“When someone asks, ‘Which three books have meant the most to you?’ I can answer without having to think: The Great Gatsby, Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, and Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye. All three have been indispensable to me (both as a reader and as a writer); yet if I were forced to select only one, I would unhesitatingly choose Gatsby. Had it not been for Fitzgerald’s novel, I would not be writing the kind of literature I am today.” - Haruki Murakami
When F. Scott Fitzgerald’s daughter Scottie died in 1986, instructions were left that two boxes of books owned by her father were to be sent to her great friend, Professor Matthew J. Bruccoli of the English department at the University of South Carolina. Among the books was a volume by Ernest Boyd entitled Portraits: Real and Imaginary. On the front endpaper, Fitzgerald had written “Don’t bother about first stuff. Read definite portraits”—instructions to someone to whom he was intending to lend or give the book.
Thanks to some fine detective work by Bruccoli’s wife Arlyn, we now know who that person is. Noting that the rear endpaper of the book had been torn out, Arlyn observed faint impressions on the preceding page, which suggested someone had written a message in the book before tearing out the page. Applying the familiar method of rubbing the indentations with a soft pencil, she was able to recover the message. It appears above.
From Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast we also know the circumstances—Fitzgerald had missed the train the two of them were to take to Lyon together to pick up the Fitzgerald’s car and drive it back to Paris. As Hemingway writes: “There was nothing to do but wire Scott from Dijon giving him the address of the hotel where I would wait for him in Lyon … ”
Hemingway writes of reading a book in his hotel room in Lyon while he waits to hear from Fitzgerald. It is the first volume of A Sportman’s Sketches by Turgenev. Who knows whether he ever looked into the Boyd book, except to write in it.