A Centennial Celebration


F. Scott Fitzgerald Centenary Celebration
The University of South Carolina
Columbia, South Carolina

The F. Scott Fitzgerald Centenary Celebration, hosted by the University of South Carolina, was conceived not as a scholarly conference but instead as a celebration of the author's life and work. Funded by the office of the Provost, the College of Liberal Arts, USC's Division of Libraries and Information Systems, the Department of English, the Alumni Association, and NationsBank, the Centenary Celebration scheduled its major events for 24-26 September but also supported outreach programs to the Columbia community and the state throughout the fall of 1996.
One of the fifteen billboards in
Richland and Lexington Counties, South Carolina

Introducing young readers to Fitzgerald's fiction was a primary concern of the Centenary organizing committee. Professor Matthew J. Bruccoli donated Fitzgerald books--some sixty copies in all--to regional campuses of the USC system. Dr. Sandra Thomas of the South Carolina State Department of Education and Dr. Harriett S. Williams of USC's College of Applied Professional Sciences spearheaded a campaign to encourage the teaching of Fitzgerald's novels and stories in all South Carolina high schools during the 1996-1997 school year. Dr. Williams authored A Young Reader's Guide to F. Scott Fitzgerald, which provided reading and writing assignments fulfilling State Department of Education objectives for senior English classes and which assembled documentary material on Fitzgerald's life and work.
Poster by Dawn Pyron that won the graphic-design competition at USC
Produced by the Department of Education, the Young Reader's Guide was distributed to all South Carolina high schools. At least 10,000 South Carolina secondary students read The Great Gatsby during the fall of 1996 (one bookdealer reported an order for 1,900 copies of the novel from a single Columbia high school), and at least two area schools sponsored Gatsby or Roaring-Twenties dress-up days to coincide with the 24 September interactive teleconference broadcast, the kick-off event of the Celebration itself.

Similarly, USC's annual First-Year Reading Experience, under the direction of Interim Provost Donald J. Greiner, chose The Great Gatsby as the text to be read by 650 incoming freshman who met on 19 August in groups of ten to discuss the novel with one of sixty- five USC professors from across disciplines. The students also heard a brief talk by Prof. Bruccoli, who presented all participants with keepsake facsimiles of Fitzgerald's entry from the 1917 Princeton University yearbook. During the evening students and professors saw Jack Clayton's 1974 movie version of the novel. Prof. Richard Rose of the USC Art Department set up a Gatsby poster contest for members of his graphic-design class. Dawn Pyron's poster was chosen as the winner, and all of the posters were exhibited at USC's Museum of Education at the request of its director, Craig Kridel.

Becky and Kevin Lewis receiving a free copy of The Great Gatsby from
Rhett Jackson
at the Happy Bookseller, Columbia, SC
During September both the Richland County Public Library and an independent bookdealer sponsored Fitzgerald-related activities that drew enthusiastic responses from the Columbia community. At the invitation of Sarah Linder, Director of Main Library Services, Prof. Bruccoli and USC graduate students Robert F. Moss and Park Bucker presented lectures and led discussions on Fitzgerald in the library's ongoing "Let's Talk About It" program. The downtown branch of the library also provided the venue for the showing of movies with Fitzgerald connections: Three Comrades (1938), for which he received his only screen credit; The Last Tycoon (1976); and the two surviving film versions of The Great Gatsby (1949 and 1974). At The Happy Bookseller, Rhett Jackson hosted a Saturday, September 14, promotion of Fitzgerald by giving free copies of The Great Gatsby to customers. The two-hundred copies of the Scribner paperback, provided by Carolyn Reidy, President of the Simon & Schuster's Trade Division, were gone by noon.

USC's McKissick Museum, directed by Lynn Robertson, held two pre-Centenary events. On the evening of 19 September the Museum opened its exhibition, "Double Vision: Fitzgerald's World of Realism and Imagination," which included clothing, movie memorabilia, and other material documenting social trends during the 1920s and 1930s. Participants, many of whom wore Twenties attire, were entertained by Dick Goodwin's trio and drank "bathtub gin." On Sunday, 22 September, McKissick staff used the grounds of the center-campus Horseshoe as the site for croquet, cocktails, and high tea.

