Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was an American author of novels and short stories, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century. Find out more about this literary icon and his work after the jump!
Fitzgerald was born on September 24, 1896 to an upper middle class family in Saint Paul, Minnesota. His childhood though, was spent primarily in Buffalo, New York when his father’s attempt at a furniture business failed, and he had to take a job as a salesman for Procter & Gamble. When Fitzgerald was ten years however, his father was fired from his job and the family had to return to Minnesota.
Fitzgerald was 13 years old when his first literary effort, a detective story, was published in a school newspaper. In 1913, he moved to New Jersey to further pursue his literary ambition at Princeton University, writing scripts for the Princeton Triangle Club (a distinguished musical-comedy society), the Princeton Tiger, and the Nassau Literary Magazine.
In 1917, Fitzgerald dropped out of Princeton to join the army. It was in his stint as a soldier that he would meet Zelda Sayre, the “golden girl” of Montgomery, Alabama, the area where he was stationed. This engagement however, broke off for a while but then resumed after Fitzgerald’s first novel got published. He and Zelda married in New York in 1920, and their only daughter, Frances Scott, was born a year later.
His first novel, This Side of Paradise, was a revision of his earlier novel, The Romantic Egoist, which was previously rejected despite praise at his writing. As This Side… , it was accepted by publishers and the novel was published in 1920 to glowing reviews, and led to Fitzgerald being toted as one of the country’s promising young writers.
This new-found fame however, was without price. As Fitzgerald and his bride partook on a life of extravagance and excess, they slowly descended into a life of constant financial trouble that was only remedied by the earnings that Fitzgerald got from having his short stories published in magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post, Collier’s Weekly, and Esquire. Some of his most notable stories include The Diamond as Big as the Ritz, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Camel’s Back, and The Last of the Belles. In 1922, Fitzgerald published his second novel, The Beautiful and the Damned, the story of the troubled marriage of Anthony and Gloria Patch.
In 1924, Fitzgerald went on an excursion toEurope — specifically in France — and it was there that Fitzgerald wrote his greatest novel, The Great Gatsby, as well as established connections with many members of the American expatriate community, most notably with Ernest Hemingway.
Although it was after his completion of The Great Gatsby that Fitzgerald’s shine began to fade as he progressed steadily into alcoholism. Alongside this, his wife’s health, and their marriage, declined. By 1934, after a period of struggling, he managed to publish his fourth novel, Tender is the Night, but to poor reception.
Despite his feelings towards it, circumstances lead Fitzgerald to dab into movie work and writing commercial stories in Hollywood. He began work on another novel, The Love of the Last Tycoon, in 1939, and he had completed over half the manuscript when he died of a heart attack on December 21, 1940, at the age of 44. With the guide of the extensive notes that he had left behind, the manuscript was able to be edited and was published in 1941.
He may not have achieved the acclaim and success that he had hoped for when he was alive, but his work has inspired a generation of writers and had gathered much admiration as the years went by. So cheers to this great American Master whose classic work continuously stands the test of time!
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