Matthew J. Bruccoli, 76, O'Hara's Biographer
Published: June 6, 2008
Matthew J. Bruccoli, whose biography of F. Scott Fitzgerald and outpouring of scholarly essays and critical editions made him the dean of Fitzgerald studies in the United States, died at his home in Columbia, S.C., on Wednesday. He was 76.
The cause was a glioma, a tumor of the brainstem, said his wife, Arlyn.
Mr. Bruccoli (pronounced BROOK-uhly), who taught at the University of South Carolina for nearly 40 years, wrote more than 50 books on Fitzgerald or Hemingway, notably "Some Sort of Epic Grandeur: The Life of F. Scott Fitzgerald," published in 1981. He and his wife donated 3,000 books and periodical publications by and about Fitzgerald to the university.
Matthew Joseph Bruccoli was born in the Bronx, where his father ran a drugstore and where he attended the Bronx High School of Science. He earned his bachelor's degree at Yale University in 1953 and briefly attended graduate school at Cornell University before transferring to the University of Virginia, where he received a master's degree and a doctorate.
"It took me seven years because I kept taking time off to write books," he told The New York Post in 1978.
After teaching at Ohio State University for eight years, he joined the English department at the University of South Carolina in 1969. He retired in 2005 as the Emily Brown Jefferies Distinguished Professor of English but continued to cut a dash on campus, instantly recognizable by his vintage red Mercedes convertible, Brooks Brothers suits, Groucho mustache and bristling crew cut that dated to his Yale days. His untamed Bronx accent also set him apart.
In the publish-or-perish world of academia, Mr. Bruccoli set a daunting example. In addition to his voluminous work on Fitzgerald and Hemingway, he wrote biographies of John O'Hara, James Gould Cozzens and Ross Macdonald, compiled descriptive bibliographies of several authors and edited the letters and notebooks of many others, including Vladimir Nabokov, whose literature courses he took at Cornell.
"He endeared himself to Nabokov by saying that his reason for taking the course was, 'I like stories,' " his wife said. "Nabokov thought that was the perfect answer." With Dmitri Nabokov, the novelist's son, Mr. Bruccoli edited "Vladimir Nabokov: Selected Letters, 1940-1977," published in 1989.
In his spare time he helped run Bruccoli Clark Layman, a company that produced reference works of literary and social history, notably the Dictionary of Literary Biography. He also edited the Fitzgerald Newsletter from 1958 to 1968 and the Fitzgerald/Hemingway Annual from 1969 to 1979.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by a son, Joseph, of Columbia, and three daughters: Mary, of Manhattan; Josephine Owens, of San Francisco; and Arlyn, of Corinth, Vt., as well as seven grandchildren.