- Editors’ Note
The wind and rain were a welcome relief from the humidity of home. That was the first thought for many of us as we deplaned in Dublin in early July for the 13th International F. Scott Fitzgerald Conference, gamely titled “Gaelicly Yours, Scott Fitzgerald” by our incredibly able conference director, Professor Dustin Anderson of Georgia Southern University. Whether crossing the Atlantic Ocean, hopping the English Channel, or simply passing over the Irish Sea, escaping the damp weight of summer felt as if a burden were being lifted. Barely a year and a half had passed since our last conference in Montgomery, Alabama, in November 2013, but in so many ways so much had changed; the gulf between then and now felt vast enough that we worried that our fear that we had come unmoored and rudderless was too visible on our face.
Less than two weeks before the conference kickoff news arrived of the passing of Frances Kroll Ring, our last living link to Fitzgerald. A whole decade had gone by since Frances’s health had last allowed her to attend one of our conferences, but she remained our spiritual godmother. An affectionately sweet and generous woman who was also salty when we fawned too much over her, she embodied the attitude toward Fitzgerald we should all strive to emulate. Aware but forgiving of his faults, she loved the man wholeheartedly, striking a balance between celebrating what he had accomplished while acknowledging the career that could have been had he finished The Last Tycoon. Frances often challenged us to look beyond the conventional wisdoms that surround Fitzgerald, but not to look too far; she was not a fan of more ornate critical approaches and insisted that our focus ought to be on the man’s sensibility, on the ring of charm that echoes in his style and on his bittersweet outlook. She made very clear to us that he was fully in command of his craft while she worked as his secretary in 1939–40. Mostly she was amused by our interest in her. The obituaries that popped up online in the aftermath of her 18 June death cited a humorous line she had [End Page VII] cracked in a Los Angeles Times interview in 1996 when noting her celebrity among Fitzgerald fans: more than even wanting to know what Fitzgerald’s voice sounded like, or what brand of gin he drank, she said, mostly “they want to touch me.” Mostly we wanted to touch her because she touched so many of us.
Other concerns were on our mind in Ireland as well. We arrived fretting over conference attendance. For several years now we have wavered somewhere between 120 and 150 attendees, with international conferences somewhat smaller, thanks mainly to the drying-up of travel funds in American universities. In Montgomery we fell just shy of breaking 200, but for Ireland the numbers were not quite half of that. We could not remember a time since we had joined the Society that we did not make 100. Several last-minute cancellations from friends—some owing to health issues, some due to family concerns arising from the meltdown of the Greek economy that was happening that very week—made us wonder if the downturn would affect the atmosphere. Yet the very first glimpse of each other in hotel lobbies or at the City Hall council chamber on Dame Street where we gathered for a James Joyce literary tour soothed that worry. It was good to be among friends, to exchange hugs, and to share stories. Soon we were posing en masse for pictures along the Christ Church wall and enjoying pints at Davy Byrne’s.
The next day, despite a drenching shower right as we met at Trinity College to load buses to sojourn to our main conference site at the Waterford Institute of Technology, spirits and camaraderie remained high. This was in part because of the infusion of first-timers among us, who brought a level of enthusiasm that helped us get over the wet shoes, dripping umbrellas, and our worries over whether the Society was turning entropic. Fitzgerald conferences have always enjoyed a core audience of...