The First “Tough Love” Column

Nicholas Goldberg: In defense of long, bug-crushing, Kleenex-box sized novels

At last, this column from the first of two “Tough Love” columns to come out of the current issue of the Chicago Reader. We now know how the other shoe dropped — but that’ll be for Part II, once I’ve written the final draft.

The first “Tough Love”, which focused on writers who write what they like, made it clear that the most difficult thing about being a “literary” professional writer (as opposed to, say, an illustrator or poet) is the time it takes to write each book. I’m a fan of “The Godfather: Parts I through IV” by Mario Puzo and “Citizen Kane” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, but I confess I’m not exactly a fan of The Great Gatsby.

And yet, the more I’ve thought about it, the more I think Fitzgerald’s novel is perfect for the 21st century, and also — and maybe more importantly for its creators — how it helped establish, at least at first, a new class of literary-fiction authors who seemed to be able to write novels without the long hours that are supposed to be their birthright. That’s because by the time Gatsby was published, Fitzgerald had already published two other books with the same publisher, Viking. The first of those, “This Side of Paradise” (1916), was an unfinished manuscript that would end up being published as Fitzgerald’s fifth novel, simply called “The Grapes of Wrath.”

Fitzgerald had already set down the beginnings of this new class of novelists, which would eventually consist of the Gatsby-esque Fitzgerald (1896-1940) and then, a few years later, the Hemingway-like John Steinbeck (1889-1963), who published five novels about the Great Depression, before turning to his own novel, “The G

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