Introducing ‘Totally Fitzgerald’, an F Scott Fitzgerald reading project

Totally Fitgerald Back in February/March you barely heard a peep from me, and for good reason. You see I had become totally absorbed with an author. I go through stages like this in my life, when I hook onto something – not always literature-related – and become so inextricably tangled and obsessed with it that I can’t seem to focus on anything else for a while. In the past this has happened with John Steinbeck, with New York City, with typewriters, with WW2 on the Eastern Front, with Laurel and Hardy and so on and so forth, and most recently it’s happened with the great F. Scott Fitzgerald.

But hold on, before I have you thinking that I’m some kind of virgin to the writings of one of the twentieth-century’s finest writers, let me tell you that I’ve already read most of Fitzgerald’s novels and a good number of his short stories. The Great Gatsby is one of my favourite works of literature of all time and The Beautiful and Damned is most certainly in my Top 20. Of Fitzgerald’s short stories I consider The Diamond as Big as the Ritz and Babylon Revisited to be exquisite examples of the form. They are both are beautifully written.

F Scott Fitzgerald No, truth be told it wasn’t Fitzgerald’s fiction that I was interested in this time around. Rather, it was the myriad of non-fiction titles that have sprouted up about the author. The spark for the attraction came about unexpectedly. The merest mention in Joe Queenan’s One for the Books (Viking) of That Summer in Paris by Morley Callaghan (Exile Editions) – a memoir described as ‘the Canadian Moveable Feast’ – set me off peering into the personal life of F. Scott Fitzgerald, and as the weeks progressed I began reading more and more about the great American author.

During this time I ticked off Matthew Bruccoli’s most excellent biography Some Sort of Epic Grandeur (University of South Carolina Press). I raced through Arthur Mizener’s biography, The Far Side of Paradise (William Heinemann). I soaked myself in Tony Buttitta’s obscure memoir, The Lost Summer (St. Martin’s Press), and I even dipped into Nancy Mitford’s biography on Fitzgerald’s better half, Zelda (Harper Perennial). Yep, I was well and truly bitten.

Diving so fully into the life of F. Scott Fitzgerald not surprisingly renewed my passion in the writer. So much so that while reading about his life I began questioning my own engagement with Fitzgerald’s body of work, not least because I began to realise just how much Fitzgerald’s own life is intertwined in his fiction (isn’t that usually the case though?). As I said earlier I’m not wholly unfamiliar with Fitzgerald’s writing, and in fact compared to many other people I’m quite well read when it comes to this writer, but looking around this website you wouldn’t think so because there’s barely a mention of him. Sure, I bang on about Fitzgerald all the time on Twitter and Facebook etc. but search this website and you wouldn’t even think that I was a fan. So, I need to rectify this shortcoming and the best way I know of doing so is to launch another in my series of “Totally’ reading projects. I want RobAroundBooks to reflect just how much F Scott Fitzgerald means to me, and so I give you – Totally Fitzgerald.

As I’m doing with my Totally Knut and my recently launched Totally Callaghan reading projects, I’m going to slowly and comprehensively work my way through the bibliography of F Scott Fitzgerald. As I’m not particularly fond of the form I’m going to be omitting any of Fitzgerald’s poetry from this project (I know, shoot me :)), and it’s unlikely that I will focus on any of Fitzgerald’s plays either. Everything else is fair game though, regardless of whether I’ve read it in the past or not.

Additionally, as I’ve found it to be so invaluable for both teaching me about the writer and in renewing my interest in him, I’m also going to be covering the wealth of biographical work relating to F. Scott Fitzgerald in this project. Before looking into the personal side of Fitzgerald I had no idea there was so much written about him. And to be honest what’s there is a bit of a minefield with regards to the quality and accuracy, so I hope that I’ll be able to provide some guidance in helping to point out the wheat from the chaff, so to speak.

As with my Totally Morley project I’ll be monitoring the short fiction of Fitzgerald on a separate page, but consider this the ‘hub page’ for keeping track of my progress with the longer fiction and nonfiction titles of Fitzgerald (which I will be reading in chronological order), and of the biographical titles relating to him. I list these below (subject to amendment and additions), and will link to forethoughts and afterthoughts posts as they are completed:

Novels

  • This Side of Paradise (1920)
  • The Beautiful and Damned (1922)
  • The Great Gatsby (1925)
  • Tender is the Night (1934)
  • The Last Tycoon (unfinished novel – 1941)

  • Save Me the Waltz by Zelda Fitzgerald (1932)