Display and Keepsake presented by Columbia Postmaster Lawrence Jordan
at the Happy Bookseller, Columbia, SC

A 30 September post-Centenary event was hosted by Dr. George Terry, Dean and Vice Provost for Libraries and Information Systems, in the Rare Book Room of Cooper Library. Lawrence Jordan, Columbia Postmaster and an avid reader of Fitzgerald, presented attractive cancellation cards of the Fitzgerald stamp to the assembled guests; he also gave large stamp reproductions or framed displays of the card and stamps to officials and departments of the University.

An ongoing and permanent feature of USC's Centenary Celebration is the F. Scott Fitzgerald Centenary web site, which offers a Fitzgerald biography and chronology; primary and secondary bibliographies; essays and facts about Fitzgerald and quotations from him; the texts of several Fitzgerald stories; descriptions of items in the Fitzgerald Collection at USC; a history of the House of Scribner by Charles Scribner III; and a voice recording of Fitzgerald reading poetry by John Masefield, John Keats, and William Shakespeare. You will also find links to other major literary web sites throughout the world. These pages were originally designed by Ed Breland of the Department of Distance Education and Instructional, under the direction of Susan E. Bridwell and are now maintained by Miriam Mitchell and Frances Frame, of the University's Department of Computer Services, with content determined and provided by Prof. Bruccoli and his graduate students. Between June and December 1996 USC's Fitzgerald Centenary WebPage had 16,600 "hits" and never fewer than seven hundred per week.

The formal program for USC's Centenary Celebration began on 24 September with "Project Discovery Celebrates the 100th Birthday of F. Scott Fitzgerald," a live television program broadcast nationwide and produced by South Carolina Educational Television for the South Carolina Department of Education.
Matthew J. Bruccoli, Joseph Heller, and James Dickey in the Thomas Cooper Library Rare Book Room preparing for the interactive telconference on 24 September
(photo by Gene Crediford)
Hosted by Bette Jamison of the Department of Education and Doug Keel of SCETV, the broadcast included a brief tour of the Fitzgerald Exhibition at Cooper Library, interviews with writers James Dickey and Joseph Heller, and a question-and-answer session during which high-school students from throughout the state phoned in questions to Dickey and Heller. Asked to define their visions of Fitzgerald, Heller responded that he regarded Fitzgerald as "a heroic figure in literature, an inspiration," and Dickey remarked that Fitzgerald "brought to fiction essentially a poet's insight." Replying to a question about whether Fitzgerald was disillusioned with America, Dickey said that problems with money and prestige clearly bothered and fascinated the author of The Great Gatsby; Heller stated that Fitzgerald, like all serious novelists, evaluated and often criticized the ethics of the society in which he lived. Tracing influences beyond Fitzgerald on their own writing, Heller cited Evelyn Waugh, Vladimir Nabokov, and Samuel Beckett, and Dickey mentioned James Agee, Malcolm Lowry, and Ezra Pound.

The 24th of September was the one-hundredth anniversary of Fitzgerald's birth,
Professors Emi Nagase and Matthew J. Bruccoli at the Fitzgerald birthday party hosted by the University Bookstore on 24 September
and the University Bookstore, managed by Bruce Darner, held a champagne-and-birthday-cake party, with jazz by the Dick Goodwin trio, in Fitzgerald's honor. Guests included fiction writers George Garrett, Richard and Robert Bausch, Sydney Blair, Vance Bourjaily, and Joseph Heller, all of whom signed copies of their books. Because the birthday party was the initial public event of the Celebration proper, it brought together for the first time University personnel and the many Centenary participants from across the United States and overseas. The presence of twelve Japanese scholars and two Germans testified to the enduring reputation of Fitzgerald in those countries. But perhaps the most arduous pilgrimage in honor of Fitzgerald was made by a student from Whitman College in Washington state; he had endured a three- day bus trip to attend the Columbia events and was gratified when Profs. Kevin and Becky Lewis, masters of USC's Preston College, offered him free lodging at the student residential college.
Matthew J. Bruccoli, Ursula Kruse, Arlyn Bruccoli, and Professor Horst Kruse at USC's Centenary banquet, 24 September

