What a pleasure these days to come across a book that unabashedly, cheerfully celebrates the lasting power of literature ... the first in the rising tower of Mr. Bate’s works to address an American author, seems a very personal book, pulsating with the freshness of new discovery. Energized by his sources, Mr. Bate confirms what Plutarch, the ancient progenitor of the dual-biography genre, once set out to prove, too, namely that genius leaps across centuries and cultures. He reminds us of the high price literature exacts from its devotees and of the triumphs it hands them as well, victories that will seem paltry only to those who don’t care to look or read: some of the greatest poems ever written in any language, pages of prose as luminously alive as that green world Jay Gatsby found in his dreams.
Bate’s subtitle comes dangerously near to trivialising the notion, and does less than justice to the book itself. It seems to imply that the two writers are primarily examples of a common type...But Bate’s typically lively and well-researched narrative shows clearly enough that Keats’s tragically early death had nothing to do with any self-destructive impulses, and that Fitzgerald’s most distinctive and mature work has a sparseness, tightness and irony that cannot be reduced to a bundle of exotic special effects ... Bate’s book is certainly an excellent introduction to each writer, but I think it is Fitzgerald whom we learn more about ... Bate’s interweaving of Keats’s story with Fitzgerald’s has its moments of strain, but it illuminates both writers and re-emphasises a depth of sheer literary intelligence in Fitzgerald that can be overlooked in the unflattering overhead lighting of the Jazz Age. For a book that returns frequently to the visual elements of Keats’s imagination and the representations of it in art, it is a shame that the illustrations in the text are so often cramped for room and appear rather muddy.
... an energetic and highly engaging game of literary ping-pong across the ages. Life, writing and inspiration are served and returned in a rapid rally of ideas. If the book lacks the pulse and propulsion of Bate’s biography of Ted Hughes, it’s the fault of the format. Just as you’re getting into the rhythm of Keats and the Romantics, you’re bounced on to Fitzgerald and the Jazz Age. Still, what an immensely charismatic pair they are ... Bate occasionally overeggs it. For 'uncanny' parallels, read pleasing similarities.