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Fitzgerald and Hemingway: Brothers

Matthew Joseph Bruccoli was a well known expert on F. Scott Fitzgerald as well as other Lost Generation writers. He befriended Fitzgerald’s daughter, Frances Fitzgerald, and they together published The Romantic Egoists, a book which memorializes the life of her father. He was a professor of English at the University of South Carolina where he was still taught until he died on June 4, 2008.

The Lost Generation talented writing giants, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, are being discovered over and over again by the modern public for their brilliant stories, their undying themes and their unforgettable words. Fitzgerald contributed several classics to American literature including The Great Gatsby, This Side of Paradise, and Tender Is The Night. Hemingway contributed several classics to American literature as well; some titles include A Farewell to Arms, The Old Man and the Sea, The Sun Also Rises, and For Whom The Bell Tolls. Matthew Joseph Bruccoli reveals the connection between these two literary heavyweights through their personal letters, their comments about each other to Maxwell Perkins and statements made in Hemingway’s memoir A Moveable Feast1. Bruccoli reveals their ever-changing connection in his book Fitzgerald and Hemingway: A Dangerous Friendship. The clever conversations between Hemingway and Fitzgerald reveal that they were either extremely supportive of one another or secretly insulting to the other. The secretive comments made by each of them to Maxwell Perkins reveal the gossip each possessed. Lastly, Hemingway’s memoir provides a clue filled book meant to be deciphered to learn the true meaning behind their friendship. Bruccoli reveals all the facts which he has gathered in this masterpiece.

Bruccoli begins his work by establishing the reader with some background information about how he gathered his sources and who supported his writing of this book. Fitzgerald’s daughter, Scottie Fitzgerald, and Hemingway’s fourth and final wife, Mary Hemingway, supported the book from its slow, careful beginning to its emotional, moral end and provided some key personal info for Bruccoli to use. In the early portions of the book, it is revealed that Hemingway’s final thoughts about Fitzgerald were that he was a drunk, weak, foolish and irresponsible writer2. Bruccoli draws evidence for this statement early on from Hemingway’s memoir A Moveable Feast which he refers to throughout the book. After introducing the organization of his book and how it will reveal the positives and negatives of the relationship of the two literary geniuses, Bruccoli tells how the public viewed Fitzgerald as the ruined writer and Hemingway as a titan. Fitzgerald was known to have a drinking problem and the world soon zoom in onto this condition; Hemingway was known to be a hunter and a fisherman. Along with describing social views of the two writers, Bruccoli also talks about the subject matter of their books. Hemingway was known to write about his life and the people he met along with the great adventures he took part in. Because of such self interest, Hemingway developed an important concept in modern literature: the code hero. This code hero is an archetype present in all of Hemingway’s stories which exemplifies the values that Hemingway himself valued. These values include spitting, womanizing, and being the manliest man alive. Fitzgerald, on the other hand, was known for being a story teller who would only talk about fictional scenes in his stories. His stories share the common theme of how money and power corrupt and how low the morals were in the 1920s. Fitzgerald’s life can also be perceived from his novels but not as greatly as Hemingway puts himself in his novels. Bruccoli describes the friendship between the two in 2 stages: in the 1920s, they each loved each other; in the 1930s, Hemingway began to ignore Fitzgerald.

When Fitzgerald was somewhat popular with the public himself in the late 1910s and the early 1920s, he recommended Hemingway, who was still an upcoming writer in Europe, to Maxwell Perkins, Fitzgerald’s editor. Fitzgerald was so impressed with Hemingway’s earliest works that he blindly recommended him to Perkins, who was initially critical of Hemingway’s ability to be successful writer. Bruccoli introduces some biographical information about Hemingway at this point which informs that the manly Hemingway was born to a doctor in Oak Creek and drove ambulances in World War I until he was injured3; then he lived in Paris with his family. After Fitzgerald got the word out about Hemingway’s talent, the two started writing to each other. After The Great Gatsby was published, Hemingway gained even more respect than the literary genius Fitzgerald did. The Great Gatsby was a story of two lovers, seen through the eyes of an outsider, who are so close but can never be together; the theme of the story, as it is in all of Fitzgerald’s novels, is that money and power corrupt. The female protagonist leaves the male protagonist for a richer man. Novels like The Great Gatsby proved to provide great social criticism. Fitzgerald’s success was always shadowed by his wife Zelda. Whenever Fitzgerald wrote, Zelda felt that it ruined his public image and that is why she encouraged liquor to be in his hands at all times so that he wouldn’t be writing his stories. Ironically enough, this encouragement of alcohol consumption by Zelda is what led to separation of Hemingway and Fitzgerald as well as Fitzgerald’s compromised social appearance. Hemingway realized this but decided to keep quiet in his letters. Hemingway seemed to be the dominating entity in the letters he exchanged with Fitzgerald. After accepting Perkins as his editor, Hemingway was being egged on by Fitzgerald to join his publisher as well. Hemingway however declined and decided to make Scribners his publishing company; this widened the gap in Fitzgerald and Hemingway’s friendship but Hemingway maintained a close relationship with Perkins. After joining this publisher, he moved back to Paris.