The evening banquet on the 24th was sponsored by the Thomas Cooper Society, the University Library friends group. Held at the Capital City Club in downtown Columbia, the banquet featured a keynote speech, "The Literature of Despair," by Joseph Heller. The nearly three-hundred guests, who included John Baker of Publishers Weekly and Michael Rogers of Library Journal, saw the unveiling of the limited-edition Fitzgerald Centenary poster,
Poster by Kimberly Hamner
created and signed by Kimberley Hamner of USC's Department of Publications and Printing (The poster is available from USC Press). Each banquet guest received a copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald: 24 September 1896 to 21 December 1940, a keepsake volume that printed tributes to Fitzgerald from twenty-seven writers: Jeffrey Archer, Margaret Atwood, Paul Auster, Richard Bausch, Robert Bausch, Thomas Berger, Sydney Blair, Vance Bourjaily, Frederick Busch, Nicholas Delbanco, Don DeLillo, James Dickey, Annie Dillard, Irvin Faust, Leslie A. Fiedler, George Garrett, George V. Higgins, John Iggulden, John Jakes, John le Carré, Norman Mailer, William Maxwell, Budd Schulberg, Charles M. Schulz, Mary Lee Settle, Tony Tanner, and Arnold Wesker.
Title page of the USC Centenary Celebration Keepsake
The keepsake was produced by Nancy Washington for the Thomas Cooper Society and the Thomas Cooper Library and was designed by Mary Arnold Garvin and Kimberley Hamner of Publications and Printing. Following Heller's speech he was presented with the Thomas Cooper Medal for Achievement in the Arts by Dean George Terry. The evening concluded with an exhibition of dances of the Twenties, choreographed by Profs. Susan Anderson, Stanislav Issaev, and Cynthia Flach of USC's Department of Theatre, Speech, and Dance, and by music of the period performed by the Dick Goodwin Quintet.
USC Dean of Libraries George Terry speaking at the Centenary banquet; with President John M. Palms and Joseph Heller (photo by Michael Rogers)
Events of the banquet were covered by a CNN television crew, and both Heller and Bruccoli were interviewed by Jim Lehrer for PBS's The News Hour.

Events of Wednesday, 25 September, began with a reading at USC's Russell House Theatre by Vance Bourjaily. Bourjaily's story, "Fitzgerald Attends My Fitzgerald Seminar" (originally published in Esquire in 1964 and reprinted as chapter four of his 1976 novel Now Playing at Canterbury), was a favorite of Scottie Fitzgerald Smith, Fitzgerald's daughter. Alternately funny and touching, the story also proved a favorite with the Centenary audience.

Following Bourjaily's reading USC President and Mrs. John M. Palms hosted a luncheon in honor of Budd Schulberg.Held in the garden of the President's on-campus home, the luncheon drew its menu from a 1924 meal shared by Fitzgerald and his Scribners editor Maxwell Perkins at the Biltmore. After lunch Schulberg offered brief remarks about his relationship with Fitzgerald.
James Dickey and Budd Schulberg at the USC presidential luncheon, 25 September
(photo by Michael Rogers)

Frederick Busch was the featured speaker at the official opening of "F. Scott Fitzgerald and the Profession of Authorship," an exhibition of material from the Matthew J. and Arlyn Bruccoli Collection of F. Scott Fitzgerald at the Thomas Cooper Library. Introduced by Interim Provost Greiner, Busch commented on the importance of the USC Fitzgerald Collection and observed that it chronicles "Fitzgerald's long, deep battle with talent."

The initial rationale for the collection was to assemble every printing of every English-language edition of every book by Fitzgerald--supplemented by his contributions to books edited by others and his periodical publications. Inexorably the scope of the collection enlarged to include material about Fitzgerald and his times, as well as books by and about his literary friends. While writing about Fitzgerald and editing Fitzgerald's works, Bruccoli built the most comprehensive working library for Fitzgerald research.

The proper function of an author collection is to provide the evidence for the development of his reputation and the transmission of his texts. The Bruccoli Collection has some three thousand volumes of writings by Fitzgerald, including all the editions, printings, states, and issues listed in Bruccoli's F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Descriptive Bibliography, Revised Edition (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1988). The printed material includes proof copies and review copies of books by Fitzgerald. There are also some three hundred volumes of translations, as well as an extensive collection of movie and television scripts, stills, lobby cards, and sound and video recordings.
The Fitzgerald Room at the Thomas Cooper Library
(photo by Keith McGraw)

Fitzgerald was a painstaking reviser and rewriter. The manuscripts, revised typescripts, and galley proofs of his work in progress reveal the process by which he fulfilled his intentions. The collection holds the only set of the original galleys of "Trimalchio" before it was rewritten as The Great Gatsby and the only galleys of the first serial installment of Tender Is the Night. Among the materials for short stories are the revised typescripts for "The Swimmers," "The Count of Darkness," and "The Kingdom of the Dark." The collection also includes Fitzgerald's pocket notebook for his unfinished last novel, The Love of the Last Tycoon.

