Wednesday, June 3, 2020

F. Scott Fitzgerald

If you were only allowed to pick one writer who encapsulated the zeitgeist of the 1920s your answer would be F. Scott Fitzgerald. I mean he is credited with naming this era the Jazz Age, a moniker first used in his 1922 short story collection Tales of the Jazz Age. What's more is he embodied the hedonistic lifestyle of free flowing booze and partying that everyone associates with this decade. Most of his early life, growing up in Minnesota and New York State, disappears in the telling of his life as if he emerged fully formed as a not-quite-graduate of Princeton and a second lieutenant in the infantry stationed in Montgomery, Alabama, where he met Zelda. Their lives were so entwined that you can't tell the story of one without the other. Their pasts are almost irrelevant. Yet Scott wanted to be a writer more than he wanted anything else, even a degree from Princeton. But his hastily completed novel, The Romantic Egotist, was rejected by Scribners. With the war ended and the thought that he might forever lose Zelda if he couldn't support her he rewrote The Romantic Egotist and it was published by Scribners as This Side of Paradise on March 26th, 1920, and eight days later he married Zelda.

Always hard up for cash due to their dissolute lifestyle Scott was forever writing short stories which he hated while trying to write his next great novel. He failed in many artistic attempts, from theater to cinema, and eventually he, Zelda, and their daughter Scottie, ended up in Paris as part of the Lost Generation where a dollar could stretch farther. But Europe, and Scott's friendship with Hemingway, didn't help their marriage, and they slowly destroyed each other. Scott died in Hollywood at the age of 44 from a heart attack virtually forgotten. After his death his work was reevaluated due to a resurgence in popularity in World War II because The Great Gatsby was chosen to be a part of the Armed Services Editions. His work is also a staple of high schools and colleges across the country, guaranteeing he will never be forgotten, even if it's sometimes students bemoaning having to read his work. Well Scott would have probably bemoaned it himself, not read the book, and written his own.


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