Beautiful Fools, The Last Affair of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald

It takes a brave novelist to tackle Scott and Zelda, those mythic ghosts of the Jazz Age. Luckily, Spargo is more than just brave —Beautiful Fools is a vivid and revealing look at two charismatic, self-destructive people, and the love that sustained and ruined them. It's a real feat of historical imagination and novelistic empathy.

― Tom Perrotta, author of Election and Little Children

Spargo writes with animation and fervor, a style conducive to the heat generated by his subjects.


Here is a writer possessing the greatest talent: that of fully inhabiting the lives of others. Spargo conjures up these two as no one has done before. Scott and Zelda, surrounded by the poignancy of last words, last things, become, in Spargo's remarkable novel, not people of history but of literature, and reminders of what we fight for, what we fail to win, and the beauty that abides between. A marvel of a book.

― Andrew Sean Greer, author of The Story of a Marriage

In a voice both intimate and expansive, tender and shrewd, R. Clifton Spargo manages to do the near impossible: craft a story worthy of his iconic subjects.

― Holly Goddard Jones, author of The Next Time You See Me

Spargo’s voice is entirely his own and is capable of articulating certain ranges of experience only rarely now available to us. At once we are in contemporary America and also in a timeless space of personal loss. His work seems to me marked for permanence.

― Harold Bloom


Spargo’s stories are stunning, unusual in their beauty and integrity. He writes with luminous intelligence and compassion, demonstrating a gift for holding close to his characters as they come to comprehend their own yearnings in the face of the world’s disappointing and sometimes violent face. Inside each intricate and beautifully written story is an important question about love, mortality, the human potential for violence or grace.

― Harriet Scott Chessman, author of Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper and Someone Not Really Her Mother

Spargo’s emotionally gripping stories are smart, taut, and unpredictable. He’s a welcome new voice in American fiction.

― Tom Perrotta, author of Election and Little Children

Spargo’s mastery of form and detail yields stories that are beautifully captivating and interconnected. His characters are beguiling. Spargo's voice, male, yet at times genderless, resonates with rare compassion and understanding. These stories are long overdue.

― Charlotte Pierce-Baker, author of Surviving the Silence: Black Women’s Stories of Rape; Chair of Women’s and Gender Studies at Vanderbilt University

Reading R. Clifton Spargo’s intriguing sequence of linked stories is like being sucked backwards in time. As the stories about Anne catapult with ever increasing intensity from her deep attachments to dogs, people, and causes to her brutal rape at knifepoint ten years earlier, the aftermath of assault becomes ever more clear. The result is a story sequence of welcome sensitivity that explores both the injustice of such a horror and the wonderful, startling grace of what it means to survive.

― Helen Benedict, author of The Edge of Eden and The Lonely Soldier; Professor of Journalism at Columbia University


R. Clifton Spargo’s Vigilant Memory is perhaps the most erudite reading of Levinas I have encountered to date. Spargo is able to read Levinas against himself productively. That is, he is able to demonstrate that even where Levinas’s philosophy is at odds with itself one can nonetheless find evidence for the ethics of responsibility underlying this apparent inconsistency. The ease with which Spargo moves from discussions of the Hebrew and Christian Bibles, philosophy, literature, and history to references to popular culture (Seinfeld, Sex and the City, Al Franken, and Bill O’Reilly, to name only a few) is impressive. The interdisciplinary nature of Spargo’s writing, which brings Levinas into conversation with the unlikeliest of interlocutors, and the questions this book raises make it unique and indispensable for anyone engaged in scholarly treatments of ethics and politics.

― Claire Katz, Texas A & M University, in Shofar

An intense and meticulous analysis of Levinas’s attempt to redeem the force of ethical thinking from Nietzsche’s charge of fraudulence. Almost every influential position held by contemporary thinkers on the study of death, which has always preoccupied ethical philosophy, is subjected to probing criticism. Spargo’s book, a work of great intellectual energy, demonstrates a vigilance that leaves no aspect of Levinas, as philosopher or writer, untouched.

― Geoffrey Hartman, Sterling Professor Emeritus, Yale University

Spargo’s book takes account of the ways in which the Shoah and the absences that follow from it—the absences that make themselves visible in people's lives, in people's language, and in the way people think about justice—are crucial to Levinas’s thinking without making them the proximate cause of his post-1945 writing. Vigilant Memory is one of the very best books on Levinas—let alone on the ethical consequences of the Holocaust—that I’ve read in the last five years, if not the single best, and it's one that I will undoubtedly return to time and again.

― Michael Bernard-Donals, University of Wisconsin, in Contemporary Literature

Levinas’s difficult and intransigent philosophy has more often been reduced to a simplifying, comfortable injunction to respect the other, or the Other, than actually read in all its harsh complexity. Vigilant Memory is part of an attempt to redress the situation by returning to the detail of Levinas’s texts, in a bold, sustained, and original examination of how he might help us understand the role of memory and the nature of responsibility in the post-Holocaust world. Without ducking some difficult issues and with a truly impressive intellectual range, the book sets out to explore Levinas’s ethics from an explicitly political standpoint. In general, this is a dense, thoughtful, and committed book which shows that a rigorous study can also constitute an independent reflection in its own right.

― Colin Davis, University of London, in Modern Language Review

A book of remarkable breadth and acuity, Spargo’s The Ethics of Mourning powerfully reorients critical discussion of the elegy away from the survivor’s inner struggle for consolation to the dialogic relation between the survivor and the dead. In a series of bracing, rigorous, and unflinching readings, this book explores the ethics of mourning with more philosophical vigor and literary reach than any critical work to date.

―Jahan Ramazani, University of Virginia

Spargo’s Ethics of Mourning explores how elegy, by refusing to let the lost Other become memorialized and thus take on social meaning, becomes a possibility for a renewed responsibility toward the Other even before the mourner’s own interests. The allure of Spargo’s writing lies in its elegiac tone and simultaneous refusal to succumb to the closure that elegy usually produces. He suggests that texts ranging from Greek mythology to Renaissance and Modernist poetry, and, finally, to controversial representations of the Holocaust’s afterimage, share an ethics of mourning.

― Karen Remmler, Mount Holyoke College, in Holocaust and Genocide Studies