Inscribed books are cherished because they provide both literary evidence and sentimental value. Fitzgerald's inscriptions often comment on his work, and they are characteristically witty. The Bruccoli Collection is notable for its more than sixty-five books inscribed by or to Fitzgerald. Among the recipients of Fitzgerald's inscriptions housed in the collection are Van Wyck Brooks, Ernest Truex, Harold Ober, and Lois Moran. The books inscribed to Fitzgerald by their authors include Ulysses and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce, For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway, Ash- Wednesday by T.S. Eliot, Prejudices Second Series by H.L. Mencken, and How to Write by Gertrude Stein. The collection holds Fitzgerald letters, postcards, and wires, as well as letters sent to him.

The Bruccoli Collection has a complete run of The St. Paul Academy Now and Then for the period during which Fitzgerald attended the school, issues of The Newman News that appeared while he was at the Newman School, and extensive holdings of Princeton University's Nassau Literary Magazine and Princeton Tiger--both periodicals with contributions by Fitzgerald. A star item of Princetoniana is the printed acting script for Fitzgerald's first Triangle Club show, Fie! Fie! Fi-Fi!--with his additional lyrics. The collection includes Princeton class books, catalogues, and other publications relating to the university and the class of '17.

Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald has become a subject of scholarly attention in her own right. The Bruccoli Collection includes specimens of her manuscripts and letters, with extensive holdings of publications by and about her. The Arlyn Bruccoli Collection of Zelda Fitzgerald's paintings was on loan to the Cooper Library for the Centenary Exhibition.

Most of Edward Shenton's original pen-and-ink drawings for Tender Is the Night are in the Bruccoli Collection. Francis Cugat's preliminary sketches and paintings that developed into the celebrated dust jacket for The Great Gatsby, as well as Cugat's own duplicate painting of the final jacket art, were on loan to the Cooper Library from Arlyn Bruccoli for the exhibition. Mrs. Bruccoli also made available to the Cooper Library Gordon Bryant's original portraits of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.

The Bruccoli Collection has assembled a substantial amount of material relating to Sheilah Graham: her books, her correspondence with Bruccoli, and her account of Fitzgerald's death. The collection also features satellite collections of authors associated with Fitzgerald: Ernest Hemingway, Edmund Wilson, Budd Schulberg, Donald Ogden Stewart, and Ring Lardner.

A portion of the Fitzgerald Centenary Exhibition at the Thomas Cooper Library, USC
(photo by Keith McGraw)
The exhibition was mounted by Prof. Bruccoli, Judith S. Baughman, and Robert W. Trogdon, with the assistance of Special Collections staff members--Patrick Scott, Roger Mortimer, Jamie Hansen, Paul D. Schultz, and Mary Anyomi--and seven graduate students in Prof. Bruccoli's Fitzgerald seminar--Tracy Simmons Bitonti, Park Bucker, Michael Cody, Cy League, Catherine Lewis, Robert F. Moss, and Mary Sidney Watson--who also compiled the exhibition catalogue, F. Scott Fitzgerald Centenary Exhibition. A printed catalogue of the Bruccoli Collection is in preparation; material in the collection is listed in the University of South Carolina Access Network (USCAN), which can be accessed through http://www.csd.scarolina.edu/research.html. Significant acquisitions are reported in the F. Scott Fitzgerald Collection Notes.

Exhibition catalogs
Small exhibitions for Budd Schulberg and Joseph Heller were mounted in conjunction with the main Fitzgerald exhibition. All the Heller material had connections with Catch-22; the Schulberg items emphasized his friendship with Fitzgerald.

The event immediately following the opening of the exhibition featured professional fiction writers discussing their indebtedness to Fitzgerald, who described himself as "in every sense a professional." The symposium, "The Influence and Example of Fitzgerald," was moderated by George Garrett, Henry Hoyns Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Virginia, who was introduced by English Department Chair Robert Newman. Garrett, in turn, introduced a panel of younger authors--identical twin fiction writers Richard and Robert Bausch and novelist Sydney Blair. The four writers then defined their responses to Fitzgerald's fiction, read and commented on favorite passages from his work, and concluded with a discussion of Fitzgerald's impact on college-age readers today.
Fie! Fie! Fi-Fi!: Finale, Act II. Front: Cholmondeley, Celeste, Fi-Fi, Mrs. Bovine, Del Monti, Clover Blossom, Dr. Blossom; Back: bandits, Colonel Pompine
(photo by Lisa Martin-Stuart).

