Biography of Matthew Bruccoli
Matthew Joseph Bruccoli (August 21, 1931 – June 4, 2008) was an American professor of English at the University of South Carolina. He was the preeminent expert on F. Scott Fitzgerald. He also wrote about writers such as Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe and John O'Hara, and was editor of the Dictionary of Literary Biography.
Bruccoli's interest in Fitzgerald began in 1947 when he heard a radio broadcast of Fitzgerald's short story "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz". That week he tracked down a copy of The Great Gatsby, "and I have been reading it ever since," he told interviewers. Bruccoli graduated from the Bronx High School of Science in 1949, and studied at Cornell University where one of his professors was Vladimir Nabokov and at Yale University where he was a founder member of the fledgling Manuscript Society, graduating in 1953. He was awarded a master's degree and doctorate from the University of Virginia in 1960. Bruccoli, who also taught at the University of Virginia and the Ohio State University, spent nearly four decades teaching at the University of South Carolina. He lived in Columbia, South Carolina, where, according to his New York Times obituary, he "cut a dash on campus, instantly recognizable by his vintage red Mercedes convertible, Brooks Brothers suits, Groucho mustache and bristling crew cut that dated to his Yale days. His untamed Bronx accent also set him apart" (Grimes).
Over the course of his career, he authored over 50 books on F. Scott Fitzgerald and other literary figures. His 1981 biography of Fitzgerald, Some Sort of Epic Grandeur: The Life of F. Scott Fitzgerald, is considered the standard Fitzgerald biography. He has edited many of Fitzgerald's works, from This Side of Paradise to Fitzgerald's unfinished final novel, The Love of the Last Tycoon. Bruccoli has also edited Scott's wife Zelda Fitzgerald's only novel Save Me the Waltz.
While studying Fitzgerald, Bruccoli and his wife Arlyn began to collect all manner of Fitzgerald memorabilia. Bruccoli owned the artist's copy of Celestial Eyes, the cover art by Francis Cugat which appeared on the first edition, and most modern editions, of The Great Gatsby. In 1969, Bruccoli befriended F. Scott and Zelda's daughter Frances "Scottie" Fitzgerald. In 1976, Bruccoli and the Fitzgeralds' daughter Scottie (as Scottie Fitzgerald Smith) published The Romantic Egoists, from the scrapbooks that F. Scott and Zelda had maintained throughout their lives of photographs and book reviews. Later in life Bruccoli and his wife donated their collection to the Thomas Cooper Library at USC. The collection is valued at nearly $2 million.
Bruccoli was general editor of the "Pittsburgh Series in Bibliography," published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. As part of this series, he produced F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Descriptive Bibliography and, with Richard Layman, Ring W. Lardner: A Descriptive Bibliography (1976). A working draft of the Lardner book was prepared in the summer of 1973 by Bruccoli, who "put his then-graduate-research-assistant Layman to work on checking it. Layman displayed so much aptitude for the assignment that a collaboration seemed obligatory."
Along with Richard Layman, a Dashiell Hammett scholar and former graduate assistant, and businessman C. E. Frazer Clark, Jr., Bruccoli launched the Dictionary of Literary Biography. The 400-volume reference work contains biographies of more than 12,000 literary figures from antiquity to modern times.
Bruccoli continued working at the University of South Carolina until being diagnosed with a brain tumor, and died June 4, 2008.