When I was about five years old, I remember looking through Mom’s bookshelf and coming across the title The Last Tycoon
. I recall thinking, “Tycoon...Tycoon?” What’s that?” I conjured up this image of an island bracing for a major storm, its last—my mind equating the word tycoon with typhoon. I also have this vivid memory of pulling the book out from the shelf, and when looking at the cover, feeling a sense of disappointment, ultimately coming to the conclusion that my tropical interpretation of the story was better.
Now having finally read it, I think the main disappointment I have with the story is that Fitzgerald was never able to finish it. This first section of the novel is actually very good. The story is focused on character. Stahr—the Irving Thalberg “boy wonder”—is an emotional mess...drugged...overworked...depressed...basically on the verge of death. Then he meets Kathleen and his whole world changes. Yet Kathleen is a go-getter, who will only choose to follow a certain path if it will eventually prove to be beneficial to her in every way. She is a conniving wench, who holds Stahr in the palm of her hand, even though circumstances don’t entirely go her way.
Yet after reading Fitzgerald’s notes for this story regarding how he planned on finishing it, I started to wonder how it would have really turned out. From his notes, the story veers from good drama to a film noir type of story...gangsters...murder plots...money...etc., topped off with a macabre side story involving children—this portion of Fitzgerald’s notes is certainly eerie, yet, so visually true at the same time. Children can be completely ruthless, acting without conscience in that way.