A Short Autobiography [NOOK Book]

Overview

A self-portrait of a great writer. A Short Autobiography charts Fitzgerald's progression from exuberant and cocky with "What I think and Feel at 25", to mature and reflective with "One Hundred False Starts" and "The Death of My Father." Compiled and edited by Professor James West, this revealing collection of personal essays and articles reveals the beloved author in his own words.
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A Short Autobiography

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Overview

A self-portrait of a great writer. A Short Autobiography charts Fitzgerald's progression from exuberant and cocky with "What I think and Feel at 25", to mature and reflective with "One Hundred False Starts" and "The Death of My Father." Compiled and edited by Professor James West, this revealing collection of personal essays and articles reveals the beloved author in his own words.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

His life has been the subject of biographies, novels, movies, and even musicals; but unlike so many of his contemporaries, F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) didn't write an autobiography. What he did leave us are 19 revealing personal essays that editor James L.W. West III has gathered and edited. Their topics and tones are various; from the exhilarating "What I Think and Feel at 25" to the reflective "The Death of My Father." Sides of a bestselling author we have never seen.

From the Publisher
"An intellectual autobiography [that] should inspire Fitzgerald readers new or returning...a pleasure to read." -Library Journal

“Jaunty, funny, sparkling, and self-mocking, and beneath the glinting wit, deeply reflective.” –Booklist

“Frequently funny and fast-paced.” –Associated Press

“Fitzgerald never wrote an autobiography, but this is the next best thing: A collection of 19 personal essays written over the course of his career. They include lighthearted, amusing pieces clearly designed to appeal to magazine editors and casual readers, as well as grimmer fare carved from the center of a broken heart..” –Chicago Tribune

Library Journal
At the time of his death, Fitzgerald had not published an autobiographical work of any sort—something almost unimaginable in today's climate. Now James L.W. West III, Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of English at Pennsylvania State University, has gathered 19 personal essays written from 1920 to 1940 and arranged them chronologically to disclose Fitzgerald's life story. From "What I Think and Feel at 25" to "One Hundred False Starts," these essays would seem to serve as an intellectual autobiography and should inspire Fitzgerald readers new or returning. With all the maundering memoirs out there, it should be a pleasure to read something like this, which carries more weight.
Kirkus Reviews

The title suggests something more significant than this collection of magazine essays delivers.

While the preface promises that this is "as close as we can now come to an autobiography" of F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896–1940), most of these pieces for the likes of the Saturday Evening Post, Ladies' Home Journal, College Humor et al. are breezy and slight, lacking the scope, depth and detail of autobiography—you'd never know from this volume that he'd wed a woman named Zelda or the nature of the troubles that ensued—let alone the richness of his fiction. Frequently strapped for cash, Fitzgerald had apparently proposed such a volume on at least a couple of occasions to his legendary editor Maxwell Perkins, who didn't think it to be worthy of a book. In fact, the title comes from one of the shorter pieces, a New Yorker casual from 1929 that traces a life through a progression of drink ("1923: Oceans of Canadian Ale with R. Lardner in Great Neck, Long Island"). Yet Fitzgerald fans will delight in the book's engagingly playful tone (which has the author switching from first to third person in referring to himself), the struggles of the creative process ("It would be nice to be able to distinguish useful work from mere labor expended. Perhaps that is part of the work itself—to find the difference") and the sense of literary mission in speaking to and for one's own generation. In the cheeky "What I Think and Feel at 25," Fitzgerald writes, "As old people run the world, an enormous camouflage has been built up to hide the fact that only young people are attractive or important." But, as the same essay acknowledges, "When I'm thirty I won't bethisme—I'll be somebody else."

This volume will mainly interest those who have already read everything else by and about the author ofThe Great Gatsby.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439199077
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 8/2/2011
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 292,599
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

F. Scott Fitzgerald was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1896, attended Princeton University, and published his first novel, This Side of Paradise, in 1920. That same year he married Zelda Sayre and the couple divided their time among New York, Paris, and the Riviera, becoming a part of the American expatriate circle that included Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, and John Dos Passos. Fitzgerald was a major new literary voice, and his masterpieces include The Beautiful and Damned, The Great Gatsby, and Tender Is the Night. He died of a heart attack in 1940 at the age of forty-four, while working on The Love of the Last Tycoon. For his sharp social insight and breathtaking lyricism, Fitzgerald is known as one of the most important American writers of the twentieth century.
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Read an Excerpt


Who’s Who—and Why

The history of my life is the history of the struggle between an overwhelming urge to write and a combination of circumstances bent on keeping me from it.

When I lived in St. Paul and was about twelve I wrote all through every class in school in the back of my geography book and first year Latin and on the margins of themes and declensions and mathematic problems. Two years later a family congress decided that the only way to force me to study was to send me to boarding school. This was a mistake. It took my mind off my writing. I decided to play football, to smoke, to go to college, to do all sorts of irrelevant things that had nothing to do with the real business of life, which, of course, was the proper mixture of description and dialogue in the short story.

But in school I went off on a new tack. I saw a musical comedy called “The Quaker Girl,” and from that day forth my desk bulged with Gilbert & Sullivan librettos and dozens of notebooks containing the germs of dozens of musical comedies.

