“The Real F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thirty-Five Years Later”

Sheilah GrahamSheilah Graham was a Hollywood gossip columnist and writer who dated F. Scott Fitzgerald for the last three years of his life. She wrote three books about their relationship; Beloved InfidelCollege of One: The Story of How F. Scott Fitzgerald Educated the Woman He Loved, and 1976’s The Real F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thirty-Five Years Later.

“I had not been much impressed with This Side of Paradise, which I had read after Scott went to enormous trouble to find a second-hand copy for me because this, his first novel, was out of print–as were all the others. ‘Well,’ I said, while he waited eagerly for my opinion, ‘it isn’t Dickens.’ He was naturally annoyed. How could I have been so tactless? And even though he told me in later years that he was embarrassed by his first novel, he had hoped I would find it interesting. At that time I knew nothing of American college life and, in addition, had no idea that he had based most of the characters in the book on real-life Princeton people–Bunny Wilson, John Peale Bishop, and his first love, Ginevra King…

…Some years after Scott’s death, when I reread everything he had written, I realized that I had not done him full justice as a writer while he was alive. Except for a few short stories which he himself considered ‘trash’–especially some of the ‘Pat Hobbys,’ I now admired all his work, including the copious notes for past, present, and future use and the first two novels, which I could now appreciate for their humor and knowing who the characters were. I decided Scott was right to place himself in the ranks of Henry James, Joyce, and Conrad, and I agreed with his estimation of the particular nature of his talent. ‘If I had lived in another age,’ he had told me ‘I would have been a poet. But there’s no money in poetry now.’ In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries poets were fashionable and well paid; in our day they got very little. ‘But I try to make my prose into a sort of poetry and still be paid as a prose writer.’ Like Shakespeare or Samuel Butler, Scott was always aware of his financial worth to the public. Dr. Johnson said that a man was a fool if he did not write for money. Scott was not a fool, and he always needed money. He studied his market and wrote prose–remarkable for its poetic quality.”

The Real F. Scott FItzgerald, Thirty-Five Years Later, Sheilah Graham, W. H. Allen, 1976.