“And I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.” – Jordan, in “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Using this definition, St. Paul is hosting an intimate party this week as the 14th International F. Scott Fitzgerald Society Conference pulls into town, running June 25 through July 1.
There will be intellectual rigor for conference-goers, but also singalongs and pool parties that are open to the public. Here’s what you need to know about FitzFest, which honors the Saintly City’s most famous native son. (For more information on the whole conference, visit fitzgerald2017.org.)
For the first time, the biennial conference is returning to a city. Guess that makes sense, given that Fitzgerald was born in St. Paul in 1896. The conference, last here in 2002, meets in locations “biographically and artistically significant to F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald” and alternates between the U.S. and Europe.
But this is no rerun.
“We will never run out of things associated with F. Scott Fitzgerald,” said Stu Wilson, president of Fitzgerald in St. Paul, a nonprofit booster organization that’s hosting the event.
“He had so many artist and author friends here, and his life took so many tangents,” such as sunbathing with Zelda on White Bear Lake or partying at the University Club in the Summit Hill area.
“Now, if you were doing someone like Melville, you might run dry,” he added, only half-joking. “But not with Fitzgerald.”
‘Berniece Bobs Her Hair’
The general public can get a taste of the conference on Saturday when it’s Gatsby Night at the St. Paul Saints baseball game at CHS Field.
Everyone is encouraged to come to the game in 1920s attire — think flappers, bobbed hair and turbans, knickers and straw hats. There will be Gatsby-esque contests and hijinks, along with special period cocktails.
Tickets are at saintsbaseball.com.
‘Tales of the Jazz Age’
There will be live music every night at venues around town, starting with a singalong of tunes from World War I and the 1920s era, led by charismatic Twin Cities pianist/accordionist Dan Chouinard. That’s at 7:30 p.m. Monday at Hotel 340, 340 Cedar St.
On Wednesday, the Southside Aces, a New Orleans dance hall-style band, will bring the feel of an underground speakeasy to Vieux Carré Cocktail and Jazz Lounge, 408 St. Peter St. (Reservations at vieux-carre.com/contact-us/ or 651-291-2715.)
The University Club hosts what’s being billed as a “full-fledged Gatsby-esque party” on Thursday. The poolside party will include music by the reggae band Irie Sol, including selections from its CD “Dred Scott Fitzgerald.” Tickets ($35) and details are at stpaulreggae.com.
For a full schedule of music events, visit fitzgerald2017.org/fitzfest.
‘Tender Is the Night’
The academic part of the conference is impressive, with speakers from Japan, Italy, Macedonia, Sweden and elsewhere. Wilson highlighted literary biographer Scott Donaldson of Scottsdale, Ariz., as “one of the three or four top Fitzgerald scholars today.” Donaldson will deliver a keynote address on Monday afternoon, “Tender Is the Night: War Between the Sexes.”
Another highlight will be a talk Thursday morning about adapting “The Last Tycoon” to an upcoming TV series on Amazon Prime Video. Author A. Scott Berg and executive producer Chris Keyser will discuss the challenges of their nine-episode adaptation of Fitzgerald’s novel about a Hollywood executive and the power struggles for control of a movie studio. It’s set to debut July 28.
For more information on the conference, visit fitzgerald2017.org.
‘The Diamond as Big as the Ritz’
Throughout the week — and sometimes longer — various exhibits will be set like jewels throughout St. Paul. Among them:
The Friends of the St. Paul Public Library displays “Sight Unseen: Rare Photographs of F. Scott Fitzgerald With His Family and Friends.” Many have never been published and focus on the years in St. Paul. It’s free at George Latimer Central Library, 90 W. 4th St., through July 17 (sppl.org).
“WWI America” is a major exhibit at the Minnesota History Center, 345 W. Kellogg Blvd., with original artifacts, images, music and multimedia. “If people want to understand Fitzgerald,” Wilson said, “they really need to understand World War I.” The exhibit is open through Sept. 4 (minnesotahistorycenter.org).