Richard Foreman’s The Return Of Pat Hobby is an easy-to-read and engaging collection of short stories. One of the main aspects of this piece to consider – at least at first – is, as always in any heavily-influenced or spin-off literature, to decide to what extent the original should feature in an analysis of the work in question. Indeed Foreman’s Hobby is not his own but originally F Scott Fitzgerald’s; and a very personal character at that, having been in large part autobiographical. In his introduction, Foreman speaks with a tender respect for Fitzgerald’s Pat:
“Whether Pat is waving or drowning, we should admire him for keeping his head above water in difficult times. Perhaps Pat Hobby has proved endearing because he provides a silhouette for many of his readers, as well as his creator, to sympathise with.”
Foreman’s own admission is that he too is one of these:
“Please know that I have not set out to mimic Fitzgerald’s style or merely trace over his portrait of Pat Hobby. It is difficult enough to replicate the work of any author, regardless of the Sisyphean task of trying to write in the vein of one of the twentieth century’s greatest stylists. No, rather I have used Fitzgerald’s original stories to inspire and inform mine.”
Therefore, it is enough to say that while by Foreman’s own admission, his writing owes much to Fitzgerald’s, it is also the case that his writing stands alone, worthy in its own right as he explores the ins and outs of Pat Hobby and creates new adventures for him and twists and turns along the way.
“I needed to recognize my own silhouette behind the writing.”
Foreman leads us into a relationship with his protagonist and the personality and charisma channelled into Hobby make him the appealing character he becomes. It is humour above all else that characterises Pat Hobby in these stories – perhaps laced with a somewhat bleak undertone in the vaguely tragic edges to this character, but a humour all the same, and it is this sense of Pat’s spirit that draws us to him.
This collection is captivating in its imagery, and Foreman pulls together the fragments of this somewhat-troubled but endlessly-optimistic character with a care that draws an involuntary compassion from his readers. The Return Of Pat Hobby is an intriguing, compelling and snappily-engaging read.
Laura McDonald writes in Charlestown, Fife. Her poetry and literary reviews have appeared both in print and in online journals, and she can be contacted at www.twitter.com/lauracmcdonald.