F. Scott Fitzgerald Reads: Rare Voice Recordings
While F. Scott Fitzgerald is best known for his novels such as The Great Gatsby and short stories such as “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” there are recordings of him reciting poems!
F. Scott Fitzgerald reads “Ode to a Nightingale”
Before his death on 21 December 1940, Fitzgerald recorded himself reciting John Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale.” So what makes this poem so special to Fitzgerald? The answer lies in his fourth and final novel, Tender is the Night, whose title was inspired by this line in the poem:
“Already with thee! tender is the night.”
Fitzgerald had always fostered an appreciation for Keats’ poems, describing them as “unbearably beautiful.” This beauty inspired Fitzgerald to use these poems’ abstracts as the basis for specific lines in some of his novels.
Fitzgerald identified with the poet due to their similar life trajectory on a more personal level. Both of them shot to literary fame early in their youth, but the glamor was soon eroded by time, and their lives began to spiral out of control.
Up until the third stanza of the poem, Fitzgerald mixes up the words and cuts out early. The effect makes it sound like he is reading from memory in this tape.
F. Scott Fitzgerald reads “On Growing Old”
Fitzgerald has never shied away from tackling life’s more profound questions, constantly invoking a discussion on the meaning of life and its experiences with his works that feature jaded, hedonistic individuals. Considering that Fitzgerald lived through the Jazz Age, where enjoyment and youth were precious commodities, growing old meant the loss of a way of life for many.
It then comes as no surprise that John Masefield’s poem “On Growing Old ” would resonate with him later in his life. Masefield’s poetry captures the desire to relive one’s youth through the eyes of an aging man. For Fitzgerald, many would say that his best days were far behind him by the time he reached his thirties, explaining his desire to re-experience the little joys of life.
F. Scott Fitzgerald reads Othello
While Fitzgerald is no refined poet, his reading of William Shakespeare’s Othello is nonetheless satisfying and soothing to the ears.
The chosen passage that Fitzgerald read out is none other than Act 1 Scene 3, where Othello delivers a monologue to Venetian senators.
Many critics who have heard Fitzgerald’s reading can agree that while the writer is known to drawl a little in his speech, he has excellent tone and intonation when reading. Instead of taking on Othello’s strong tone when he makes a declaration, Fitzgerald opts for a smoother delivery with equal poignance.