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College of One

The Story Of How F. Scott Fitzgerald Educated The Woman He Loved

With an afterward by Wendy Fairey

Part of The Neversink Library

The moving story of how F. Scott Fitzgerald—washed up, alcoholic and ill—dedicated himself to devising a heartfelt course in literature for the woman he loved.

In 1937, on the night of her engagement to the Marquess of Donegall, Sheilah Graham met F. Scott Fitzgerald at a party in Hollywood. Graham, a British-born journalist, broke off her engagement, and until Fitzgerald had a fatal heart attack in her apartment in 1940, the two writers lived the fervid, sometimes violent affair that is memorialized here with unprecedented intimacy.

When they met, Fitzgerald’s fame had waned. He battled crippling alcoholism while writing screenplays to support his daughter and institutionalized wife. Graham’s star, however, was rising, to the point where she became Hollywood’s highest-paid, best-read gossip columnist. But if Fitzgerald had lived out his “crack-up” in public, Graham kept her demons secret—such as that she believed herself to be “a fascinating fake who pulled the wool over Hollywood’s eyes.’’

Most poignantly, she keenly felt her lack of education, and Fitzgerald rose to the occasion. He became her passionate tutor, guiding her through a curriculum of his own design: a college of one. Graham loved him the more for it, writing the book as a tribute. As she explained, “An unusual man’s ideas on what constituted an education had to be preserved. It is a new chapter to add to what is already known about an author who has been microscopically investigated in all the other areas of his life.”

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Born Lily Sheil in 1904, the daughter of Jewish Ukranian immigrants, SHEILAH GRAHAM was raised in a London orphanage. She emigrated to New York in 1933 and to Hollywood two years later. In 1964, Time magazine reported that Graham had “deposed Hopper and Parsons as doyenne of the Hollywood columnists.” She had her own radio and television programs and wrote several books. In 1959, Beloved Infidel, a bestselling memoir of her affair with F. Scott Fitzgerald, became a film starring Gregory Peck and Deborah Kerr. Graham died in 1988.

WENDY FAIREY, Sheilah Graham’s daughter, teaches English literature and creative writing at Brooklyn College.  She is the author of One of the Family, a memoir, and Full House, a collection of linked stories.

As a writer, Graham is plain and conversational… her modest style makes the defining moment of Fitzgerald’s death—right in the middle of the music course—land the more powerfully for its understatement.” —The Rumpus

One of “two books that’ll make you forget how bad Baz Luhrmann’s ‘The Great Gatsby’ is…. A new afterword by Graham’s daughter and reproductions of Fitzgerald’s typewritten ‘curriculum’ give ‘College of One’ extra period flavor.” —Oregonian

“The real delight is…in the offhand Fitzgerald comments about the masterworks. They are bright and pungent and so often wise.” —New York Times

“It’s a fascinating (and almost forgotten) book.” –James L. W. West III, general editor of The Cambridge Edition of the Works of F. Scott Fitzgerald

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