, he met his wealthy uncle and appealed to him to ask if he can get a job in his collar company. Moved by his sincerity and svelte manner, Samuel Griffith agreed.

Thus, in New York Clyde witnessed the lives of the upper society after meeting his cousins Gilbert, Myra and Bella. Through Bella, he also met her friend Sondra Finchley whom he immediately has fallen in love with but due to his penury again, recoiled from courting her. After being switched from the shabby shrinking room to the sewing department, Clyde met a very pretty factory girl named Roberta, they quickly fell in love. However, as time passes Clyde found himself in love with Sondra Finchley, who wants to revenge Gilbert for his complacence also fell in love with Clyde later on. Avid to get rid of Roberta who was pregnant, Clyde unintentionally struck her on a boat when they were on a trip and thus let her drown while he could have saved her. Being captured, later on, Clyde was sentenced to death at last.

Personally, I didn’t enjoy reading this novel too much because of its straightforwardness. There weren’t a lot of surprises and twists in the plot. Greed and inhumanity prompted by money seeping into each character were too ostentatious as to paint a sheen of unreality on them. I wish murder plot could be more carefully planned, thus causing the police to take more time in investigating the crime and potentially create some more suspense.

-Coreen C. 

An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Lunch Money by Andrew Clements

Lunch Money is the story of Greg Kenton’s comic book business in middle school. Ever since he was a kid, Greg has liked making money and having money. He mows lawns, shovels snow, and walks dogs for money. When Greg finishes fourth grade, his dad tells him to put his money into a bank where he’ll earn interest. Then, in fifth grade, Greg forgets his lunch. A school lunch is two dollars and he only has one dollar and fifty cents. He asks his teacher if he can borrow fifty cents but she says no. Then the teacher asks the class if anyone has an extra fifty cents that Greg could borrow. Most of the class raise their hands and Greg realizes something. He calculates that around a hundred dollars in extra money comes into the school every week. Greg then makes a plan to sell candy and gum. However he soon stops because the students take the candy and gum into classrooms which is against the rules and could get Greg in trouble. Instead of flat out stopping, Greg starts selling toys, but soon the kids get tired of the toys. Greg then also stops selling toys right around the end of fifth grade, but he has an idea. By the start of sixth grade, Greg has multiple handmade comics that he’s ready to sell. He chooses comics because they’re like books and teachers love books. He names his comics Creon: Return of the Hunter. However, like always, his neighbor Maura Shaw copies his idea and also starts making her own comics. This leads to a big fight between the two. Eventually the two come together to make comics. The principle soon finds out and tells them that nothing is allowed to be sold at the school. In response, Maura and Greg go to a city council to argue the school’s decision. The compromise they come to is that Maura and Greg get to make a store in school for their comics, but the school gets 10% of their sales. The council agrees and the comics continue to be made.

-Emilio V.

Lunch Money by Andrew Clements is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Overdrive