F. Scott  Fitzgerald

     Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was born on September 24, 1896, and named after his famous ancestor who wrote "The Star-Spangled Banner." After flunking out of Princeton, he joined the Army in 1917. In 1918, he met his future wife Zelda while stationed in Alabama. Because he could only find a jog paying less than $90 a month, Zelda broke off their engagement. When Fitzgerald published the novel This Side of Paradise in 1920, Zelda relented and they were married.

      This Side of Paradise made Fitzgerald famous and opened up literary doors that had been previously closed to him. This sudden fame had adverse affects on Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda, and to escape the pressures, they went to France in 1924, thereby joining other American expatriates.

      Soon after his arrival in France, Fitzgerald completed The Great Gatsby, along with short stories in All the Sad Young Men. The literary success that Fitztgerald had struggled for and achieved did not bring him or his wife the happiness that had expected; instead, it drove Fitzgerald to alcoholism and Zelda into a downward spiral of mental collapse. Zelda was soon hospitalized in the sanitarium that would eventually claim her life.

      His next novel, Tender is the Night published in 1934, was a commercial failure. In despair over his ability to write successful novels, Fitzgerald moved to Hollywood and became a scriptwriter. There he met and quietly lived with Sheilah Graham, a Hollywood gossip columnist.

      The last work of Fitzgerald's was The Last Tycoon, which was begun in 1939. In 1940, the novel was only half completed when Fitzgerald died at the age of 44 of a heart attack.

From The Great Gatsby:

". . . when I reached my estate . . . the wind had blown off, leaving a loud bright night with wings beating in the trees and a persistent organ sound as the full bellows of the earth blew the frogs full of life."

" . . . he stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and fas as I was from him I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward--and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and far away . . ."
"This is the valley of ashes--a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens, where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air."
"With little ripples that were hardly the shadows of waves, the laden mattress moved irregularly down the pool. A small gust of wind that scarcely corrugated the surface was enough to disturb its accidental course with its accidental burden. The touch of a cluster of leaves revolved it slowly, tracing, like the leg of a compass, a thin red circle in the water."
". . . I thought of Gatsby's wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy's dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it . . . Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter--tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning----- "
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby New York: Scribner. 1995.


Photo courtesy Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division,
Carl Van Vechten Collection