Sunday, August 4, 2013

F. Scott Fitzgerald's Suggested Reading List

The story takes place in the mid 1930s.  F. Scott Fitzgerald was in a bad way.  He was battling alcoholism and depression.  His wife, Zelda, was admitted to the Highland Hospital of North Carolina.  While staying at the Grove Park Inn, in Asheville, NC, he fired a revolver in a suicide attempt.  After that, the Grove Park Inn wanted him to leave, but allowed him to stay if he had someone to look after him.

Enter Dorothy Richardson.  Dorothy was both his nurse and companion.  The story goes that he eventually became friends with her and wanted to help her literary growth.  So he gave her a list of 22 books that he recommended.  Richardson wrote at the top of the list the following words:

"These are books that S.F. thought should be required reading."

Here's a photo of the list.  It's copyrighted so I can give the link but not show the photo here.

And here is my translation of that list:
  • Sister Carrie, by Theodore Dreiser
  • The Life of Jesus, by Ernest Renan
  • A Doll’s House, by Henrik Ibsen
  • Winesburg, Ohio, by Sherwood Anderson
  • The Old Wives’ Tale, by Arnold Bennett
  • The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiel Hammett
  • The Red and the Black, by Stendahl
  • The Short Stories of Guy De Maupassant (translated by Michael Monahan)
  • An Outline of Abnormal Psychology (edited by Gardner Murphy)
  • The Stories of Anton Chekhov (edited by Robert D. Linscott)
  • The Best American Humorous Short Stories (edited by Alexander Jessup)
  • Victory, by Joseph Conrad
  • The Revolt of the Angels, by Anatole France
  • The Plays of Oscar Wilde
  • Sanctuary, by William Faulkner
  • Within a Budding Grove, by Marcel Proust
  • The Guermantes Way, by Marcel Proust
  • Swann’s Way, by Marcel Proust
  • South Wind, by Norman Douglas
  • The Garden Party, by Katherine Mansfield
  • War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy
  • John Keats and Percy Shelley, Complete Poetical Works

The story is interesting.  I wonder why this is just hitting the news now.  A few days ago it appeared on a few news sites, and several others picked it up.  But the list was posted in 2005 on the University of South Carolina website.  Also, when did Dorothy Richardson make the list public?  The website has other interesting tidbits about Fitzgerald.

One thing that struck me about this list was that I haven't even heard of some of these books.  I'm sure that's true of most people.  The big ones stand out - War and Peace, Oscar Wilde, Keats and Shelley, and a few others.

I'm also surprised at the number of people out there who are angered for what's not included.  So what if there's no Dickens or Shakespeare.  This is Fitzgerald's list, not yours or mine.  He is allowed to like whatever he likes.  People need to chill out when it comes to criticizing other's tastes or takes on something so subjective as literature.  Make your own list.  Send it to me or post it in the comments and we can discuss it.

But remember, everyone is different.  I would include Mark Twain, but that's just me.  Growing up, I read a lot of Hardy Boys and the like.  Perhaps it influenced my tastes.  But by high school I was reading Utopia and Moby Dick just for fun.  So again, everyone's reading list will be different.  What would be the fun in having everyone walk in lockstep, without any disagreement?  In any book, there might be something that stands out for you based on your own life experience, something that doesn't even strike a chord with someone else.

F. Scott Fitzgerald is considered by many to be one of the greats of American Literature.  Many lists today would include his books.  Actually, that would have been pretty funny if he had handed Dorothy Richardson a list of his own books and said, "Here, knock yourself out."

No comments:

Post a Comment