Monday, September 24, 2012

Happy Birthday, F. Scott Fitzgerald!

This day has been marked on your calendar, right?  In honor of my guy, I’m going to celebrate his birthday by giving away a Princeton T-shirt from the official university shop.  (Entry details below.)

Here’s the vintage-feel one I had in mind (which comes in women's sizes), but if you don’t like it, I’ll put $25 toward any other shirt on the site:

And don’t worry about wearing a Princeton shirt if you didn’t graduate from the school…neither did Fitzgerald!

Here’s an interesting piece about Fitzgerald’s time at Princeton; apparently the school didn’t feel too warmly about him for quite a while—though he was reading the alumni newsletter when he had his fatal heart attack.  And his classmates put together a nice tribute to him in the newsletter:

Many of us of the Class of 1917 felt that a bright page of our youth had been torn out and crumpled up when we learned of the death of Scott Fitzgerald, who died of a heart attack in Hollywood, Calif., on December 21. Scott’s whole early career is typified in his very first face to face encounter with the authorities at Princeton. He needed extra points to be admitted to the freshman class, and, on his unconventional plea before the faculty committee that it was his seventeenth birthday, the members of the committee laughed and admitted him. ….

More than any other man in college in his time, he was aware of, and intensely interested in, every fashion and custom, the history and background of every undergraduate organization, and, above all, the personalities who composed these organizations, and who later became the characters in his most popular stories. His intense interest in every phase of the University’s social life and his eagerness to dissect it on every occasion made him a rare companion – interesting, amusing, provocative, sometimes annoying, but never dull. …

And here’s an essay on Princeton Fitzgerald wrote for College Humor in 1927.  Angry, nostalgic, cutting, melodramatic, amusing, complicated—just like college years tend to be:

In preparatory school and up to the middle of sophomore year in college, it worried me that I wasn’t going and hadn’t gone to Yale. Was I missing a great American secret? There was a gloss upon Yale that Princeton lacked; Princeton’s flannels hadn’t been pressed for a week, its hair always blew a little in the wind. Nothing was ever carried through at Princeton with the same perfection as the Yale Junior Prom or the elections to their senior societies. From the ragged squabble of club elections with its scars of snobbishness and adolescent heartbreak, to the enigma that faced you at the end of senior year as to what Princeton was and what, bunk and cant aside, it really stood for, it never presented itself with Yale’s hard, neat, fascinating brightness. Only when you tried to tear part of your past out of your heart, as I once did, were you aware of its power of arousing a deep and imperishable love.

As Amory Blaine said in This Side of Paradise, “It was always the becoming he dreamed of, never the being.”

How to win this shirt, symbolizing the complex yearning of Fitzgerald’s oeuvre and life? Email me at Lpietr AT with “Scott” in the subject header before 5 PM EST on Thursday, September 27. Yes, it’s okay if you know me or if I teach/taught you.  Yes, it’s okay if you don’t. The man who came up with the idea to give away a Princeton shirt—my super-clever, Gatsby-loving husband—will draw a random winner who I will contact and make arrangements with.  No worries—I’m not going to put your email on any kind of list…I can barely pull it together to get that photograph on the blog!


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.