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ISSUE 118 VOL 3 PUBLISHED 10/1/2004

Fitzgerald celebrated: Fans gather from St. Paul to St. Peter's

By Allie Helling
Staff Writer

Friday, October 1, 2004

In F. Scott Fitzgerald's most famous work, "The Great Gatsby," an alert reader can even find a reference to St. Olaf in relation to Gatsby's less than magnificent past: "An instinct toward his future glory had led him, some months before, to the small Lutheran college of St. Olaf in Southern Minnesota." Alas, if only the description could end with this neutral, but somewhat pleasant tone. Instead, it continues: "He stayed there two weeks, dismayed at its ferocious indifference to the drums of his destiny, to destiny itself..." While St. Olaf seems not to be favored by Gatsby (and perhaps Fitzgerald as well) a reader can probably at least appreciate the author's poetic description.

F. Scott Fitzgerald is one of St. Paul's most celebrated sons and the author of what some consider the "great American novel," Fitzgerald, would probably be shocked to find that some sixty years after his death, his Sept. 24 birthday gives rise to huge festivals celebrating his life and works. The numerous festivals are not limited to Fitzgerald's St. Paul birthplace; they are also found thousands of miles away in such faraway cities as Rome.

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was born in St. Paul on Sept. 24, 1896, and his connections to the city and to the Midwest can be found in many of his works. Born to an affluent family, he lived in St. Paul as a child and later returned after meeting his wife, Zelda Sayre, while in Montgomery, Ala.

In 1996, to celebrate the centennial of Fitzgerald's birth, St. Paul held the F. Scott Fitzgerald Centennial Celebration. Selections of the author's works were read on the radio, a birthday cake was lighted and festival goers learned dances from the 1920's and took part in sessions given by participating writers, including Jane Smiley and Joseph Heller. The dedication of a bronze statue of Fitzgerald, located in St. Paul's downtown Rice Park, also drew the public's interest. For the dedicated fans of this literary giant, an exhibit displayed first-edition Fitzgerald books, and tours were given of the St. Paul neighborhood where the author lived as a child.

This past weekend, on Sept. 24 the St. Paul Public Library sponsored many events relating to Fitzgerald's birthday. The dedication of his birthplace as a National Literary Landmark marked the beginning of the festivities, and a walking tour of Fitzgerald's former neighborhood followed. The library also held a reception celebrating its new addition, an F. Scott Fitzgerald alcove.

Though it is the birthplace of the author, St. Paul is not the only city to host such festivals. Conferences and celebrations appear in cities all over the world, such as Rome, Italy, where a recent conference showed the 1949 movie version of, "The Great Gatsby." Within the United States, the Ninth Annual F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Conference will be held this October at Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland. Rockville holds importance to Fitzgerald's life, his father had family in this city. It is also where he, his wife Zelda and their daughter Scottie are buried.

The F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum in Montgomery, Ala. and organizations such as the F. Scott Fitzgerald Society, which encourages studies of Fitzgerald, give hope that Fitzgerald's contribution to American literature will never be forgotten. Furthermore, it seems that the renowned author who represents a snapshot of the reckless and extravagant, yet naive American "Jazz Age", will be celebrated for many years to come.

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