Wednesday, October 21, 2009
The American Scholar: Living on $500,000 a Year: What F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tax Returns Reveal About His Life and Times, by William J. Quirk:
(Hat Tip: Matt Boch.)
Several years ago, my colleague and friend Matthew Bruccoli, an English professor and author of books about 20th-century American writers, made a surprising request. He said he had F. Scott Fitzgerald’s income tax returns covering his working life, 1919–1940, and asked if I would like to write an article with him based on the returns. Matt was for many years a good friend of Fitzgerald’s daughter, Scottie, and in her will she had appointed him a trustee for the trust she had set up for her four children. It seemed to me such an amazing find; I asked Matt how he had obtained the returns. One day, he said, while he was helping Scottie organize things, they came across the tax returns. Scottie, saying that they wouldn’t interest anyone, was going to throw them out. Matt, who didn’t believe in throwing anything out, asked if he could take them. He sent the returns to me; Matt’s death in June of 2008 meant I would have to write the article without him.
What can be learned from Fitzgerald’s tax returns? To start with, his popular reputation as a careless spendthrift is untrue.