After you’ve read Anthony Franze’s piece on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s grave, comment on what literary line would be on your headstone for a chance to win a copy of Anthony’s breakout novel, The Advocate's Daughter, a family thriller set in the insular Supreme Court world. #1 New York Times bestseller Lee Child called the novel “smart, sophisticated, suspenseful, and written with real insider authenticity.” Providence Journal said it’s “engaging and riveting.” And Suspense Magazine hailed it as “the ‘best of the best’ when it comes to suspense.”
My son Jake, a high school senior who soon leaves for college to pursue his love of journalism and English literature, is the most well read person I know. Having misspent my own youth, I’ve taken to reading whatever’s on Jake’s bedside table—to try in these last days while he’s under my roof to better connect with him, to see where his heart and mind are at this exciting time in his life. So, that recently led me to The Great Gatsby.
As a writer, I should probably be embarrassed that I’d never read the classic, which is core curriculum in most high schools (did I mention my misspent youth?). But I soon found myself lost in the world of Daisy Buchanan, Nick Carraway, and the denizens of West Egg.
I won’t bore you with my literary analysis, though as I read Gatsby, I imagined what many literary agents might say about the manuscript in today’s ruthless world of publishing (“It’s not a novel, it’s only 180 pages!” “It needs more action in the beginning, you don’t even meet Jay Gatsby until 50 pages in!”). Rather, when I finished the book, Jake and I decided on an afternoon of Fitzgerald. No, not a boozy day of debauchery reminiscent of Jay Gatsby’s parties (or Fitzgerald himself)—if it were just me that might have happened.
But instead, we watched the Leonardo DiCaprio film adaptation—thumbs down from both of us—and then Googled the author. I was surprised to learn that Fitzgerald was just 29 when he published Gatsby. As a 45-year-old author, I got a little ache in my heart at that.
Then, another bombshell for someone my age: Fitzgerald died when he was 44, something that made me appreciate even more my time with the 17-year-old sitting next to me.
We also read that Fitzgerald is buried near our Washington, D.C.-area home, so we decided to go to his gravesite. Or, as Fitzgerald would have put it, “we drove on toward death through the cooling twilight.”
Walking a graveyard is a bit of a creepy father-son outing, I admit, but there was something peaceful about strolling the leaf-filled cemetery on a windy fall day with my oldest child. We stood silently when we came upon Fitzgerald’s grave, in part out of respect, in part from the inscription on the stone:
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
The last line of Gatsby, on its author’s final resting place. I thought it was fitting, given the many “lasts” I’d be doing with my son before he ventures out on his own, before he’s off on literary and other adventures without me. “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”
I also thought, Man, I’m gonna miss this kid.
What literary line would be on your headstone?
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Anthony Franze is the author of THE ADVOCATE’S DAUGHTER (St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur, March 22, 2016), and a lawyer in the Supreme Court practice of a prominent Washington, D.C. law firm.