Facts About Fitzgerald

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“The Crack-Up”

In 1935 Fitzgerald was at a low point economically and spiritually. Esquire editor Arnold Gingrich suggested that he write something, anything, that would justify an advance from the magazine. The result was three essays published in Esquire for February, March and April 1936: The Crack-Up, “Pasting It Together,” and “Handle with Care.” In this series, Fitzgerald develops a key theme: his concept of emotional bankruptcy, the idea that it is possible to use up one’s capacity for emotion and be left with nothing. He had employed this idea in a 1930-1931 series of stories in The Saturday Evening Post about a young woman named Josephine Perry (the last story in the series is titled “Emotional Bankruptcy”). Josephine spends all of her emotional energy by the time she is eighteen, and when the man she could truly love comes along, she can no longer feel anything for him. In “The Crack-Up,” Fitzgerald describes his own state of depletion: “I began to realize that for two years my life had been a drawing on resources that I did not possess, that I had been mortgaging myself physically and spiritually up to the hilt” (The Crack-Up, p. 72). The essays generated substantial attention, much of it negative. Fitzgerald’s contemporaries, including Scribners editor Maxwell Perkins, were dismayed by his confessions. Hemingway, in particular, was scornful of what he considered Fitzgerald’s public whining. But the 1945 Crack-Up volume helped to revive interest in Fitzgerald’s work. The essays stand today as a compelling psychological portrait and an illustration of an important Fitzgerald theme.

submitted by: Tracy Simmons Bitonti / [Index]

Supernatural Stories

F. Scott Fitzgerald is popularly known as the chronicler of the Jazz Age. But the author’s fiction extends far beyond 1920s flappers and bathtub gin. He wrote, for example, many magazine stories that effectively use fantasy and the supernatural.

In “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Collier’s, 27 May 1922) the hero is born fully grown. Through his life he grows younger instead of aging. He attends school as an old man, marries in middle-age, succeeds at business as a young man, and dies as an infant. Fitzgerald collected this story in Tales of the Jazz Age and provided this comment: “This story was inspired by a remark of Mark Twain’s to the effect that it was a pity that the best part of life came at the beginning and the worst part at the end.”

“The Diamond as Big as the Ritz” (The Smart Set, June 1922) is not a hyperbolic title. The story records a young man’s visit to a secluded Montana ranch where he discovers examples of extreme opulence and luxury made possible by a mountainous diamond. The diamond’s owner maintains secrecy through intricate security and the murder of visitors. Exposed at the end, the rich man offers God a bribe to keep his wealth secret.

Fitzgerald wrote a ghost story, “A Short Trip Home” (The Saturday Evening Post, 17 December 1927), in which a young girl is followed through holiday parties and train stations by the ghost of a murderous criminal. A ghost metaphor also appears in “One Trip Abroad” (The Saturday Evening Post, 11 October 1930) as a young American couple traveling in Europe see their dissipation represented by ghostly doppelgangers of themselves.

submitted by: Park Bucker / [Index]

The 1945 Bantam Edition of The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby was number 8 of Bantam’s first ten titles. The cost of these paperbacks was twenty-five cents apiece. This edition of Gatsby was reprinted twice in 1946, then again in 1951, 1952, and 1954. In 1949 a dust jacket was added to copies of the second 1946 printing to capitalize on the movie version of the novel. The 1949 movie starring the popular actor Alan Ladd and the low cost of the book helped boost sales figures to numbers Fitzgerald had never known in his lifetime. Available records for the last half of 1951 account for more than 160,000 copies sold.

submitted by: Catherine Lewis / [Index]

Birth of a Novelist

This December 1917 letter from F. Scott Fitzgerald to author Shane Leslie was written while Fitzgerald was trying to finish his first novel in the army training camp at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Anglo-Irish author Leslie, whom Fitzgerald had met while a student at the Newman School, recommended “The Romantic Egoist” to his own publisher, Charles Scribner’s Sons. Although Scribners decided against the novel, the rejection letter, dated 19 August 1918 and probably written by junior editor Maxwell Perkins, suggested revisions and encouraged Fitzgerald to resubmit. Fitzgerald, by then stationed at Montgomery, Alabama, quickly revised and resubmitted the novel, but in October Perkins again rejected it.

After his discharge from the army in February 1919, Fitzgerald temporarily shelved “The Romantic Egoist” while he worked at an ad agency in New York. In July 1919 he returned to his parents’ home in St. Paul, determined to devote himself full time to his novel. The revised manuscript, This Side of Paradise, was accepted 18 September 1919 and published on 26 March 1920.

This letter to Leslie describes the unusual mix of genres in “The Romantic Egoist,” which is also a trait of This Side of Paradise. For the title page of the published book Fitzgerald chose a different epigraph from Rupert Brooke, dropped the one by Gilbert Chesterton, and corrected the wording in the Oscar Wilde epigraph.

submitted by: Mary Sidney Watson / [Index]

The Man With Three Noses:
Fitzgerald’s Postcards to His Daughter

In January 1928 F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald traveled to Montreal as guests of the Canadian railways. He wrote a series of postcards to his daughter, Scottie, who was six years old at the time and had stayed home in Edgemoor, Delaware. On the fronts of the cards, Fitzgerald doodled cartoon figures of himself, Zelda, and “the man with three noses,” a comic character he had created for Scottie.

submitted by: Robert F. Moss / [Index]

Fitzgerald Centenary Comments

This page updated 12 May 2005.
Copyright 1996, the Board of Trustees of the University of South Carolina.
URL http://www.sc.edu/fitzgerald/facts/facts5.html