Fitzgerald was beginning to face economic struggles in the late 1920s. In an attempt to make some profit, he sold the movie rights to The Great Gatsby. As Fitzgerald faced a depletion of love and respect from the public, the exact opposite was happening for Hemingway; the man was living the life of a rock star. Hemingway, however, still cared about his friend Fitzgerald and constantly told Perkins, who was still close to both of them, to try and patron Fitzgerald. Hemingway moved back to the USA and threw a party for his arrival where he invited Fitzgerald; Fitzgerald created a scene during the party where he was misbehaving due to too much alcoholic consumption. This low moral action led to some key characteristics of some characters in Hemingway’s novel The Sun Also Rises. In this novel, the story plays around a group of World War I veterans and this one female who pleases them all. The novel presents the theme of the being the potent male and being able to provide for females. Surprisingly, the code hero of this novel is a woman who takes pride in humiliating and teasing the men who cannot provide for her sexual desires. This novel eventually became the reason why Hemingway replaced Fitzgerald as the most popular writer in America, an accomplishment which Zelda Fitzgerald frowned upon. Things at this point felt really going to fall downhill for Fitzgerald. His mental and physical states were deteriorating at a rapid rate and Perkins began to worry about him more and more. After discussing Fitzgerald’s status with Hemingway, Perkins and Hemingway decided to help their old friend out till he is in his prime again4. This task was easier said than done because of all the public attacks that The Great Gatsby was receiving since its original acceptance into society. These attacks limited Fitzgerald’s creativity which caused a lack of production of stories. Worrying about her husband’s health, Zelda wished that he writes no more in his life time; she, however, had little control over this. The two friends, Hemingway and Fitzgerald, were reunited at a Princeton – Yale football game.

Nearing the end of his life, Fitzgerald created problems with several relations in his life. After getting into a fight with his landlord, Fitzgerald decided he wanted to move from his current residence to a new location, like Paris where Hemingway lived. Upon hearing this news, Hemingway disliked it immediately. The several conflicts that had developed between the Hemingway’s and the Fitzgerald’s sprouted from the disputes between Zelda and Ernest and between Pauline, Hemingway’s current wife, and Scott. The conflicts grew to such a level that Hemingway suggested a new wife for Fitzgerald5. As time wore on, Hemingway lost interest in the Fitzgerald’s health and lifestyle; he regarded him as a man with useless advice. As Fitzgerald’s public image was reaching its all time low, Hemingway’s public image was reaching its all time high. After Zelda gets admitted into a hospital, Fitzgerald writes Tender is the Night, a book that Hemingway heavily criticized. Already been shaken by such difficult events, Fitzgerald did not want to hear such words for his newest book by such an old friend. He fired shots back at Hemingway by saying that all of his novels repeat the same general storyline. Also, he made his daughter read Hemingway’s novels and feel disgusted at his Code Hero, which is a character who womanizes, spits and lives life on the edge in all of Hemingway’s novels. Fitzgerald created animosity towards Hemingway in his family. Fitzgerald dies of a heart attack and Hemingway shoots himself in Idaho. Both writers who initially shared a beautiful friendship which turned into family spite were finally dead and gone.

Bruccoli believes that the relationship between Hemingway and Fitzgerald is the cause of several actions in each other’s lives. Hence the title, the friendship grew to be a bit dangerous at the end after starting off from a blissful beginning. He also believes that one author should not be brought down if the other is being aggrandized; this is because both authors had given and received so much from each other that it would be unfair to praise one without acknowledging the other6.Lastly, Bruccoli emphasizes the differences in values and morals that each author possessed in order to create two separate, balanced forces intertwined together.

