FitzFirst@Four is a monthly discussion group, focused on the short stories of F Scott Fitzgerald. It meets at 4:00pm on the first Sunday of every month at Common Good Books. Hosted by Fitzgerald in Saint Paul, the series is co-sponsored by The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library and Common Good Books. For more information, contact Fitzgerald in Saint Paul at email@example.com, or visit www.fitzgeraldinsaintpaul.org. Fitzgerald in Saint Paul is dedicated to celebrating the life and literature of F. Scott Fitzgerald, the revered American author and cultural icon, in his hometown of Saint Paul. Events are free and open to the public.
Written in 1935, at the height of the Depression, and at arguably the low point of Fitzgerald’s personal and professional life, The Crack-Up essays provide an intensely personal view of Fitzgerald’s “sudden descent at the age of thirty-nine from glamorous success to empty despair.” In 1935, Fitzgerald had retreated to the Skylands Hotel in Hendersonville, North Carolina. His lungs, weakened by an earlier bout with tuberculosis and decades of tobacco smoke, played a significant part in choosing a sleepy town on the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains as his refuge. However, within days of arriving there, he had broken his shoulder diving into the local swimming hole, was medicating himself with local moonshine, mourning the loss of his mother, and working intensely to pay the bills for both his wife Zelda’s extended psychiatric hospital stay and his daughter Scottie’s boarding school tuition.
What emerged from this period, was a collection of three extraordinary essays, published in 1936 in Esquire, by a writer on the edge of both physical and spiritual exhaustion, who was determined, nonetheless, to recover. As he reminded his readers: “… the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.”
A discussion led by historian Laura Iandola following the free presentation will provide audience members with the opportunity to reflect on Fitzgerald’s revealing assessment of his life and times in his late 30s. Iandola, a frequent presenter at FitzFirst@Four events and a board member of Fitzgerald in Saint Paul, will look at the context of Fitzgerald’s courageous confessional, and some contemporary reactions to his extensive soul-baring. Participants are encouraged to read The Crack-Up essays in advance and to contribute to the discussion.