Kendra Steiner Editions (Bill Shute)

January 17, 2019

F. SCOTT FITZGERALD IN MINNESOTA, by Dave Page with Jeff Krueger

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 12:11 pm


by DAVE PAGE with photography by JEFF KRUEGER

Published 2017 by Fitzgerald In St. Paul/University of Minnesota Press

fitz minn 1

With the publication of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s teenage journals, THOUGHTBOOK, and yet another odds’n’sods collection of fugitive pieces, I’D DIE FOR YOU (now out in paperback), the Fitzgerald well has not yet run dry….or should I say that after digging down another 100 feet, new sources of water have been found.

For me, the most important Fitzgerald revelation of the last few years is the over-sized and over-stuffed volume F. SCOTT FITZGERALD IN MINNESOTA, assembled by Dave Page, who edited the recent THOUGHTBOOK edition and who co-edited the excellent collection THE ST. PAUL STORIES OF F. SCOTT FITZGERALD. I received this book as a Christmas gift from my wife, and we both assumed it would be a kind of coffee table book of photographs from the neighborhoods of Fitzgerald’s youth with some casual notations, something aimed at providing non-Minnesotans some specific images we could park in our memories to assist us when reading FSF’s early Minnesota-set stories. How wrong I was in that assumption.

What we have here is an amazing goldmine of images and primary research, linked to specific details in Fitzgerald’s life and, even more importantly, specific details in lesser-known FSF stories. I am not someone who was forced to read THE GREAT GATSBY in high school. My first serious reading of the man’s work (beyond a few well-known stories) was the 1979 collection of previously uncollected short fiction THE PRICE WAS HIGH, which I bought upon its release and read and re-read over the years. I eventually read everything by FSF I could find, but the work I’ve explored in the most depth and re-read the most over the years is the lesser-known magazine fiction in that book, work that FSF might have considered “work for hire” or even hack-work. I mention that because a number of these stories do have a Minnesota setting and a number of those stories are referenced in F. SCOTT FITZGERALD IN MINNESOTA.

The depth of primary research–and insightful reference to details in FSF’s lesser-known writings–in this book is stunning. If FSF attended a dance at someone’s house, there is a picture of the house, the backstory of the house and the family who lived there and knew FSF, and also a reference to how a member of the family was used as a model for a character in an obscure Fitzgerald story. Local newspapers and newsletters, and even the diaries and journals of local people from the day, are also strip-mined for details, and with the author’s knowledge of chapter and verse within the Fitzgerald canon, and a deep familiarity with FSF’s teenage journal, THOUGHTBOOK, which he edited, and a knowledge of St. Paul history that only a Minnesotan could have, we’re taken deep into the world of that city in the 1900’s and 1910’s and how it wove itself into FSF’s work in many many ways. In addition, there are large and beautifully framed color photos by Jeff Kreuger of homes and neighborhoods throughout, and where significant buildings or areas no longer exist, archival photos and clippings are used to represent what is no longer standing. While more original buildings would have existed in, say, the 1930’s or the 1950’s than still stand today (and they would also have been closer to their original form back then), it’s comforting to know that as these homes are considered “historic” today, their owners have kept them quite close to the form they would have been in when FSF was visiting them. Also, another thing to keep in mind is that, whatever has changed over the years, we are closer to the original time now that we will be in 10 years or 20 years. For anyone who has read FSF’s fiction set in Minnesota or referring to the upper Midwest, F. SCOTT FITZGERALD IN MINNESOTA opens the works up wide and shines a light into them. “Revelation” is the only word to capture the sensation the book provides. Even if you are not conversant in FSF’s work, you are taken so deep into St. Paul that you’ll feel like you are there, and the references to Fitzgerald’s dealings with the people related to the houses and places make FSF function as a character himself. A picture emerges of the young Fitzgerald beyond that which we know from the stories and the biographies.

This kind of deep primary research is difficult to do and is incredibly time- and resource-consuming, but it provides a wealth of actual details and specifics….and in the case of the hundreds of color photographs, beautiful images….that make the usual “new books on F. Scott Fitzgerald” seem unnecessary and irrelevant glosses on what really matters.

fitz st paul

I remember as a teenager growing up in the Denver area in the early 1970’s finding some of the specific “places” mentioned (sometimes in coded form) in the works of Jack Kerouac, such as VISIONS OF CODY and ON THE ROAD, and that provided a true “opening up” of those works for me, as did my visit last summer to Herman Melville’s Arrowhead property in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Multiply those experiences by a thousand, and that’s what you’ve got in F. SCOTT FITZGERALD IN MINNESOTA, a rich and important volume that will satisfy anyone who is concerned with the importance of PLACE in the work of a great creative mind like Fitzgerald’s. If you’ve passed this by thinking it might be an attractive coffee table book of photography to thumb through while you are laid up with the flu, think again….the photography is stunning, but it’s part of a deep investigative dive into FSF’s St. Paul which provides many insights into an author about whom many have claimed nothing more can be said of. Thanks to Page and Kreuger for illuminating this area so thoroughly and so richly.

You might also enjoy this article on Dave Page’s work in Fitzgerald studies, from 2013: Dave Page article

You can get a small taste of what the book has to offer at this fascinating webpage from the group Fitzgerald In St. Paul:   FSF places in St. Paul

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