LLR Books

The quotable Fitzgerald

[She] had been designed for change, for flight, with money as fins and wings. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender Is The Night

Either you think—or else others have to think for you and take power from you, pervert and discipline your natural tastes, civilize and sterilize you. F. Scott Fitzerald, Tender Is The Night

 He had long been outside of the world of simple desires and their fulfillments, and he was inept and uncertain. For all he knew there might be some code among the wanderers of obscure spas by which they found each other quickly. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender Is The Night

 I don’t ask you to love me always like this, but I ask you to remember. Somewhere inside me there’ll always be the person I am tonight. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender Is The Night

 Actually that’s my secret — I can’t even talk about you to anybody because I don’t want any more people to know how wonderful you are. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender Is The Night

Just found this one: 
 If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away. F. Scott Fitzerald, The Great Gatsby

House where ‘Great Gatsby’ writer lived now an Alabama museum with Airbnb upstairs

MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA – As she sat in the house where “Great Gatsby” writer F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, once lived, a visitor contemplated the famous Jazz Age couple.
“I tried to imagine how maybe Scott would tell a joke and Zelda would laugh,” said Farong Zhu, a Fulbright scholar from China who translated Zelda’s only novel, “Save Me the Waltz,” into Chinese. “Everything was very beautiful. I was so excited to be close to the Fitzgeralds, I couldn’t sleep well the first night.”
But you don’t have to be a literary scholar to stay in this apartment upstairs from the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum in Montgomery, Alabama. The Fitzgeralds lived in the house in 1931 and 1932, and for $150 a night, anyone can rent the apartment on Airbnb . There’s nothing else quite like it in the rental website’s inventory, according to Airbnb spokeswoman Alyssa McEwan.
It’s also the only site on the Southern Literary Trail open to the public for overnight stays. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for travelers,” said trail director Sarah McCullough. “And of course it generates revenue,” always a challenge for historic sites.
Fitzgerald Museum director Sara Powell said she worried when rentals began in April that visitors might throw wild “Gatsby”-style parties. But those concerns proved unjustified. As McCullough put it, “Most of the people who would want to stay there probably have a great love for the writer and the writer’s work and would have great respect for the property.”
The house dates to 1910. The apartment is furnished in casual 20th century style: sofa, armchairs, decorative lamps, Oriental rug, and pillows embroidered with quotes from Zelda like this one: “Those men think I’m purely decorative and they’re fools for not knowing better.” It has two bedrooms, a working kitchen and Wi-Fi, but the ambiance evokes another era, with a record player and jazz albums, a balcony and flowering magnolia trees in the yard, all tucked away on a quiet street in Montgomery’s historic Old Cloverdale neighborhood.
“It’s hard for writers to be disconnected from their own world, even for a second,” Powell said. “We’ve had people tell us it was so good to be up there, even for a couple of days. You do unplug and get out of your headspace.”
Though the Fitzgeralds didn’t live in the house for long, Montgomery was important in their celebrated, tumultuous lives. Zelda was a Montgomery native, and they met at a country club here in 1918 during World War I. She was a teenage debutante and he was stationed at a nearby military base.
Once married, rich and rootless, they moved from place to place, including Paris and New York, where a stay on Long Island planted the seed for “Gatsby.” In Montgomery, he worked on “Tender Is the Night” and she wrote “Save Me the Waltz.” It was the last place they lived together with their daughter, Scottie, who turned 10 there and later was sent to boarding school. F. Scott, an alcoholic, died at age 44. Zelda battled mental illness and perished in a hospital fire at age 47.
In the 1980s, the house was threatened with demolition to make way for condos. Local lawyer Julian McPhillips and his wife, Leslie, bought the house and established a nonprofit for it. McPhillips is a Princeton University alumnus; Fitzgerald also attended Princeton, and the museum displays a copy of his Princeton transcript, showing many dropped courses before he left school to join the military. The museum also owns 11 of Zelda’s paintings, personal belongings like an inkwell and beaded purse, and first editions of Fitzgerald’s novels.
As a tourist destination, Montgomery is best-known for civil rights history. This is where Rosa Parks refused to surrender her seat on a bus to a white man, sparking a bus boycott by African-Americans that resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court declaring segregation on public buses unconstitutional. That protest also turned a young Montgomery minister, Martin Luther King Jr., into the leader of the civil rights movement.
In April, two new sites opened in Montgomery that are already attracting a lot of attention: a memorial to victims of racial terror lynchings, and The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration.
Powell is looking for ways to connect with visitors coming to experience these other attractions. She’s developing a workshop for 2019 looking at how race relations were impacted by an 1890s election law named for Zelda’s father, Judge Anthony Sayre, that made it harder for illiterate and semi-illiterate citizens to vote. And while Fitzgerald scholars like Zhu are a natural fit for writers’ residences, Powell is open to proposals on any topic.
Katherine Malone-France, vice president of historic sites at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, says the Airbnb rental and writers’ residencies are great ways to keep places like the Fitzgerald house “financially sustainable and culturally sustainable” while remaining “respectful and relevant to their pasts.”
“That is the best way to preserve something: To use it,” she said.

