- Editors’ Note
After a tumultuous 2017, the first half of this year felt blessedly low key. Exactly twelve months ago we were hemorrhaging from the double-barrel blast of Amazon.com cancelling not one but two F. Scott Fitzgerald-related television shows after only a single season of thirteen episodes each: the Zelda Fitzgerald “bioseries” Z and the elaborately expanded, handsomely designed adaptation of The Last Tycoon. As one sure sign of just how traumatic this bad news was, we speculated about what the abrupt plug-pulling might mean for Fitzgerald’s reputation in both the Editors’ Note to last year’s F. Scott Fitzgerald Review and in the F. Scott Fitzgerald Society Newsletter. As 2018 began, it seemed as if we would nurse this wound until the dull roots bred lilacs out of the dead land (thanks to spring rain, of course), perpetuating that haunting, nostalgic mixture of memory and desire. By mid-January, though, in the grip of an unusually bitter and frosty winter—three separate holiday snowfalls in Zelda’s hometown of Montgomery, Alabama—the mourning cauterized, and the leafless landscape gave us some cold, stoic clarity. Our next conference was in the works, set for Toulouse, France; new studies of Fitzgerald were forthcoming; and rumors of the latest TV adaptation—of Tender Is the Night, no less (!)—were swirling like snowflakes in the Southern air (White). There was still plenty of life yet in the old dried tubers.
By July, however, we began to wonder if Fitzgerald-related news had not gone a little too quiet. Google Alerts reported occasional bursts of activity: the Fitzgerald Museum in Montgomery had converted an upstairs apartment into an Airbnb, garnering national notices (Trombetta); Society member Richard “Deej” Webb’s book on the Fitzgeralds in Connecticut, Boats Against the Current: The Honeymoon Summer of Scott and Zelda: Westport, Connecticut 1920—reviewed in this issue by Steven Goldleaf—was inspiring debates in the New York Times over Westport’s influence on The Great Gatsby (Barron); [End Page vii] and the bedding manufacturer Siscovers announced a deal with the Fitzgerald estate to market a branded line of sheets, duvets, coverlets, and pillows featuring some fifty different fabrics that promised to bring the Roaring Twenties back to the bedroom (“Siscovers Unveiling F. Scott Fitzgerald Bedding”). Yet no matter how exciting these stories, a vague sensation remained that something was missing. We did not put a name to that absence until a colleague mentioned in passing Zelda’s approaching birthday on 24 July—her 118th birthday. The mere mention of “eighteen” struck a note on a tuning fork of familiarity, and suddenly we realized with not a little professional chagrin what we had overlooked:
The centennial of Scott and Zelda meeting.
Literary anniversaries are funny things. Something inexorably fly-in-amber about them seems counterintuitive to the pressing need in an age of diminishing literacy to revivify our reading and rediscover in works that have been around a long time both their cultural importance and the formal beauty of their words. Nearly a decade ago, the Los Angeles Times paused in a commemoration of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885) to reflect on why we are so compelled to observe the birthdays of artistic landmarks: “It’s a perfect time to reconsider [Twain’s] importance, not because of these anniversaries but in spite of them. Such occasions, after all, often obscure our ability to engage with a writer; they become mausoleums built around the life and work” (Ulin). As a sign of how impenetrable to facts these walls can be, the occasion was the 125th anniversary of Twain’s most famous novel, but the Times mistakenly declared 2010 the 175th, which will not happen until 2060. It was, rather, the 175th anniversary of Twain’s birth— or, rather, of the birth of Samuel Clemens. Given that Clemens first employed his soon-to-be-famous nom-de-plume in 1863 (Twain, “Letter from Carson City”), the actual 175th birthday of “Mark Twain” is not technically until 2038. Such complexities dramatize why tracking anniversaries can be so confusing, but the point remains: rather than resuscitate a writer or work from history with a...