F. Scott Fitzgerald: Letters and essays

Fitzgerald lived in an age when, despite the existence of the telephone system, hand-writing letters was still commonplace, so that he left behind an abundance of exchanges between himself and his wife, his editor, his literary agent and his friends that were published in a number of different collections after his death in 1940.


Wir waren furchtbar gute Schauspieler

Wir waren furchtbar gute Schauspieler by Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald

On May 28, 1933, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald met in the presence of her doctor Thomas Rennie and a stenographer: Scott had asked for a typescript of the conversation to document the state of affairs between his wife and himself. Based on this protocol, their conversation has now been reenacted as an 109 minute audiobook (which is only available in German at this point) that will make anyone who is reasonably happily married grateful for not having sunk to the level of distrust and antipathy that seems to have ruled the relationship between Scott and Zelda during this period. Yet, at the same time, one cannot help but identfy with both of them, especially with how Zelda fights to maintain her own separate identity, but also with Scott's anger at what he perceives as her ungratefulness. In general, he comes across as a broken man at age 36, who is clinging to the emblem's of his worldly success, as he seems to have lost everything else he could have held on to. Listening to Scott and Zelda fighting is a painful reminder how completely lives can unravel, not by a single tragic twist of fate, but gradually, as a matter of course, abetted by too many wrong decisions, each of them insignificant in isolation, but devastating in their cumulative effect.

 

 

Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda

Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda Edited by Jackson R. Bryer and Cathy W. Barks

The letters that Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald exchanged span more than two decades, from the first love letter she wrote in 1918 to his final note from December 19, 1940. Nevertheless, their correspondence does not tell a continuous story, but one that is broken into two distinct parts, simply because Scott and Zelda only communicated in writing when they were apart, i.e. during their courtship and later when Zelda was hospitalized. There may be nothing special about these letters, except that they were written by two gifted writers. Yet, reading them in chronologial order makes the exuberance of their early days as well as the hardships they had to face during their final years come to life more vividly than the best biography could. Besides, since more of Zelda's than of Scott's letters have survived, her voice comes through loud and clear, so that readers who have turned to the collection because of their interest in Scott (and that is likely to be the majority) cannot help but acknowledge that Zelda was not just the wife of a famous author, but an equal part in their marriage and that their love survived life because they both felt more at home with each other than with anyone else.

 

 

The Crack-Up

The Crack-Up Edited by Edmund Wilson

The Crack-Up is a collection of essays that Fitzgerald published as he reached his nadir: His latest novel Tender is the Night had been a critical and financial failure, his wife had been institutionalized and the magazine short story market had dried up: "...until you realize with finality that in some regard you will never be as good a man again."

   
A Short Autobiography

A Short Autobiography Edited by James L. W. West III

Fitzgerald never worked on an autobiography, but throughout his life - from the start of his career in 1920 until shortly before his death in 1940 - he published several magazine articles and essays that reflected upon his personal life. The collection 'A Short Autobiography' arranges those texts in chronological order so that they trace the arc from the infectious self-assuredness of the successful young author (who never fails to regard himself with a sense of irony, though) to the somber reflections of a man who has outlived his prime - with the eponymous short piece 'A Short Autobiography' as the tipping point: it's nothing more than a list of different drinks consumed in different locations over the years. That literary prank aside, all of Fitzgerald's different attempts at self-portrayal are as enjoyable to read today as they presumably were to the magazine audiences of the 1920s and 1930s. While his exploration of the process of writing in 'One Hundred False Starts' may be the most elegant, most insightful text in the collection, the early accounts of Scott's marriage to Zelda in essays such as 'How to Live on $36,000 a Year' are probably the most enjoyable. It's inspiring how he presents their interaction, how he showcases them as a good team that enjoys strong camaraderie rather than as the epitome of romantic love. Perhaps he had already guessed that ultimately it would be loyalty and respect that, in its own strange way, would make their relationship last.

   
A Life in Letters: A New Collection

A Life in Letters: A New Collection Edited and Annotated by Matthew J. Bruccoli

This correspondence - edited by eminent Fitzgerald scholar Bruccoli - offers an accessible self-portrait of the writer. Early letters to his editor, Maxwell Perkins, and friends, Edmund Wilson and Ernest Hemingway, document Fitzgerald's devotion to craft, exemplified by The Great Gatsby, as well as the novelist's ever-present financial problems.

   
Dear Scott/Dear Max

Dear Scott/Dear Max: The Fitzgerald-Perkins Correspondence Edited by Jackson R. Bryer

Maxwell Perkins was a well-known editor at literary institution Scribner's. He was Fitzgerald's editor, mentor and creditor. Their correspondence offers not only a lot of literary gossip, but also rare insights into Fitzgerald's devotion to his craft.

   
As Ever, Scott Fitz-

As Ever, Scott Fitz- Edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli

A collection of letters between Fitzgerald and his literary agent Harold Ober. Their correspondence ranges from 1919 to 1940.

 
F. Scott Fitzgerald - An Annotated Bibliography