The Last Tycoon Passage: Revision Example
by F. Scott Fitzgerald


A good example of Fitzgerald’s method of revision is provided by the passage in The Last Tycoon where the pilot tells the drunk in the Nashville airport that he is in no condition to fly and will have to wait for the next plane. There are three versions of the scene preserved in Fitzgerald’s manuscripts, a pencil ms., a typed revision of this pencil ms., and a revision of this revision, which was used by Edmund Wilson for the printed text {The Last Tycoon, p. 14). The first version of the passage goes this way:

The pilot was at the desk talking with the pursur and shaking his head as they both regarded a prospective passenger who lay alcoholicly on another bench fighting off sleep. He seemed to have used the three hours neither wisely nor well. The pilot shook his head definately at the purser and walked over to him.

“Afraid we’re not going to be able to carry you this time old man.”

“Wha?”

The drunk sat up, very awful looking yet discernably handsome and I was sorry for him.

“Go back to the hotel and get some sleep. There’ll be another plane tonight.”

“Only going—te Dallas.”

“Not this time old man.”

In his dissapointment the man fell off the bench, and the loudspeaker summoned us respectable people outside.

The passage is full of good things. There is the pilot’s artificial friendliness, with its inoffensive professional condescension—how does one talk to drunks? There are the little touches which, without qualifying the drunk’s awfulness or his humiliating, subhuman confusion, make him sympathetic—“his fighting off sleep,” his “dissapointment”—all summed up and focused by Cecilia’s irony about “respectable people.” But the passage was not good enough for Fitzgerald. The next step was (I have italicized the places where changes occur) :

The pilot was at the desk talking with the purser and shaking his head as they both regarded a prospective passenger who had put two nickles in the electric phonograph and lay alcoholically on a bench fighting off sleep. The song, “host” thundered through the room, followed, after a slight interval, by his other choice, the equally dogmatic “Gone. “ The pilot shook his head definitely at the purser and walked over to the passenger.

“Afraid we’re not going to be able to carry you this time, old man.”

“Wha?”

The drunk sat up, very awful looking, yet discernibly “attractive,” and I was sorry for him in spite of the music.

“Go back to the hotel and get some sleep. There’ll be another plane tonight.”

“Only going up in ee air. “

“Not this time old man.”

In his disappointment the man fell off the bench, and above the phonograph, a loudspeaker summoned us respectable people outside.

Much of this first revision is taken up with the introduction of the symbolic music, though Fitzgerald is also working on other elements in the scene. The third revision works with thewhole scene (the italics mark the places where further changes occur) :

The pilot was at the desk with the purser and he shook his head as they regarded a prospective passenger who had put two nickles in the electric phonograph and lay alcoholically on a bench fighting off sleep. The first song he had chosen, Lost [Fitzgerald’s italics], thundered through the room, followed, after a slight interval, by his other choice, Gone [Fitzgerald’s italics], which was equally dogmatic and final. The pilot shook his head emphatically and walked over to the passenger.

“Afraid we’re not going to be able to carry you this time, old man.”

“Wha?”

The drunk sat up, awful-looking, yet discernibly attractive, and I was sorry for him in spite of his passionately ill-chosen music.

“Go back to the hotel and get some sleep. There’ll be another plane tonight.”

“Only going up in ee air. “ [Fitzgerald’s italics]

“Not this time, old man.”

In his disappointment the drunk fell off the benchand above the phonograph, a loudspeaker summoned us respectable people outside.

Much of this last revision is that unostentatious but careful suppression of unnecessary verbiage which is one of the familiar marks of Fitzgerald’s best prose: the removal of “talking” and “both” in the first sentence, for example. Some of it is a sharpening, through tone and rhythm, of the characters: the drunk’s (he has not been called that before) increased air of the eminently reasonable man, puzzled but polite in the face of official stupidity. Some of it—the new relative clause in the second sentence, the phrase “passionately ill-chosen music”—brings out more sharply the ironic, accidental symbolism of the songs. Some of it, like the dash in the last sentence, clarifies Cecilia’s attitude, which is the controlling attitude of the whole passage. At the top of the final draft of the chapter from which this passage is taken, Fitzgerald wrote: “Rewrite for mood.”


Taken from The Far Side of Paradise (Appendix A), by A. Mizener.


Перевод: The (Антон Руднев).

Яндекс.Метрика