Who Was the Real “Great Brain”


Tom or John? You Decide

Since the 1990s, when Fitzgerald Super Fans began hunting in earnest for their connections to “The Great Brain” the debate of who was “The Real Great Brain” began. Today you get to decide.

Team Tom –

By virtue of his brother’s writing, Tom has always held the title of “The Great Brain”. However, Tom’s youngest brother Gerald wrote to his niece Michele, “John was always the Great Brain.” If a family member says it, then it must be true. But, a neighbor, Elgin Grames, boldly asserted otherwise, stating, “Everyone knew him as “The Great Brain”.

Sunday night, I ran across information, I had missed in my research two decades earlier, I found Tom’s contribution to his High School Yearbook. In those words, I saw a different youth than I believed existed. Take a look.

Moreover – The following page held this.

Doesn’t that sound like our hero?

But wait, what about John?

Of course, John wrote the books. He traveled the world as a United Press reporter. Sold copious amounts of fiction to magazines. Plus, he graduated from High School a year early, in 1922 the same as his older brother and hero Tom.  John’s contribution to the Carbon County High School Yearbook would be the Junior Class Ode.


No wonder a baby brother saw John as “The Great Brain.”

What do you think? Who was the real “Great Brain”?

6 thoughts on “Who Was the Real “Great Brain””

  1. John was brilliant, and probably actually smarter than Tom- at least in real life! But to me, John will always be that innocent, awe-struck, kind-hearted little brother (with a “little brain”) that he portrays himself as in his books. The Great Brain is a package deal (with his “money loving heart”)… and that just isn’t John!

    1. It is super hard to shake the boys we fell in love with. Even as I learned new things about them. I could still see and feel the boys as I knew them. When I walk through Price, I never imagine adult Tom and John. I only imagine T.D. and J.D.

  2. Still think its Tom for many reasons. First don’t think he made it all up wholecloth; all of these are based on *something* (eg, there seemed to be a very real and personal to you template in Bishop Aden, yes?. Second, John doesnt seem to be particularly egocentric, and to qrite about himself in the third person would habe been rather blatantly so.. Third, many child prodigies actually peak in their childhood years (note all the times you hear about the next child Einstein, at lwast once a year for the last several decades now, right?). Fourth, I thought I remember Johns writing was sourced this way, like telling campfire stories; that is, they all seemed to start with Tom. Would have been rather weird had he been telling grandpa like stories that were really about himself, yes? Fifth, he could be amalgamating perhaps his fathers generation with his, but hard to see a T.D. / J.D. dynamic there with uncle Will not even existing; would it have been his priest uncle and his father? Even though the Dennis middle name thing falls apart, there is something to the ‘Fitzgerald Curse’, even if it is embellished. To me this is a major underlying theme in the whole GB series: if you notice, John always seems to be trying to save Tom, believing himself that Tom is the lost one of that generation (remember that even though there was no Uncle Will – though there wws probably a good family friend of similar character- generational curses could apply across cousins which kight have been the case in Tom Sr.’s gen). Perhaps John really did succeed i reforming him? Anyway, my two cents (or Silver Dollar), as it were.

  3. Your Einstein observation is super insightful. I have known talented, smart, skilled kids who sort of “aged out”. Their voices didn’t hold up, their math skills only covered one area, and so on. It very well could have happened here.

    I remember when I finally read “Papa” and watched the brother dynamic, that the stories mirrored each other. Maybe in life that happened. Which allowed John some processing time to shape his stories through that model.

    Johns ego wasn’t his main concern. He had written under a pen name for years. I only discovered two or three interviews he ever gave, even when his books were a hot ticket item. No “money – loving” heart there. Just the joy of a sweet and tender family tale.

    1. How did you learn that Grant? Did you read “Finding Fitzgerald”? To my knowledge that is the only public place that entire story is in. If you found it somewhere else, I would love to know where that is. Thanks.

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