Scholar, editor, publisher. Born in the Bronx, New York, in 1931, Matthew Bruccoli was a student at the Bronx High School of Science. Earning a bachelor’s degree at Yale University in 1953, he went on to Cornell University but transferred to the University of Virginia for his master’s degree (1956) and doctorate (1960). Bruccoli taught at the Ohio State University before joining the faculty at the University of South Carolina. There he remained from 1969–2005, retiring as the Emily Brown Jefferies Distinguished Professor of English. William Grimes of the New York Times states that even after his retirement, Bruccoli “continued to cut a dash on campus” and was readily known for “his vintage red Mercedes convertible, Brooks Brothers suits, Groucho mustache and bristling crew cut.” Unique also during his years at USC was Bruccoli’s New York accent.
While at Cornell, Bruccoli attended literature courses taught by Vladimir Nabokov and eventually edited Nabokov’s letters (1940–1977) with the writer’s son Dimitri Nabokov; the collection was published in 1989. It is, however, as a scholar of the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald that Bruccoli is known around the world. According to Charles Scribner in his foreword to The Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Bruccoli’s devoted interest in Fitzgerald’s writing began in 1949 when he listened to Fitzgerald’s story “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz” on the radio. Eventually, he was to write a dozen books on Fitzgerald and his work. Bruccoli’s long-term commitment to Fitzgerald’s legacy culminated in 1994 when, with the encouragement of his wife Arlyn and help from Fitzgerald’s daughter Scottie, he established the Fitzgerald collection housed at the Thomas Cooper Library of the University of South Carolina in Columbia. Today that collection includes books, proofs, letters, inscriptions, photos, memorabilia, screenplays, and paintings about and by both Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda.
Though renowned as a Fitzgerald scholar, Bruccoli also dauntlessly wrote and edited dozens of other books. For instance, while general editor of the Pittsburgh Series in Bibliography, Bruccoli collaborated with Richard Layman to produce Ring W. Lardner: A Descriptive Bibliography, which was published in 1976. Bruccoli and Layman’s collaboration eventually became a partnership (known as Bruccoli Clark Layman) that produced limited first editions. Those limited editions, in turn, resulted in the eventual establishment of the Dictionary of Literary Biography and helped precipitate Bruccoli’s becoming director for the Center of Literary Biography at the Thomas Cooper Library (University of South Carolina). To date, the Dictionary of Literary Biography comprises 400 volumes of reference, including short biographies of over 12,000 writers.
Among other scholarly offerings and projects, Bruccoli worked steadfastly at editing various series: Lost American Fiction, Understanding Contemporary American Literature, Understanding Contemporary British Literature, and Gale Study Guides. For a time, Bruccoli was also editorial advisor to the Paris Review and literary personal representative for the estate of James Dickey. In addition to works aforementioned, Bruccoli is also the author of books about or the editor of works by Raymond Chandler, Ernest Hemingway, John O’Hara, and Thomas Wolfe, to name a few.
In all volumes edited by Bruccoli, readers can expect to find interesting, critical details in the preface and notes; sometimes the editor offers his own insight into the art of writing and the abiding value of literary effort. For instance, in The Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald: A New Collection (1995), Bruccoli reminds readers: “Literature is what lasts.” In the introduction to John O’Hara’s Gibbsville, PA (2004), Bruccoli argues: “All great fiction writers are great social historians.” In that work, he also cautions: “A writer who can’t be trusted for details can’t be trusted for anything else.”
It is no wonder that Matthew J. Bruccoli came to be so trusted and honored. Among his many achievements were receipt of the Thomas Cooper Medal of the University of South Carolina (1999); invited lectureships in Italy (1996), Norway (1999), and at Illinois State University (1997 and 1998); and induction into the South Carolina Academy of Authors (2001). Matthew J. Bruccoli referred to himself as a “bookman who likes to write.” In his many published works, he became the writer to whom other writers, “bookmen,” researchers, scholars—new and established— turn.
Bruccoli, Matthew J., ed. Gibbsville, PA: The Classic Stories by John O’Hara. New York: Carroll and Graf Publications, 1992.
———, ed. The Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald: A New Collection. New York: Scribner, 1995.
Epps. Edwin, ed. Literary South Carolina. Spartanburg, S.C.: Hub City Writers Project, 2004. Grimes, William. “Matthew J. Bruccoli, 76, Scholar Dies.” New York Times, June 6, 2008. Smith, Kathryn. “Bruccoli Speaks at Banquet.” Anderson Independent-Mail, April 29, 2001, 4C.