the Scribners classic Fitzgerald books

“His talent was as natural as the pattern that was made by the dust on a butterfly’s wings.  At one time he understood it no more than the butterfly did and he did not know when it was brushed or marred.  Later he became conscious of his damaged wings and of their construction and he learned to think and could not fly any more because the love of flight was gone and he could only remember when it had been effortless.”

Ernest Hemingway on Scott Fitzgerald  –  A Moveable Feast

Hemingway and Fitzgerald have long been linked.  They both rose up as masters of their craft in the 1920’s, both as short story writers and as novelists, both excelling in each form.  While Hemingway was the more successful novelist, making more money, making good money off the film sales and winning the Pulitzer Prize (an award which always eluded Fitzgerald) and Fitzgerald ensured his own financial survival producing short story after short story, their places in literary history are the opposite.  Hemingway’s stories include some of the most classic titles in any anthology: “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”, “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place”, “Hills Like White Elephants” and it is Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby that seems to contend with Moby Dick, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Sound and the Fury for the title of the Great American Novel.

But they were friends for many years, part of the same generation and both wrote for the same publisher.  In early years, you could find some of the same types of editions.  Both of them were among the earliest writers to be celebrated in the Viking Portable Library and their two collections were among the first to go out of print and never be re-printed, the same with their early appearances in the Modern Library and they both had Reader editions released by Scribners.  There are old trade Vintage editions, with the gray and black and white, in which both had numerous books appear.  But in the mid 1980’s, Scribners decided to do new mass market editions for each author.

” – Love is fragile – she was thinking – but perhaps the pieces are saved, the things that hovered on lips, that might have been said.  The new love words, the tendernesses learned, are treasured up for the next lover.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald  –  “May Day”  (available in Babylon Revisited and Other Stories and The Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald)

the Scribners classic Hemingway books

First we have the Hemingway books.  As you can see, I only have six of them.  I used to have more, but when I decided I didn’t need to own every Hemingway book, I sold some of them.  I got rid of the two weaker novels (To Have and Have Not and Across the River and Into the Trees), the less interesting non-fiction (The Green Hills of Africa) and I had long before realized that the other story collections (In Our Time, Men Without Women, Winner Take Nothing and Snows of Kilimanjaro) were made redundant by owning The Short Stories.  The set itself was never a complete Hemingway set anyway.  It didn’t include his rarely read first novel (The Torrents of Spring) or his famous non-fiction work on bull-fighting (Death in the Afternoon) and A Moveable Feast was the only one of the posthumous works that was included.  Still, if your goal is major Hemingway, it is a nice set that looks pleasing on the shelf.

The mid-80’s Scribners Classic Hemingway Editions:

the spines of the Hemingway books

  • In Our Time –  ISBN 0020518102
  • Winner Take Nothing –  ISBN  002051820x
  • Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories –  ISBN 0020518307
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls –  ISBN  0020518501
  • The Short Stories –  ISBN  0020518609
  • The Sun Also Rises –  ISBN  0020518706
  • To Have and Have Not –  ISBN  0020518803
  • Men Without Women –  ISBN  0020518900
  • A Farewell to Arms –  ISBN  0020519001
  • The Old Man and the Sea –  ISBN  0020519109
  • Across the River and Into the Trees –  ISBN  0020519206
  • The Green Hills of Africa –  ISBN  0020519303
  • A Moveable Feast –  ISBN  0020519605

I’m not certain why they chose to have a few random books in the middle of what were clearly consecutive numbers designed for this series (they did the same with the Fitzgerald) or how they chose what order to put the books in.  I have listed them in the ISBN order because I’m an OCD freak who thinks that way.

I have my read my way through all of them, as well as the rest of Hemingway’s work.  The six books in the picture are the best of Hemingway, the ones that best exemplify his power of sparse narrative and dialogue.  Hemingway will appear once on my top 100 novels list.

“If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them.  The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places.  But those that will not break it kills.  It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially.”

Ernest Hemingway  –  A Farewell to Arms

Fitzgerald will also appear once.  In neither case does it say anything negative about the author.  Both of them are among the best writers ever produced in this country and the output of both are what helped to make the 1920’s and 30’s the best era of American literature (along of course with Faulkner, Steinbeck, Wolfe, Dos Passos and Hammett).

The Fitzgerald books I am missing are another story.  Somehow I never owned copies of any of those.  In fact, I have rarely even seen the four books available in this collection that I don’t own.  As with the Hemingway, I don’t know why they allowed some of the numbers in the middle to be used for other books, nor how they determined what order to put the books in.  But like the Hemingway set, they are a nice collection of some of the best of American literature that look very nice on the shelf together.  As far as I can tell, they are the largest matching sets of either author’s works (although Cambridge University Press has been working on a large set for 20 years now).  It’s interesting to note that The Great Gatsby has a matching spine, but not cover, because they were determined to use the original classic dust jacket picture.  They made the right choice.

The mid-80’s Scribners Classic Fitzgerald Editions:

the spines of the Fitzgerald books

  • Afternoon of an Author –  ISBN  0020198604
  • The Basil and Josephine Stories –  ISBN  0020198701
  • The Vegetable –  ISBN  0020198809
  • The Pat Hobby Stories –  ISBN  0020199104
  • This Side of Paradise –  ISBN  0020199201
  • Tender is the Night –  ISBN  0020199309
  • The Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald –  ISBN  0020199406
  • The Last Tycoon –  ISBN  0020199503
  • The Great Gatsby –  ISBN  0020199600
  • The Beautiful and the Damned –  ISBN  0020199708
  • Babylon Revisited and Other Stories –  ISBN  0020199805
  • Flappers and Philosophers –  ISBN  0020652909

I’ll just finish this by saying if your only experience with Fitzgerald is reading The Great Gatsby, then you are missing out.  Tender is the Night is a great novel and This Side of Paradise is criminally under-rated and over-looked.  Then there are The Pat Hobby Stories, the last stories that Fitzgerald was writing before he died, about a down on his luck screenwriter.  If you love movies at all, you should discover these.  They are a treasure.  There is very little fiction about the film industry as good as these stories.

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald  –  The Great Gatsby

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