Bruccoli, however, is clearly a fan of Fitzgerald over Hemingway. Throughout the book, the reader can feel all the negatives of Fitzgerald’s life leading back to Hemingway in some shape or form. Bruccoli definitely respects Hemingway but he feels that he was a major source of troubles in the life of his favorite author. This favoritism is extremely understandable. In early childhood, he had heard radio broadcasts of Fitzgerald’s short stories; during his middle life, he started to collect all of Fitzgerald’s books in first edition and spent time with Fitzgerald’s daughter7. Bruccoli belongs to the Neo-Conservative branch of historiography because throughout the book, he wished to display the value of American literature in the early 1900s and well as the lives of these American writing superstars.

Several sources have reviewed Bruccoli’s book as well. Emily Darrell recognizes the genius present in Bruccoli as he is especially talented with his knowledge of Fitzgerald and Hemingway. She makes an interesting statement that “[Bruccoli] has published sixteen books about an author… [Who] published only four novels and four collections of short stories.” She goes on saying how other sources viewed the book as a whole and states that there were several mixed opinions about the book. These mixed responses were because of how Bruccoli had to paraphrase the letters between the two authors to serve his intent and purpose. She also writes that it is clear that Bruccoli has a strong preference to Fitzgerald throughout the work. In the end, she believes it is a well written book for devotees of the subject. In another review, on Publishers Weekly, the same general comment is given. The book is summarized more in that review but it also states that the book is meant only for devotees of Fitzgerald and Hemingway.

The book was definitely biased towards Fitzgerald but it did not fail to assert the positives and negatives each author faced in their relationship together. Bruccoli’s relationship with family members of both authors assures the reader that he is well read and learned about this topic he wrote about. The evidence, letters, comments to Perkins and A Moveable Feast, used by Bruccoli throughout his work are strong because of the personal and intimate value they possess. The book focused more on the comments made to Perkins and excerpts from A Moveable Feast  than on the letters; this lack of focus on the letters greatly depletes the feeling the reader gets of peeping into the author’s personal life. Also the fact that the letters used by Bruccoli had to be paraphrased also deteriorates the purpose. The book should have revealed a bit more positives about their relationship instead of just the negatives. The book also should have not blindly accepted Fitzgerald’s accounts of stories regarding Hemingway and vice versa8. Overall, the book was a success due to its somewhat deep and personal sources used and of how Bruccoli manages to reveal the connection between the two authors and how it fell apart in the end.

The Lost Generation was greatly represents in Bruccoli’s book because of the scenes documented about each author’s life. Fitzgerald was a known drinker and during the 1920s and 1930s, American was known to have the flashy and carefree lifestyle9. Hemingway symbolized the ideal American man, which was needed after WWI to invoke nationalism in the country once again. The book reveals the values that these two men, both on the different spectrums of the American life, shared, and how those values were appropriate values of the time. The subject matter that each man wrote about also emphasizes these values; Fitzgerald wrote about how money and power corrupt and the negatives of the society while Hemingway wrote about teeth grinding, exciting stories which could be related to during that time. In the modern day and age, both Hemingway and Fitzgerald are accepted to be a part of the two greatest authors in American history. In addition, both are taught in schools and universities across the world due to the different literary styles and content each provided. Books such as The Great Gatsby and A Farewell to Arms have been memorialized for their brilliance. Both Hemingway and Fitzgerald have been accurately depicted by Bruccoli in his work.

In the end, the stories of Fitzgerald and Hemingway are forever intertwined. Both men provided the other with comments which ended up changing the life of each man. Bruccoli successfully reveals these connections through the use of letters, comments and memoirs. His book Fitzgerald and Hemingway: A Dangerous Friendship is truly a masterpiece for describing the lives of these two Lost Generation writers.


  1. Bruccoli, Matthew J. Fitzgerald and Hemingway: A Dangerous Friendship. New York: Carroll & Graf, 1994.4.
  2. Bruccoli, Matthew J.1.
  3. Bruccoli, Matthew J.18.
  4. Bruccoli, Matthew J. 96.
  5. Bruccoli, Matthew J. 108.
  6. Bruccoli, Matthew J. 3.
  7. Bruccoli, Matthew J. IX.
  8. Bruccoli, Matthew J. 1.
  9. Bruccoli, Matthew J. 12.