by Heywood Broun

Having from time to time set down our impressions of F. Scott Fitzgerald, who wrote This Side of Paradise, it seems only fair to step aside and let Mr. Fitzgerald talk for himself, as he does in an interview by Carleton R. Davis, which is sent to us by Scribner’s.

“With the distinct intention of taking Mr. Fitzgerald by surprise I ascended to the twenty-fifth floor of the Biltmore[1] and knocked in the best waiter- manner at the door. On entering, my first impression was one of confusion—a sort of rummage sale confusion. A young man was standing in the center of the room, twining an absent glance first at one side of the room and then at the other.

“‘I’m looking for my hat,’ he Said, dazedly. ‘How do you do? Come on in and sit down on the bed.’

“The author of This Side of Paradise is sturdy, broad shouldered and just about medium height, He has blond hair, with the suggestion of a wave, and alert green eyes—melange somewhat Nordic—and good looking, too, which was disconcerting, as I had somehow expected a thin nose and spectacles.

“We had preliminaries—but I will omit the preliminaries—they consisted in searching for things, cigarettes, a blue tie with white dots, an ash tray. But as he was obviously quite willing to talk and seemed quite receptive to my questions, we launched off directly on his ideas of literature.

“‘How long did it take to write your book?’ I began.

“‘To write it—three months. To conceive it—three minutes. To collect the data in it—all my life. The idea of writing it occurred to me on the first of  last July. It was sort of a substitute form of dissipation[2].’

“‘What are your plans now?’ I asked him.

“He gave, a long sigh and shrugged his shoulders.

“‘I’ll be darned if I know. The scope and depth and breadth of my writings lie in the laps of the gods. If knowledge comes naturally, through interest, as Shaw learned his political economy or as Wells devoured modem science— why, that’ll be slick. On study itself—that is, in ‘reading up’ a subject—I haven’t anthill moving faith. Knowledge must cry put to be known—cry out that only I can know it, and then I'll swim in it to satiety, as I’ve swum in—in many things.’

“‘Please be frank.’

‘“Well, you know if you’ve read my book, I’ve swum in various seas of adolescent egotism. But what I meant was that if big things never grip me—well, it simply means I’m not cut out to be big. This conscious struggle to find bigness outside, to substitute bigness of theme for bigness of perception, to create an objective Magnum Opus such as “The Ring and the Book”[3]— well, all that’s the antithesis' of my literary aims.

“‘Another thing,’ he continued. ‘My idea is always to reach my generation. The wise writer, I think, writes for the youth of his own generation, the critics of the next and the schoolmasters of ever afterward[4]. Granted the ability to improve what he imitates in the way of style, to choose from his own interpretation of the experiences around him what constitutes material, and we get the first-water genius.’

“Do you expect to be—to be—well, part, of the great literary tradition?’ I asked, timidly.

“He became excited. He smiled radiantly. I saw he had an answer to this.

“‘There’s no great literary tradition,’ he burst out. ‘There’s only the tradition of the eventual death of every literary tradition. The wise literary son kills his own father.’

“After this he began enthusiastically oh style.

“By style, I mean color,’ he said. ‘I want to be able to do anything with words: handle slashing, flaming descriptions like Wells, and use the paradox with the clarity of Samuel Butler, the breadth of Bernard Shaw and the wit of Oscar Wilde. I want to do the wide sultry heavens of Conrad, the rolled- gold sundowns and crazy-quilt skips of Hichens[5] and Kipling, as well as the pastel dawns and twilights of Chesterton[6]. All that is by way of example. As a matter of fact, I am a professed literary thief, hot after the best methods of every writer in my generation.’”

Having heard Mr. Fitzgerald, we are not entirely minded to abandon our notion that he is a rather complacent, somewhat pretentious and altogether self-conscious young man[7].


[1] The Biltmore Hotel in Manhattan, where the Fitzgeralds honeymooned.

[2] Enforcement of Prohibition began on 1 July 1919.

[3] Robert Browning's long poem published in 1868-1869.

[4] Fitzgerald used this statement—and the one about the gestations and composition of the novel—in “The Author’s Apology.”

[5] English novelist Robert Hichens, who was known for his lush style.

[6] English novelist and man of letters G. K. Chesterton.

[7] An influential reviewer, Broun did not like This Side of Paradise, though he later gave The Great Gatsby a favorable review.

Published in New York Tribune newspaper (7 May 1920, p. 14). Shortly after the publication of This Side of Paradise, Fitzgerald wrote a self-interview to be used in publicizing his book. The Scribners book-advertising manager, John William Rogers, did not print the interview but some forty years later allowed Saturday Review to publish it in the magazine’s 5 November 1960 issue. Parts of the interview did appear in “The Author’s Apology,” a glossy sheet signed by Fitzgerald and tipped into copies of the third printing of This Side of Paradise distributed at a May 1920 meeting of the American Booksellers Association.

Not illustrated.