Washington Post book critic Jonathan Yardley extols the virtues of Andrew Turnbull’s Scott Fitzgerald: A Biography in his “Second Reading” series, which he calls “the ideal literary biography.”
Here’s a quick peek at Yardley's must-read column:
“One final quotation, one of my favorites from a book that is littered with favorites. It comes very early on and is about Fitzgerald's father:
"‘That Edward Fitzgerald had been cut out for failure was not altogether apparent at the time of his marriage. There was an air of distinction about this small, dapper man with the Vandyke, the rich, well-cut clothes, the erect carriage, the leisurely gait, the manner courteous yet not without a twinkle. His looks were fine, almost too fine -- like a pencil sharpened to the breaking point. One would never believe that this well-moulded head and delicate, sensitive profile could be a mask for dullness or stupidity. And yet -- what sometimes amounts to the same thing -- Edward Fitzgerald lacked vitality. As his son said, he came from 'tired, old stock.' In him there lingered a Southern indolence or gentleness or possibly just fatigue, that made him unadaptable to the hustling Midwest.’"
On June 4, Matthew J. Bruccoli, one of the foremost Fitzgerald scholars, died at the age of 76. He was the author of more than 60 books about Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, and other writers. (My go-to edition of The Great Gatsby features his introduction and notes.) You can read his obituary here.
This passage spoke to me:
“Matthew Joseph Bruccoli was born Aug. 21, 1931, in the Bronx, N.Y. In 1949, while riding in the back seat of his parents' Dodge, he heard a radio dramatization of Fitzgerald's story ‘The Diamond as Big as the Ritz..’
“He immediately set out to find books by Fitzgerald, whose literary star had fallen in the nine years since his death.
"‘I managed, within a week, to find a copy of The Great Gatsby, and I haven't stopped reading Fitzgerald or The Great Gatsby since,’ he told NPR in 1996.”