January 16, 2015

Spotlight + Giveaway: West of Sunset by Stewart O'Nan

Today I have the pleasure of featuring a new release from Viking! The book is titled "West of Sunset" and is perfect for book groups or readers who love and/or would like to know more about famous author F. Scott Fitzgerald. Read on for more info on the book and author - then enter for your chance to win a finished copy!

West of Sunset
Author: Stewart O'Nan
Genre: Fiction/Historical Fiction
Release Date: January 13, 2015
Publisher: Viking Adult


A “rich, sometimes heartbreaking” (Dennis Lehane) novel of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s last years in Hollywood

In 1937, F. Scott Fitzgerald was a troubled, uncertain man whose literary success was long over. In poor health, with his wife consigned to a mental asylum and his finances in ruins, he struggled to make a new start as a screenwriter in Hollywood. By December 1940, he would be dead of a heart attack.

Those last three years of Fitzgerald’s life, often obscured by the legend of his earlier Jazz Age glamour, are the focus of Stewart O’Nan’s gorgeously and gracefully written novel. With flashbacks to key moments from Fitzgerald’s past, the story follows him as he arrives on the MGM lot, falls in love with brassy gossip columnist Sheilah Graham, begins work on The Last Tycoon, and tries to maintain a semblance of family life with the absent Zelda and daughter, Scottie.

Fitzgerald’s orbit of literary fame and the Golden Age of Hollywood is brought vividly to life through the novel’s romantic cast of characters, from Dorothy Parker and Ernest Hemingway to Humphrey Bogart. A sympathetic and deeply personal portrait of a flawed man who never gave up in the end, even as his every wish and hope seemed thwarted, West of Sunset confirms O’Nan as “possibly our best working novelist” (Salon).


“It would appear to be a daunting task to write a biographical novel of one of our most iconic writers, yet O’Nan avoids every pitfall. Focusing on the last years of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life, when he was depleted both mentally and physically from overwork and too much drink, O’Nan, in understated prose, renders a heartbreaking portrait of an artist soldiering on in the face of personal and professional ruin…. O’Nan’s convincing characterization of a man burdened by guilt and struggling to hold onto his dignity is, at once, a moving testament to grace under pressure and an intimate look at a legend.”—Booklist (STARRED)

“O'Nan places Scott back at center stage, with a sympathetic portrayal of a troubled genius, a kind but deeply flawed man… [and] has crafted an insightful glimpse into a sad period in Fitzgerald's life, as he fades into poverty, drunkenness and anonymity among a cast of notables, after his and Zelda's reign as America's literary golden couple and before his resurgence into universal acclaim.”—Kirkus

“O’Nan taps into primary-source material on Fitzgerald to craft a realistic piece of historical fiction.... Fitzgerald comes across as a haunting, multifaceted, sympathetic character… [His] slide into drugs, alcoholism, and the heart disease that shortened his life is tragic to behold; Fitzgerald fans will mourn his loss all over again.”—Library Journal

West of Sunset is a rich, sometimes heartbreaking journey through the disintegration of an American legend.  O’Nan captures the fire and frailty of F. Scott Fitzgerald with an understated grace that would have made Fitzgerald himself stand up and applaud.” --Dennis Lehane

“An achingly nuanced love story and one of the best biographical novels to come along in years.  O’Nan’s great achievement here is in so convincingly inhabiting the character of Scott Fitzgerald and of the people surrounding him during his descent into the clarifying depths of 1930s Hollywood.”--T.C. Boyle

“O'Nan is an incredibly versatile and charming writer.  This novel, which imagines F. Scott Fitzgerald's troubled time in Hollywood (with cameos by Dorothy Parker, Bogie, and Hemingway), takes up (like much of O'Nan's work) that essential conundrum of grace struggling with paucity.  One brilliant American writer meditating on another--what's not to love?” --George Saunders

