Summer reading: Marcy Dermansky on F. Scott Fitzgerald


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As summer gets underway, we’ve created the L.A. Times list of 60 books for 92 days. All of these are new titles, being released in time for summer 2010.

At Jacket Copy, we’re asking writers and other bookish types about their favorite summer reads of the past. Marcy Dermansky’s first novel, “Bad Marie,” is out this month; it has been selected as a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection for fall 2010.

Jacket Copy: Do you have a specific memory of reading a book during summer?

Marcy Dermansky:

I remember reading “Tender is the Night” by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Lying in the sun, working on my tan, wishing all the screaming kids around me would be quiet, go away.

JC: When was this? How old were you?


The book was on a list of suggested summer reading for my high school AP English class. I was 16.

JC: Where were you?


The Englewood, N.J., public swimming pool where I was a lifeguard. I couldn’t read, of course, when I was guarding the pool (though I did once get in trouble for it). I would go off on my towel and read during my breaks. I also remember reading John Irving’s “Cider House Rules,” which was being passed around by the other lifeguards. It’s the “juicer” book but it didn’t stick with me like the Fitzgerald.

JC: What about the book/s was significant to you then?


I thought “Tender is the Night” was the most romantic thing ever. Dick Diver at the French Riviera, obsessed with that patch of sun on Rosemary’s shoulder. Beautiful Nicole in a mental institution, writing her doctor (Dick) love letters that would eventually seduce him. And then Dick’s tragic demise. I had no idea what happened that night to Nicole in the bathtub. I also had no sympathy for Nicole: her heartless treatment of Dick, ditching him for that soldier.

JC: Have you reread it? If so, has it changed at all for you?


I have reread it. Many times. And the book has changed. I have a better idea of what might have happened in the bathtub. I have both less sympathy and more for Dick Diver, who fervently believed -- or maybe this was F. Scott and Zelda -- that he was ruined by Nicole and her wealth. But maybe he was partially responsible for his own ruin. I also understand why Nicole would outgrow him. It’s a sad, sad book; not that romantic after all.

JC: Have you returned to that place?


I don’t go back to the Englewood pool. It’s overcrowded with local kids. I have found much better places to swim.

-- Carolyn Kellogg


Photo: Marcy Dermansky. Credit: Harper Perennial

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