By Alex Hewitt
I hope it’s not cheating to say that of the books I read in 2016 my favourite was one that was never finished. When F. Scott Fitzgerald died in late 1940 he left 60,000 words of The Last Tycoon, a novel charting the personal and public trials of powerful Hollywood producer Monroe Stahr. Picked up as a healthy diversion to my reading list (I wouldn’t complain if Bleak House had been left unfinished) Fitzgerald packs even more into the incomplete life of Stahr than that of Jay Gatsby, along with some surprisingly effective imagery with ping pong balls for good measure. There is of course a frustration in such a novel being left unfinished. That said, I found a peculiar enrichment in having the familiar comfort of a conclusion being stripped away, forced to connect to Fitzgerald’s characters in new and interesting ways in an attempt to predict their ever clouded fates. What’s more, the plot of The Last Tycoon is directed by Stahr’s battles with a changing and chaotic world –– all the more relevant to 2016. Indeed, Hollywood in the novel represents the world at large and there is a poignant resonance in the narration of Stahr’s daughter Cecilia: ‘It can be understood, too, but only dimly and in flashes’.
Image: Penguin Books; Faye Chua