“I’ll direct my enthusiasm for West of Sunset to writers who revere Fitzgerald’s short story “Babylon Revisited.”  Stewart O'Nan captures Fitzgerald's mood of spiritual reflection, without trying to imitate Fitzgerald's voice. This book is an inoculation against self-pity. It's not a mock Fitzgerald novel, but an original portrait of a writer struggling to keep his dignity while trying to make a living. I don’t doubt the biographical details but it’s a waste of the book to check it against fidelity to fact; if Fitzgerald wasn’t friendly with Humphrey Bogart and Mayo Methot in 1939, he is now.  It's one of the best books I've read in years and it deserves a cheering crowd.” --Michael Tolkin

Reader's Guide Sampler:

An Introduction to West of Sunset by Stewart O’Nan
As a young man, F. Scott Fitzgerald believed that there were no second acts in American lives. By the age of forty, he was trying with all his might to prove that he was wrong. 

When we meet him at the start of Stewart O’Nan’s scintillating new biographical novel West of Sunset, Fitzgerald is no longer the irresistible, golden icon of the Jazz Age, nor is his wife Zelda the daring, glamorous, baby-faced rebel of her youth. Zelda, now nearing thirty-seven, has been committed to a mental hospital— still lucid and winning at times but liable to sink into delusion or erupt into unreasoning violence at any moment. As for Scott, the soaring triumphs of The Great Gatsby and Tender Is the Night are behind him. A man preoccupied with truth, he ironically spirals ever deeper into falsehood. His greatest wishes now are to pay for Zelda’s care, to see his precociously talented daughter Scottie through college, and to somehow recapture some of his own tattered literary glory. 

That glory, if he is to find it anywhere, lies neither on the verdant lawns of Princeton nor among the fabled pleasure palaces of Long Island. It lies instead in Hollywood, where Scott travels in hopes of building a new life as a screenwriter. Awaiting him there is an extraordinary host of old friends, including a muscular, pre-Casablanca Humphrey Bogart and a savagely witty post-Algonquin Dorothy Parker. Scott’s foremost literary rival, Ernest Hemingway, is not far off. But also waiting for Fitzgerald are some formidable problems. Fickle studio executives throw him on and off projects in revolving-door fashion. The frenetic party culture of 1930s L.A. threatens to erode whatever discipline he can muster. But the worst of his problems he has brought with him: an all too well-known weakness for cocktails and pills, as well as all the haunting memories of a glamorous but guilty past. 

Some men, when drowning, clutch at straws. Others reach for a star. That star, for Scott, is Sheilah Graham, an English-born gossip columnist who might have passed for Zelda’s twin. Infatuated, Scott pursues her, thinking little of where the attraction might lead. What begins as an amorous dalliance gradually transforms into something much deeper and more elemental, and Graham begins to look like the one person who can save Scott both from the world and from himself. Yet Sheilah is harboring corrosive secrets of her own. 

A marvel of research and a minor miracle of imagination, West of Sunset brilliantly calls to life both the seduction and the soullessness of late 1930s Hollywood while it also brings the reader inside the mind of F. Scott Fitzgerald. With deft precision, Stewart O’Nan evokes a great, flawed man in all of his complexity: his wit, his courage, and his besetting weaknesses. In its beautifully elegiac descriptions and its crisp, crackling dialogue, West of Sunset recalls a shimmering moment in time—and makes it timeless.

Some of the notable people who appear in  West of Sunset:

Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald: Wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Frances Scott “Scottie” Fitzgerald: Only child of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Maxwell Perkins: Was F. Scott Fitzgerald’s and Ernest Hemingway’s editor.
Harold Ober: Was a literary agent who represented F. Scott Fitzgerald and other acclaimed authors such as Agatha Christie, William Faulkner, Pearl Buck, and J. D. Salinger.
John O’Hara: Was an Irish American bestselling author of Appointment in Samarra and  Butterfield 8. His second wife Belle O’Hara makes an appearance in West of Sunset.  
Sidney Joseph “S. J.” Perelman: Was an American humorist, author, and screenwriter. In cinema he is noted for co-writing scripts for the Marx Brothers films Monkey Business and Horse Feathers and for the Academy-Award-winning screenplay Around the World in Eighty Days.
Dorothy Parker: Was an American poet, critic, and satirist known for her wit and wisecracks in 20th-century urban foibles. She was married to actor and screenwriter Alan Campbell, a reputed bisexual. They were a popular screenwriting team in Hollywood until Campbell’s death in 1963.
Ring Lardner: Was an America sports columnist and short story writer, most known for his satirical takes on sports, marriage, and theater.
Ogden Nash: Was an America poet known for his comedic verse.
Robert Benchley: Was an American humorist who wrote essays and columns for The New Yorker and Vanity Fair, among others. He was a charter member of the Algonquin Round Table, a celebrated group of New York City writers, critics, actors, and wits who gathered at the Algonquin Hotel during the 1920s.
Marlene Dietrich: Was a German-American actress and singer, who had a decades-long affair with Ernest Hemmingway.
Aldous Huxley: Was an English writer and philosopher best known for his novel Brave New World, which was set in a dystopian London. 
Sheilah Graham: An English-born nationally syndicated gossip columnist during Hollywood’s Golden Age. She had a romantic relationship with F. Scott Fitzgerald for three and a half years. 
Joan Crawford: Was a noted Oscar-winning American film and television actress.
Irving Thalberg: Was an American film producer during the early years of motion pictures.  Nicknamed “The Wonder Boy” for his youth and uncanny ability to choose the right scripts, Thalberg produced Grand Hotel, China Seas, Camille, Mutiny on the Bounty and The Good Earth. He was the inspiration for Monroe Stahr, the protagonist in Fitzgerald’s unfinished and posthumously published The Love of the Last Tycoon
Hunt Stromberg: Was a film producer during Hollywood’s Golden Age. He produced, wrote, and directed some of Hollywood’s most profitable and enduring films, including The Thin Man series,  The Women, and The Great Ziegfeld, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1936.
David O. Selznick: Was an American film producer and studio executive, best known for producing Gone with the Wind.
Joseph Mankiewicz: Was an American film director, screenwriter, and producer. He won the Academy Award twice for both Best Director and Best Screenplay for A Letter to Three Wives and  All About Eve.
David Niven: Was an English actor and novelist best known for his role as Phileas Fogg in Around the World in 80 Days and “The Phantom” in The Pink Panther. He was awarded the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1958 for his performance in Separate Tables.
Budd Schulberg: The son of B. P. Schulberg, Budd Schulberg was an American screenwriter, television producer, novelist, and sports writer, most known for the novel What Makes Sammy Run? and the 1954 Academy Award-winning screenplay for On the Waterfront. In 1939, he collaborated on the movie Winter Carnival with F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was fired because of an alcoholic binge during a visit with Schulberg to Dartmouth.
Shirley Temple: Was an American film and television actress, most famous as a child star in the 1930s. She is best known for the movie Bright Eyes.
D.W. Griffith:  Was an American film director, most known for his controversial films The Birth of  a Nation and Intolerance.

The reader's guide that the publisher has created to go along with the book is full of more interesting information - like a Q&A with the author, an interactive map of Fitzgerald's 1930s Hollywood, and discussion questions about the book - among other things. You can find the entire reader's guide HERE.
Stewart O’Nan grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A graduate of Boston University, he began his professional life as a test engineer for Grumman Aerospace before leaving the corporate world to earn an MFA at Cornell. In 1996, Granta named him one of America’s Best Young Novelists. His novels, including The Odds; Emily, Alone; and Last Night at the Lobster, have won wide critical acclaim. Mr. O’Nan lives in Pittsburgh with his family.

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Giveaway: The publisher is generously offering (1) hardcover copy of West of Sunset. Open to US only!


1 comment:

  1. Please disregard any and all entries to this giveaway I have made to date as I have just won the book on another site's giveaway! :-) Cheers, Kara S