F. Scott Fitzgerald Recites “Ode to a Nightingale”

70 years ago today, F. Scott Fitzgerald died an untimely death, his life cut short by alcoholism, tuberculosis, and eventually a series of heart attacks. He was only 44 years old. Today, we remember Fitzgerald with some vintage audio – the author of The Great Gatsby reciting John Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale” from memory. (Listen here or here.) Fitzgerald deviates several times from the text before going completely off the rails. And then the poem, a meditation on mortality and the transience of beauty, cuts off abruptly halfway through. A rather fitting metaphor for Fitzgerald’s own life.

According to Park Bucker, an associate professor of English at the University of South Carolina, the recording was likely made around 1940, during Fitzgerald’s last year, perhaps in a self-recording phonograph booth in Southern California. When Fitzgerald died, he was living in Los Angeles, a washed-up Hollywood screenwriter, hoping to write one last great novel. In her Paris Review interview, Dorothy Parker described Fitzgerald’s bleak last days: “It was terrible about Scott; if you’d seen him you’d have been sick. When he died no one went to the funeral, not a single soul came, or even sent a flower. I said, ‘Poor son of a bitch,’ a quote right out of The Great Gatsby, and everyone thought it was another wisecrack. But it was said in dead seriousness.”

You can find more Fitzgerald audio recordings on this University of South Carolina web site. Also, find several texts by Fitzgerald in our collection of Free Audio Books.

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  1. umut says . . . | December 21, 2010 / 3:25 pm

    on the wikipedia page on fitzgerald it says twenty-thirty people came to the funeral!!

  2. guy says . . . | December 22, 2010 / 8:46 pm

    Citation needed

  3. Mike says . . . | December 23, 2010 / 2:30 am

    The context of Dorothy Parker’s comments was her overall contempt for the way talented writers were treated in Hollywood. (You can follow the link above and read the interview for yourself; it’s very interesting.) She was referring to Fitzgerald’s Los Angeles memorial service, not his funeral in Maryland.

  4. The Buried Talent says . . . | December 27, 2010 / 2:13 am

    God, I’m deeply touched to hear Fitzgerald’s voice

  5. Stefano says . . . | August 18, 2011 / 7:58 am

    Author Nathaniel West and his wife were killed in a car accident while on their way FSF’s funeral.

  6. Hamilton says . . . | July 30, 2014 / 7:39 am

    Hello, the link to more Fitzgerald audio recordings does not exist.

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