F. Scott Fitzgerald

f. scott fitzgerald
"F. Scott Fitzgerald was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1896, attended Princeton University, and published his first novel, This Side of Paradise, in 1920. That same year he married Zelda Sayre and the couple divided their time among New York, Paris, and the Riviera, becoming a part of the American expatriate circle that included Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, and John Dos Passos. Fitzgerald was a major new literary voice, and his masterpieces include The Beautiful and Damned, The Great Gatsby, and Tender is the Night. He died of a heart attack in 1940 at the age of forty-four, while working on The Love of the Last Tycoon. For his sharp social insight and breathtaking lyricism, Fitzgerald stands out as one the most important American writers of the twentieth century." --From the back cover of A Cornell Edition of The Great Gatsby


     Fitzgerald started writing at an early age. His high school newspaper published his detective stories, encouraging him to pursue writing more enthusiastically than academics. He dropped out of Princeton University to join the army and continued to pursue his obsession, writing magazine articles and even musical lyrics.
     At 21 years of age, he submitted his first novel for publication and Charles Scribner's Sons rejected it, but with words of encouragement. Beginning a pattern of constant revising that would characterize his writing style for the rest of his career, Fitzgerald decided to rewrite "The Romantic Egoist" and resubmit it for publication. Meanwhile, fate, in the form of the U.S. army, stationed him near Montgomery, Alabama in 1918, where he met and fell in love with an 18-year-old Southern belle - Zelda Sayre. Scribners rejected his novel for a second time, and so Fitzgerald turned to advertising as a steady source of income. Unfortunately, his paltry salary was not enough to convince Zelda to marry him, and tired of waiting for him to make his fortune, she broke their engagement in 1919. Happily, Scribners finally accepted the novel after Fitzgerald rewrote it for the third time as "This Side of Paradise", and published it a year later. Fitzgerald, suddenly a rich and famous author, married Zelda a week after its publication.
     The Fitzgerald's enjoyed fame and fortune, and his novels reflected their lifestyle, describing in semi-autobiographical fiction the privileged lives of wealthy, aspiring socialites. Fitzgerald wrote his second novel - "The Beautiful and the Damned" a year after they were married. Three years later, after the birth of their first and only child, Scottie, Fitzgerald completed his best-known work: "The Great Gatsby."
     Zelda suffered several breakdowns in both her physical and mental health, and sought treatment in and out of clinics from 1930 until her death (due to a fire at Highland Hospital in North Carolina in 1948). Zelda's mental illness, the subject of Fitzgerald's fourth novel, "Tender is the Night," had a debilitating effect on Scott's writing. He described his own "crack-up" in an essay that he wrote in 1936, hopelessly in debt, unable to write, nearly estranged from his wife and daughter, and incapacitated by excessive drinking and poor physical health.
     Things were looking up for Fitzgerald near the end of his life - he won a contract in 1937 to write for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in Hollywood and fell in love with Sheilah Graham, a movie columnist. He had started writing again - scripts, short-stories, and the first draft of a new novel about Hollywood - when he suffered a heart attack and died in 1940 at the age of 44, a failure in his own mind. Most commonly recognized only as an extravagant drunk, who epitomized the excesses of the Jazz Age, Fitzgerald's work did not earn the credibility and recognition it holds today until years after his death.

--Information taken from The Sensible Things: Biographies http://www.pbs.org/kteh/amstorytellers/bios.html

Influences on His Work:

It has been said that Fitzgerald's greatest influences were aspiration, literature, Princeton, Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, and alcohol.

Himself:  All great fiction is autobiographical since authors write most effectively about what they know.  More than most other writers, Fitzgerald drew upon his own feelings and experiences for his novels and short stories.  As he explained in his 1933 essay One Hundred False Starts:
     Mostly, we authors must repeat ourselves thats the truth.  We have two or three great and moving experiences in our lives experiences so great and moving that it doesnt seem at the time that anyone else has been so caught up and pounded and dazzled and astonished and beaten and broken and rescued and illuminated and rewarded and humbled in just that way ever before.  Then we learn our trade, well or less well, and we tell our two or three stories each time in a new disguise maybe ten times, maybe a hundred, as long as people will listen.
For more info on how his life has influenced his writing visit these websites:
Art Imitating Life In Fitzgerald's Novels

Ginevra King: King was a beautiful and wealthy debutante from Lake Forest, Ill., with whom Fitzgerald had a romantic relationship from 1915 to 1917.  Even though she married William H. Mitchell, King remained for Fitzgerald an archetype for the alluring, independent and upper class woman, ultimately unattainable by someone of a modest social background like himself.

For more info on King read Gatsby's Girl by Caroline Preston or view these websites:

Documents Tell More About Fitzgerald's First Love

Zelda (Sayre) Fitzgerald:  She was a huge influence on his writing, providing much of the material for his novels and short stories throughout their engagement and marriage. Scott frequently quoted her and her letters directly, using her words as the voice for several of his female characters.

For more information on the lives of Fitzgerald and Zelda

  Visit these websites:

The F. Scott Fitzgerald Society

A Brief Life

F. Scott Fitzgerald Centenary Home Page

American Storytellers: F. Scott Fitzgerald and the American Dream 

Read These Books:

Mizener, Arthur. Scott Fitzgerald and His World. New York, Putnam, 1972.

Bruccoli, Matthew Joseph. Some Sort of Epic Grandeur: The Life of F. Scott Fitzgerald. 2nd rev. ed. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2002.

Zelda Fitzgerald's Art:

zelda fitzgerald art
The Mad Tea party by Zelda

zelda fitzgerald art
1940's Great Smokey Mountains by Zelda

zelda fitzgerald art
Chrysanthemums by Zelda

zelda fitzgerald art
Arc de Triomph by Zelda

zelda fitzgerald art
Self Portrait by Zelda

For more of Zelda's art work view her book:
Zelda: An Illustrated Life: The Private World of Zelda Fitzgerald

A 125 pg book illustrating the collection of Zelda Fitzgerald's Works

Want to hear and see Fitzgerald? Check out these resources:

Hear Fitzgerald reciting "Ode to a Nightingale" by John Keats

Silent film of Fitzgerald from the 20s

F. Scott Fitzgerald quotes:

"All life is just a progression toward, and then a recession from, one phrase -- I love you."

            -"The Off-Shore Pirate," The Saturday Evening Post (29 May 1920)

"It's essentially cleaner to be corrupt and rich than it is to be innocent and poor."
-Amory Blaine, main character in This Side of Paradise
"All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath."
-F. Scott Fitzgerald, from an undated letter to his daughter Scottie.
"That was always my experience-- a poor boy in a rich town; a poor boy in a rich boy's school; a poor boy in a rich man's club at Princeton ... . However, I have never been able to forgive the rich for being rich, and it has colored my entire life and works."
-"F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Life in Letters," ed. Matthew J. Bruccoli. New York: Scribners, 1994. pg. 352.
"My whole theory of writing I can sum up in one sentence. An author ought to write for the youth of his own generation, the critics of the next and the schoolmasters of ever afterward."

          -An ambitious, twenty-three-year-old Fitzgerald penned this "Author's Apology" for his first         novel,This Side of Paradise.

"What people are ashamed of usually makes a good story."

          - from the Love of the Last Tycoon: A Western, section 15 (first part).

"Poetry is either something that lives like fire inside you -- like music to the musician or Marxism to the Communist -- or else it is nothing, an empty, formalized bore around which pedants can endlessly drone their notes and explanations."
         - FSF to Frances Scott Fitzgerald, 1940; qtd. in F. Scott Fitzgerald On Writing, New York: Scribners,  1985, 56.

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