Nonfiction

  • The Crack-Up (1945) nonfiction ed. by Edmund Wilson
  • The Letters of F. Scott Fitzgerald (1963) ed. by Andrew Turnbull

Biographies

  • The Far Side of Paradise by Arthur Mizener (1951)
  • Scott Fitzgerald by Andrew Turnbull (1962)
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald by Andre LeVot (1983)
  • Zelda: A Biography by Nancy Mitford (1970)
  • Some Sort of Epic Grandeur: The Life of F Scott Fitzgerald by Matthew J. Bruccoli (1981)
  • Fool for Love: A Biography of F. Scott Fitzgerald by Scott Donaldson (1983)
  • Invented Lives: F Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald by James R. Mellow (1984)
  • Scott Fitzgerald: A Biography by Jeffrey Meyers (1994)
  • Hemingway vs. Fitzgerald: The Rise and Fall of a Literary Relationship by Scott Donaldson (1999)

Memoirs

  • That Summer in Paris by Morley Callaghan (1963)
  • The Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway (1964)
  • College of One by Sheilah Graham (1967)
  • The Lost Summer: A Personal Memoir of F. Scott Fitzgerald by Tony Buttitta (1987)
  • The Real F. Scott Fitzgerald: 35 Years Later by Sheilah Graham (1976)

Of course, although this is a personal ‘go at my own pace’ reading project, I’d be happy for any and all fellow readers to get involved in any way they see fit. If you have any advice or guidance, or suggestions for titles to read then please let me know. And if you have a particular favourite novel or story of Fitzgerald, or there’s a particular book you want to work through in conjunction with me then I’d love to hear from you.

About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn't bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books)

Comments

  1. Ha! I’ve found out how to comment (I know, it’s taken long enough). You’ve almost inspired me to dust down by Fitzgerald paperbacks and join in – unfortunately they’re so old, I think they may fall apart if disturbed. Dare I suggest an addition to your list – Zelda’s Save Me The Waltz.

    • Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)
      says:

      Yay, congratulations on figuring that out Maryom :). I’m sure you can take one of those falling apart editions and participate in just one readalong, no? 🙂

      Ah yes…Zelda’s only published novel. I’d actually forgotten about that. I guess it would be of much value to read it in a compare and contrast exercise. Be interesting trying to spot any Fitzgerald influences. I’ll add it. Thank you x
      Warmest
      Rob

  2. stujallen (Twitter: stujallen)
    says:

    great project rob very much looking forward to following it ,and hope to join in a some point ,all the best stu

  3. Liza Lagman Sperl says:

    Hello there!

    I’m in the midst of qualifying exams for a degree at the moment, or I would gladly indulge in a long list of books to add, many of which you may have already done in the interregnum between this post and now. 🙂

    But, my main addition to your fine list would be “Max Perkinns: An Editor of Genius” by A. Scott Berg. Mr. Perkins was the patient editor of many a literary giant, and his role as a father figure to both Scott and Ernest is an important piece of the puzzle.

    I’ll be back – cheers!
    Liza

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1471130096

    • Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)
      says:

      Hi Liza,
      Things have been a little quiet around here lately. My apologies for taking so long to get back to you.

      Many many thanks for taking the time to recommend this book. As much as you may think I’ve made considerable progress on this project, it’s actually stalled and is not much further forward than it was when I announced it (jeez, more than two years ago – where does the time go?). It’s not forgotten though, because such a journey through the bibliography of Scottie is essential soul food, and so your recommendation is not wasted on me. I have a couple of Perkins books on my library shelves, but this one you speak of has alluded me. I have this morning ordered a copy.

      So, tell me more about your degree. Where are you studying? Is F Scott Fitzgerald a major element of your degree? Have you thought about your dissertation yet, or indeed are you in the midst of it? Would love to hear all about it.
      Warmest
      Rob

  4. You and I are of like minds! So very very glad to have stumbled upon this. I am on my own Fitz journey that is keeping me riveted to my sofa and books and iPad and computer. I just can’t stop. I am reading most of the same non fiction and of course the fiction. I am working on a theory. I’ll share with you later. The Great Gatsby is mynallntime favorite but in an effort to understand this all I read TSOP and two short story collections this summer. Where we do differ is that I, like Hemmingway, think Ritz is complete trash.

    • Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)
      says:

      How exciting, Janet. I’ve not as much on top of this as I should be of late, but I haven’t lost any of the passion.

      I’m interested to hear what your theory is. I wait with bated breath.
      Good luck and thank you for making a connection.
      Speak soon,
      Rob