After he died on December 21, 1940, writers John Dos Passos, Glenway Wescott, Budd Schulburg Jr., John O’Hara, and John Beale Bishop each took a turn eulogizing and defending the author in the New Republic. A lifelong alcoholic who constantly outspent his income, Fitzgerald was not an easy friend to have. But as you can see from these excerpts, he was still a great one.
For a man who is making his living as a critic to write about Scott Fitzgerald without mentioning The Great Gatsby just means that he doesn’t know his business. Many people consider The Great Gatsby one of the few classic American novels. I do myself.
He was our darling, our genius, our fool. Let the young people consider his untypical case with admiration but great caution; with qualms and a respect for fate, without fatalism. He was young to the bitter end. He lived and he wrote at last like a scapegoat, and now has departed like one. As you might say, he was Gatsby, a greater Gatsby.
He spoke for a new generation that was shell-shocked without ever going to the front. He was one of our better historians of the no-man’s-time between wars. He was not meant, temperamentally, to be a cynic, in the same way that beggars who must wander through the cold night were not born to freeze. But Scott made cynicism beautiful, poetic, almost an ideal.
His unfinished posthumous novel The Last Tycoon also appeared on the New Republic’s best books list of 1941: