At some point in late 1938 or early 1939, F. Scott Fitzgerald produced an autobiographical chart entitled “Seven Years” that appears to have been an effort to map his life in seven-year increments. This single sheet of paper, for unknown reasons, ended up filed in a stack of miscellaneous materials from the composition of Tender Is the Night, published a few years earlier in 1934. This article speculates that “Seven Years” is a preliminary outline for the “reminiscent book” that Maxwell Perkins first suggested Fitzgerald try his hand at writing in 1936—not a confessional autobiography, Perkins specified, still concerned about the damage that the “Crack-Up” essays recently published in Esquire had caused the writer’s reputation, but a look back at the stages of his life. Evidence from a handful of published works suggests Fitzgerald was already prone to think of his life in seven-year intervals; with some variations in detail, a second, similar document also headed “Seven Years” and reprinted in Matthew J. Bruccoli’s biography Some Sort of Epic Grandeur: The Life of F. Scott Fitzgerald (originally published in 1981, and last revised in 2002) seems to corroborate the plan. (This location of this second sheet in the Fitzgerald papers at Princeton is unclear, however.) Had he lived long enough into the 1940s and beyond to flesh out this chart into a full-length manuscript, it might have proved his version of Stein’s The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas or Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast: a memoir that surveyed a much longer career than the one his premature death sadly cut short.

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