Three decades ago, at home across from the Minuteman statue, Deej Webb read The Beautiful and the Damned. Suddenly he realized something amazing: F. Scott Fitzgerald was writing about Westport.
Not just any part of town, either. The classic 1922 novel described South Compo Road and Longshore, a few steps from where Deej sat.
Just 14 years old, he was “intoxicated and captured” by Fitzgerald’s images. Now the history department head at New Canaan High School, Deej’s historian’s brain is always perking. Sparked by a 1996 New Yorker article that confirmed The Beautiful‘s Westport geography — along with the theory that The Great Gatsby was also based here — he developed a presentation weaving modern technology with Jazz Age joie de vivre.
Sunday at the Westport Historical Society (3 p.m.), Deej will use Google Earth and PowerPoint to show local landmarks from Fitzgerald’s works. Included are 244 Compo Road South (F. Scott and Zelda’s rented house next to the Longshore entrance — and purported home of Gatsby narrator Nick Carraway); Longshore itself (Jay Gatsby’s mansion), and the E.T. Bedford estate (Tom and Daisy Buchanan’s place).
Fitzgerald spent just one summer in Westport. But that was long enough to influence two major works — and help give this place the “writer’s colony” brand that has endured for nearly a century.
Tomorrow Deej Webb and Google bring us back to the dawn of that era.