F. Scott Fitzgerald
Great American novelist
His story reads like a slightly maudlin short story--he was a writer of great and early promise who penned one of the best-known works of American literature. Yet, plagued by alcoholism and conflicted because of his strong devotion to his mentally unstable wife and with a penchant for high living that often landed him in the gossip pages, he was considered less than a serious writer. He died in relative obscurity, his novels by then poor sellers.
F. Scott Fitzgerald was born in St. Paul in 1896. His first short story was published when he was thirteen, while he was a student at St. Paul Academy. In 1918, while stationed in Alabama during a stint in the U.S. Army during World War I, he met Zelda Sayre. The Fitzgeralds were married in 1920, the same year his first book, This Side of Paradise, was published to broad critical acclaim. The couple moved to New York City, where their highly publicized partying made them icons of the 1920s Jazz Age.
In addition to working on his novels, Fitzgerald continued to publish short stories in the Saturday Evening Post--throughout his life, in fact, it was the sale of his stories, many tales of young, free-thinking women who defined the term "flapper," that provided most of his income. He published The Great Gatsby, a tale of the complex interactions between middle-American values and East Coast urbanity, in 1924. Soon afterward, he and Zelda moved to Europe, where living costs were lower. He continued to write, but his alcoholism, coupled with Zelda's increasing instability, caused problems. From 1930 on, Zelda lived in and out of institutions. Scott wrote about her struggles in Tender Is the Night, published in 1934, and about his own in a 1936 essay, "The Crack Up": "I began to realize, that for two years my life had been a drawing on resources that I did not possess, that I had been mortgaging myself physically and spiritually up to the hilt."
Hopelessly in debt, in poor health, and nearly estranged from his wife and their only child, a daughter named Scottie, F. Scott Fitzgerald moved to Hollywood where, in 1937, he won a contract to write for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. But his alcoholism continued to get the better of him, and he was frequently fired from studio jobs. He suffered a heart attack and died in 1940, at age forty-four, a failure in his own mind.
"I came across F. Scott Fitzgerald's stories in the Anoka library when I was 14, and devoured them, fascinated that the man who wrote them was a Minnesotan, a Saint Paul boy, who had lived through our winters and summers, walked the same streets, watched the Mississippi flow by, and looked at the golden horses on the capitol dome. He was, and still is, a hero of mine." ~Garrison Keillor, in 1996, the centenary of Fitzgerald's birth
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