During the early evening of September 25 NationsBank and the Cooper Library hosted a collation on the patio of the Faculty House, after which guests walked to the nearby Drayton Hall Theatre for the first performance in eighty-two years of Fitzgerald's 1914 Triangle Club show, Fie! Fie! Fi-Fi! Directed by USC graduate Richard K. Blair, the play was performed--as the 1914 presentation had been--by an all-male cast, in this case of USC students and community-theatre actors. The wit and charm of the admittedly undergraduate script and lyrics by Fitzgerald and the energy of the actors-singers-dancers provided an entertaining evening for the audience, which, as Theatre, Speech, and Dance Department Chair Thorne Compton remarked, may have been the first "primarily sober" audience to see the show.
Program for the production
Fie! Fie! Fi-Fi! sold out all performances of its four-night run. Video tapes of the premiere will be available.

The final day on the official Centenary schedule began with one of its emotional highlights, a speech at the Russell House Theatre by Budd Schulberg, who had worked with Fitzgerald and become his friend during the final years in Hollywood. Introduced by Lester Lefton, Dean of Liberal Arts at USC, Schulberg detailed events surrounding his trip with Fitzgerald to Dartmouth to work on the movie Winter Carnival. Thoroughly bored by the movie's subject matter, the two writers avoided working on their script and instead endlessly talked: about writing and literature, about differences between their two generations, about their own lives and dreams.
Luncheon honoring scholars from overseas, 26 September; left to right, Professor Kiyohiko Tsuboi, Vance Bourjaily, USC Press Director Catherine Fry, and Dean George Terry
They also drank heavily, which led to their being abruptly fired on the Dartmouth campus by Producer Walter Wanger. Schulberg ended his talk with a moving tribute to Fitzgerald's endurance as a writer, which he described as "the fruits of his good, hard labor and genius."

After Budd Schulberg's presentation, invited guests went to Harper College on the Horseshoe, where they enjoyed a luncheon hosted by Dean George Terry and Museum Director Lynn Robertson. At the conclusion of the luncheon two Fitzgerald scholars from overseas offered remarks. Prof. Horst H. Kruse of Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität in Münster, Germany, and Kiyohiko Tsuboi, formerly Professor of English at Okayama University and now President of Kobe Women's University Seto Junior College in Japan, discussed the reasons for Fitzgerald's high reputation in their countries.

The final events within the formal Centenary Celebration schedule were held at Richland County Public Library on the evening of 26 September. Producer Ed Breland introduced and then premiered his documentary film, Getting It Right, which defines the relationship of book collecting and scholarship and which focuses on the work of Prof. Bruccoli. Following the documentary, three English Department graduate students--Park Bucker, Lee Anna Maynard, and Cy League--presented reading from Malcolm and Margerie Bonner Lowry's unproduced screenplay for Tender Is the Night and from works by Fitzgerald that spanned his career. The readings were selected and staged by Park Bucker.

USC Press Centenary volumes
USC's F. Scott Fitzgerald Centenary Celebration was an expression of the University's--and of the world's--admiration for one of America's greatest writers. It is therefore appropriate that during the Centenary year the USC Press, under the direction of Catherine Fry, produced four new Fitzgerald books: Reader's Companion to F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender Is the Night, by Matthew J. Bruccoli with Judith S. Baughman; F. Scott Fitzgerald on Authorship, edited by Bruccoli with Baughman; F. Scott Fitzgerald Centenary Exhibition (University of South Carolina Press for the Thomas Cooper Library), an illustrated exhibition catalogue; and Fie! Fie! Fi-Fi! (University of South Carolina Press for the Thomas Cooper Library), a facsimile of the acting script and musical score of Fitzgerald's first Princeton University Triangle Club show, copies of which are in USC's Fitzgerald Collection. For an author who once declared, ". . . writing has been my chief interest in life," the books seem a particularly fitting tribute.

Judith S. Baughman
University of South Carolina


From the USC Conference


The material above first appeared in the Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook: 1996 (Detroit, Washington, D.C., London: Bruccoli Clark Layman/Gale Research, 1997). Reproduced by permission.

Fitzgerald Centenary Comments

This page updated 10 December 1997.
Copyright 1997, the Board of Trustees of the University of South Carolina.
URL http://www.sc.edu/fitzgerald/centenary/uscfitz.html