LLR Books

Scott Fitzgerald's flask, on the anniversary of his death

Seventy years ago today, F. Scott Fitzgerald died after having a heart attack in his girlfriend's apartment in West Hollywood. It was his second heart attack in a few short months; he was 44.

Fitzgerald is, of course, the author of "The Great Gatsby," the lasting novel of American ambition, hubris, wealth and failure. In his lifetime, Fitzgerald saw both great success and great disappointments -- most of his books were out of print when he died. Yet today, many of his works are important: "Tender Is the Night," "Tales of the Jazz Age," "This Side of Paradise," even "The Last Tycoon," which was unfinished when he died.

Open Culture has posted an audio recording of Fitzgerald reading the John Keats poem "Ode to a Nightingale," which one scholar thinks was recorded in Fitzgerald's last year, "perhaps in a self-recording phonograph booth in Southern California."

The recording comes from the Fitzgerald Collection at the University of South Carolina. The collection comprises 12,000 items assembled by Fitzgerald scholar Matthew Bruccoli. Among its more unusual items are a briefcase with Fitzgerald's name stamped into the leather, a signed copy of "Ulysses" with a note to Fitzgerald from James Joyce and a flask, inscribed:

To 1st Lt. F. Scott Fitzgerald
 65th Infantry
 Camp Sheridan

 Montgomery, Ala

In 2009, David L. Ulin talked with Frances Kroll Ring, Fitzgerald's last secretary, now in her 90s. "He told me he was going to do a novel about Hollywood," Ring says. "That was another thing: Could he trust me? Because he didn't want anyone to know what he was doing." She also noted, "He was very pale and had very blue eyes, and he was a charmer."