Born in Saint Paul, Minnesota, Fitzgerald is regarded as one of the greatest American writers of the 20th Century. The self-styled spokesman of the "Lost Generation" -- the Americans born in the 1890s who came of age during World War I -- crafted five novels and dozens of short stories that treat themes of youth, despair, and age with remarkable emotional honesty. His heroes -- handsome, confident, and doomed -- blaze brilliantly before exploding ("Show me a hero," he once said, "and I will write you a tragedy"), and his heroines are beautiful and intricate.
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2 Life with Zelda
3 Hollywood years
Scott Fitzgerald, as he was known, attended Saint Paul Academy and Summit School in Saint Paul, Minnesota in 1908-1911. He then attended Newman School, a prep school in Hackensack, New Jersey, in 1911-12. He entered Princeton University in 1913 as a member of the Class of 1917 and became friends with the future critics and writers Edmund Wilson '16 and John Peale Bishop '17. Saddled with academic difficulties throughout his three-year career at the university, Fitzgerald dropped out in 1917 to enlist in the United States Army when America entered World War I. The war ended presently, and he was discharged without having been shipped to Europe.
Certain he was to die in the war and wanting to leave a literary legacy, Fitzgerald had quickly written a novel entitled The Romantic Egotist while in officer training at Camp Taylor, Louisville, and Camp Sheridan, Alabama. The novel was praised but rejected by an editor at the publisher to which he submitted it, Charles Scribner's Sons in New York.
Life with Zelda
While at Camp Sheridan, Fitzgerald met Zelda Sayre (1900-1948), the "top girl," in Fitzgerald's words, of Montgomery, Alabama, youth society. The two were engaged in 1919 and Fitzgerald moved into an apartment at 200 Claremont Avenue in New York City to try to lay a foundation for his life with Zelda. Working at an advertising firm and writing short stories, Fitzgerald was unable to convince Zelda that he would be able to support her. She broke off the engagement and Fitzgerald returned to his parents' house in St. Paul to revise The Romantic Egotist. Recast as This Side of Paradise, it was accepted by Scribner's in the fall of 1919, and Zelda and Scott resumed their engagement. It was published on March 26, 1920, and became one of the most popular books of the year, defining the flapper generation. The next week, Scott and Zelda were married in New York's St. Patrick's Cathedral. Their daughter and only child, Frances Scott "Scottie" Fitzgerald, was born on October 26, 1921.
Although Fitzgerald's passion lay in writing novels, they never sold well enough to support the opulent lifestyle that he and Zelda adopted as New York celebrities. To support this lifestyle, he turned to writing short stories for such magazines as the Saturday Evening Post, Collier's Magazine, and Esquire magazine, and sold movie rights of his stories and novels to Hollywood studios. He was constantly in financial trouble and often required loans from his literary agent, Harold Ober, and his editor at Scribner's, Maxwell Perkins.
The 1920s proved the most influential decade of Fitzgerald's development. His second novel, The Beautiful and Damned, published in 1922, represents an impressive development over the comparatively immature This Side of Paradise. The Great Gatsby, which many consider his masterpiece, was published in 1925. Fitzgerald made several famous excursions to Europe, notably Paris and the French Riviera during the 20s, and became friends with many members of the American expatriate community in Paris, notably Ernest Hemingway.
Fitzgerald began working on his fourth novel during the late 1920s but was sidetracked by financial difficulties that necessitated his writing commercial short stories, and the schizophrenia that struck Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald in 1930. Her emotional health remained fragile for the rest of her life. In 1932, she was hospitalized in Baltimore, Maryland, and Scott rented the "La Paix" estate in the suburb of Towson to work on his book, which had become the story of the rise and fall of Dick Diver, a promising young psychoanalyst and his wife, Nicole, who is also one of his patients. It was published in 1934 as Tender Is the Night. . Critics regard it as one of Fitzgerald's finest works.
Once again in dire financial straits, Fitzgerald spent the second half of the 1930s in Hollywood, working on commercial short stories, scripts for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and his fifth and final novel, The Love of the Last Tycoon, based on the life of film executive Irving Thalberg. He and Zelda became estranged; she continued living in mental institutions on the east coast, while he lived with his lover Sheilah Graham in Hollywood.
Always something of an alcoholic and consequently in poor health during the late 1930s, Fitzgerald suffered two heart attacks in late 1940. He died of the second one on December 21, 1940, in Sheilah Graham's apartment in Hollywood. Zelda died in a fire at the Highland mental institution in Asheville, North Carolina, in 1948. The two are buried in Saint Mary's Cemetery, in Rockville, Maryland.
He never completed The Love of the Last Tycoon. His notes for the novel were edited by his friend Edmund Wilson and published in 1941 as The Last Tycoon. However, there is now critical agreement that Fitzgerald intended the title of the book to be The Love of the Last Tycoon, as is reflected in a new 1994 edition of the book, edited by Fitzgerald scholar Matthew Bruccoli of the University of South Carolina.
Biography and criticism