Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Last Tycoon--and Jed Clampett

A few months ago, I mentioned my telephone conversation with Frances Kroll Ring, who knew Carey McWilliams and served as F. Scott Fitgerald's secretary when he was trying to finish The Last Tycoon. Speaking with Frances made me want to know more about that unfinished novel, and I just finished reading Matthew Bruccoli's edition of The Love of the Last Tycoon: A Western.

I will not try to assess Fitzgerald's achievement here. But I will say that I respect any major American novelist whose work makes room for Buddy Ebsen, best known as Jed Clampett from "The Beverly Hillbillies." I will go further: That reference makes me proud to be an American.

What's that? You don't believe that F. Scott Fitzgerald can be connected, even indirectly, to a sit-com character who routinely referred to his swimming pool as "the cement pond"? (Extra points if you remember the Appalachian pronunciation Ebsen brought to bear on that phrase.) Well, look for yourself on page 101. And don't forget: When it comes to the American culture, you either like the circus or you don't.

Next up, still: Last Call, the DVD with Jeremy Irons, Sissy Spacek, and Neve Campbell, which is based on Frances's memoir, Against the Current: As I Remember F. Scott Fitzgerald.

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