Fitzgerald through the eyes of his publisher

By Grace McQuade

 “Reading is a means of thinking with another person’s mind. It forces you to stretch your own… there’s no substitute for one human mind meeting another on the page of a well-written book.”
Those were the eloquent words Charles Scribner III shared while referencing his late father at the start of a talk he recently gave at the Nassau County Museum of Art, one of many inspired events the museum is hosting this season to coincide with the exhibit, Anything Goes: The Jazz Age.
The name Scribner has graced bookshelves for more than a century and a half. Since its founding in 1846, the publishing company, known for many years as Charles Scribner’s Sons, has introduced the works of literary icons including Hemingway, Wharton, Wolfe, and Vonnegut, as well as F. Scott Fitzgerald, the subject Scribner’s lecture.
In his introduction, museum director Charles Riley called this fourth generation Scribner and Princeton graduate “a speaker of another time… of a better time.”
That proved true as Scribner delivered an artfully composed talk about Fitzgerald and his close connection to the author who masterfully depicted the magical era in which he lived.
“Fitzgerald’s life and career bounced between success and setbacks like the alternating current of major and minor keys in a Mozart symphony,” Scribner said.
Born in 1896 on the cusp of a new century, Scribner described Fitzgerald’s work as reflecting both “the romantic dreams and lyricism of 19th century America” and “the syncopated jazz of the 20th.”
“From his earliest days, Scott wanted nothing more than to be a writer,” said Scribner. He saw his first mystery in print at the age of 13, and wrote musical comedies for Princeton University’s theatre troupe, the Triangle Club, before flunking out. “Chemistry was the culprit,” Scribner revealed.
So Fitzgerald joined the army and wrote his first novel, “This Side of Paradise,” his youthful ode to Princeton, infusing “the greenery and gothic spires with a spirit, with a soul, with life,” Scribner said.
Scribner’s great-grandfather turned the book down twice, but after several revisions he signed Fitzgerald up in 1919 under the guidance of the talented young editor, Maxwell Perkins. The book was published the following year and was a literary success.
Scribner recalls the first time he read this novel when he was a freshman at Princeton in 1969. Not fond of the “big impersonal place” compared to his boarding school, he said, “Well, for me it was not love at first sight,” referring to his early days at the university, “but thanks to Fitzgerald it was love at first reading.”
During his sophomore year, Scribner read Fitzgerald’s short story, “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz,” saying, “… when I first encountered that literary jewel … it was an evening train ride from Princeton to Philadelphia and that commute was converted into a fantastic voyage fueled, I have to confess, by a little pewter flask I brought along.”
Upon earning degrees in art history and transitioning into the family business, Scribner said that Fitzgerald continued to inspire his life when he started out as a fledgling editor.
“Ensconced at Max Perkins’ old desk at Scribner’s, which I was given because the senior editor complained that it ran her stockings, I dreamed up as my first book project in 1975 a revival of Fitzgerald’s obscure and star-crossed play ‘The Vegetable, or From President to Postman,’ which featured a presidential impeachment.”
Ironically, the play opened at Nixon’s Apollo Theatre in Atlantic City. Unfortunately for Fitzgerald, it quickly closed. Scribner said the following about the supposed failure, “Fitzgerald considered his year and a half on ‘The Vegetable’ a complete waste, but I disagree for he followed it with a new novel written with all the economy and tight structure of a successful play.”
This book was “The Great Gatsby.”
“Both ‘The Vegetable’ and ‘Gatsby’ shared the theme of the American dream, first as a spoof for a comedy, then a light motif for a lyric novel,” Scribner said.
Fitzgerald shared the idea for his new novel with Perkins in 1922. “I want to write something new, something extraordinary, and beautiful, and simple, and intricately patterned,” Scribner quoted Fitzgerald saying.
“He succeeded in spades,” Scribner said, but not without a number of changes to the manuscript on its road to publication.
The novel many have come to associate with the North Shore of Long Island during the Roaring Twenties was actually originally set in the Midwest and New York around 1885, Scribner said. The setting may have changed when Fitzgerald began to write the first draft in 1923 in the house he and his wife Zelda were renting at the time in Great Neck.
The following year, Fitzgerald wrote to Perkins that he was working on a new angle in Gatsby’s story. “I think he meant by that through the eyes of that inspiring narrator Nick Carraway,” Scribner said.
Then seven months before publication, Perkins commissioned the artist Francis Cugat to design the book cover. The initial sketches included images of the Long Island Railroad, faces like balloons in the sky, and carnival lights, which Scribner said most likely influenced Fitzgerald’s pervasive use of light throughout the novel, specifically Carraway’s descriptions of Gatsby’s place lit up like the World’s Fair and Daisy Buchanan’s “bright eyes.”