Near the end of my last year at school I came across a new musical-comedy score lying on top of the piano. It was a show called “His Honor the Sultan,” and the title furnished the information that it had been presented by the Triangle Club of Princeton University.

That was enough for me. From then on the university question was settled. I was bound for Princeton.

I spent my entire freshman year writing an operetta for the Triangle Club. To do this I failed in algebra, trigonometry, coÖrdinate geometry and hygiene. But the Triangle Club accepted my show, and by tutoring all through a stuffy August I managed to come back a sophomore and act in it as a chorus girl. A little after this came a hiatus. My health broke down and I left college one December to spend the rest of the year recuperating in the West. Almost my final memory before I left was of writing a last lyric on that year’s Triangle production while in bed in the infirmary with a high fever.

The next year, 1916–17, found me back in college, but by this time I had decided that poetry was the only thing worth while, so with my head ringing with the meters of Swinburne and the matters of Rupert Brooke I spent the spring doing sonnets, ballads and rondels into the small hours. I had read somewhere that every great poet had written great poetry before he was twenty-one. I had only a year and, besides, war was impending. I must publish a book of startling verse before I was engulfed.

By autumn I was in an infantry officers’ training camp at Fort Leavenworth, with poetry in the discard and a brand-new ambition—I was writing an immortal novel. Every evening, concealing my pad behind “Small Problems for Infantry,” I wrote paragraph after paragraph on a somewhat edited history of me and my imagination. The outline of twenty-two chapters, four of them in verse, was made; two chapters were completed; and then I was detected and the game was up. I could write no more during study period.

This was a distinct complication. I had only three months to live—in those days all infantry officers thought they had only three months to live—and I had left no mark on the world. But such consuming ambition was not to be thwarted by a mere war. Every Saturday at one o’clock when the week’s work was over I hurried to the Officers’ Club, and there, in a corner of a roomful of smoke, conversation and rattling newspapers, I wrote a one-hundred-and-twenty-thousand-word novel on the consecutive week-ends of three months. There was no revising; there was no time for it. As I finished each chapter I sent it to a typist in Princeton.

Meanwhile I lived in its smeary pencil pages. The drills, marches and “Small Problems for Infantry” were a shadowy dream. My whole heart was concentrated upon my book.

I went to my regiment happy. I had written a novel. The war could now go on. I forgot paragraphs and pentameters, similes and syllogisms. I got to be a first lieutenant, got my orders overseas—and then the publishers wrote me that though “The Romantic Egotist” was the most original manuscript they had received for years they couldn’t publish it. It was crude and reached no conclusion.

It was six months after this that I arrived in New York and presented my card to the office boys of seven city editors asking to be taken on as a reporter. I had just turned twenty-two, the war was over, and I was going to trail murderers by day and do short stories by night. But the newspapers didn’t need me. They sent their office boys out to tell me they didn’t need me. They decided definitely and irrevocably by the sound of my name on a calling card that I was absolutely unfitted to be a reporter.

Instead I became an advertising man at ninety dollars a month, writing the slogans that while away the weary hours in rural trolley cars. After hours I wrote stories—from March to June. There were nineteen altogether, the quickest written in an hour and a half, the slowest in three days. No one bought them, no one sent personal letters. I had one hundred and twenty-two rejection slips pinned in a frieze about my room. I wrote movies. I wrote song lyrics. I wrote complicated advertising schemes. I wrote poems. I wrote sketches. I wrote jokes. Near the end of June I sold one story for thirty dollars.

On the Fourth of July, utterly disgusted with myself and all the editors, I went home to St. Paul and informed family and friends that I had given up my position and had come home to write a novel. They nodded politely, changed the subject and spoke of me very gently. But this time I knew what I was doing. I had a novel to write at last, and all through two hot months I wrote and revised and compiled and boiled down. On September fifteenth “This Side of Paradise” was accepted by special delivery.

In the next two months I wrote eight stories and sold nine. The ninth was accepted by the same magazine that had rejected it four months before. Then, in November, I sold my first story to the editors of the “Saturday Evening Post.” By February I had sold them half a dozen. Then my novel came out. Then I got married. Now I spend my time wondering how it all happened.

In the words of the immortal Julius Caesar: “That’s all there is; there isn’t any more.”

Saturday Evening Post, September 18, 1920

© 2011 James L. W. West III

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Table of Contents

Preface vii

Textual Note xiii

Who's Who-and Why (1920) 1

An Interview Mr. Fitzgerald F. Scott Fitzgerald (1920) 5

Three Cities (1921) 8

What I Think and Feel at 25 (1922) 11

Imagination-and a Few Mothers (1923) 25

How to Live on $36,000 a Year (1924) 35

How to Live on Practically Nothing a Year (1924) 51

"Wait Till You Have Children of Your Own!" (1924) 72

How to Waste Material-A Note on My Generation (1926) 85

Princeton (1927) 92

A Short Autobiography (with acknowledgements to Nathan) (1929) 105

Girls Believe in Girls (1930) 109

Salesmanship in the Champs-Élysées (1930) 116

The Death of My Father (unfinished) (1931) 118

One Hundred False Starts (1933) 121

Author's House (1936) 133

Afternoon of an Author (1936) 141

An Author's Mother (1936) 149

My Generation (1939/1940) 154

Annotations 163

Acknowledgments 195

About the Author 197

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