Date of this Version
Documentary Editing, Volume 22, Number 3, September 2000.
ISSN 2476-1796 (electronic); ISSN 2167-1451 (print)
Anyone who has written historical notes for a scholarly edition has learned to spot "glossable" references in contemporary texts. Philip Roth's Zuckerman Unbound, for example, will s0meday need annotations about the quiz-show scandals of the 1950s and about Charles Van Doren and Herbert Stempel, contestants whose lives were ruined by the disclosures. Don DeLillo's Underworld will require a description of Truman Capote's Black and White Ball, along with some information about]. Edgar Hoover's cross-dressing and his liaison with Clyde Tolson. Lee Smith's novels will need identifications of Post Toasties and of Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs (whose big hit song was "Stay"). And according to Alex Ross, in a review in The New Yorker of Bret Easton Ellis's Glamorama, readers in the distant future (should anyone still be reading Ellis) will need a flock of footnotes to identify the novel's multitudinous quasi-celebrities. The public exposes and glitter events and rhythm-and-blues bands and minor celebs that turn up in these narratives will all have been forgotten, or will be so imprecisely remembered as to need annotation.
That's the position I find myself in as the editor and annotator of the Cambridge edition of F. Scott Fitzgerald's writings. Fitzgerald was an author grounded in his times, and his narratives are packed with references to contemporary politicians, sports figures, theater impresarios, movie queens, criminals, monarchs, and war heroes, not to mention restaurants and cabarets in the New York of the twenties, plus places and people of interest in Europe, after he went there in 1921. His works are also peppered with the names of other writers, serious and popular, and with titles and quotations from their stories and poems.