“In Cugat’s final picture,” Scribner says, “we see her celestial eyes enclose reclining nudes and her streaming tear is green like the light that burns all night at the end of her dock reflected in the water of the sound that separates her from Gatsby.”
The original artwork of this iconic image is the showpiece of The Jazz Age exhibit that Scribner calls “imaginative.”
Despite his story’s evolution, Scribner said that “Fitzgerald never abandoned his determination to limit the timeframe, giving sharper focus to the plot and characters than he’d done in his two earlier novels.”
The novel’s title, however, was the subject of frequent debate, going from “Among Ash Heaps and Millionaires,” to “Trimalchio in West Egg” after Fitzgerald’s sojourn in Rome in the fall of 1924, to “Under the Red, White and Blue” when he was in Paris a mere three weeks before publication date.
Thankfully, Perkins’ favorite title, which he said was “effective and suggestive,” was restored, and “The Great Gatsby” was published on April 10, 1925.
“The reviews were mixed,” Scribner said. The New York World called the book “a dud.” The renowned critic H.L. Mencken thought the story was inferior, but said “there are pages so artfully contrived that one can no more imagine improvising them than one can imagine improvising a fugue.”
In its first year of publication, “Gatsby” didn’t achieve the commercial success of his first two novels, “This Side of Paradise” and “The Beautiful and the Damned.”
And in the years to come, time wasn’t on Fitzgerald’s side. The Jazz Age soon ushered in the Great Depression, and the party times led to bread lines, Scribner said, making Fitzgerald’s story filled with flappers and lavish galas “politically incorrect.”
“His fleeting literary fortunes, a dozen years of commercial success followed by distractions and disappointments… it all ended in 1940 with a fatal heart attack at the age of 44,” Scribner said. “He was then hard at work on ‘The Last Tycoon,’ the Hollywood novel he hoped would restore his reputation.”
Through the years, the Scribner sons each did their part to support Fitzgerald and his literature. Scribner’s grandfather not only published Fitzgerald, he was his contemporary and close friend. Scribner’s father oversaw a resurgence of interest in Fitzgerald in the 1950s when the country was booming again. And Scribner not only reissued Fitzgerald works decades later, he also revived the original “Gatsby” book cover, one of the most celebrated pieces of art in American literature now on display in Roslyn.
Today, the places made famous by Fitzgerald are much different, says Scribner. The Valley of Ashes that he so vividly described in “Gatsby” is Citi Field. The house on Manhasset Bay in Sands Point that is believed to be the model for the Buchanans’ estate has been torn down. And Riley, in his opening remarks, lamented that Scribner’s historic office building on Fifth Avenue is now a Lulu Lemon.
What hasn’t changed, however, since the middle part of the last century is the continued fascination in Fitzgerald. “More copies of Fitzgerald books are now sold every fortnight than the entire cumulative sales of his lifetime,” Scribner said, and his books are widely translated in many languages.
Princeton University Library’s archives of Fitzgerald’s papers, once turned down, are the most widely consulted holdings by scholars from across the globe.
There have been five big screen adaptations of “The Great Gatsby” from the 1926 silent film to the 2013 rap-rock opera starring Leonardo DiCaprio, although Scribner’s favorite is the lesser-known BBC/A&E version featuring Toby Stephens, the son of “Downton Abbey’s” Maggie Smith.
And Fitzgerald’s novels and stories are still studied in high schools and colleges around the world.
For Scribner, the key to Fitzgerald’s enduring enchantment “lies in the power of his romantic imagination to transfigure his characters and settings, as well as the very shape and sound of his prose… the ultimate effect, once the initial reverberation of imagery and language have subsided, transcends the bounds of fiction,” he says.
Fitzgerald summed up his own theory of writing in one sentence: “An author ought to write for the youth of his own generation, the critics of the next, and the schoolmasters of ever afterward.”
So perhaps Fitzgerald’s lasting legacy lies with young readers of today and tomorrow.
While teaching a freshman class at New York University several years ago, Scribner discussed what makes a classic novel and asked the class if they thought “The Great Gatsby” was overrated.
One student raised his hand and said yes because his idea of a classic was a long, 600-page saga like “Gone with the Wind.”
When Scribner proceeded to ask the student what he thought Fitzgerald was missing to prevent “Gatsby” from being included in this category, he responded, “Well, you know, he left out those long boring sections you have to read through before you get to the next moment.”

“So that’s a classic,” Scribner said.