This Side of Paradise
- "Amory Blaine inherited from his mother every trait, except the stray inexpressible few, that made him worth while."
The Beautiful and Damned
- "She was dazzling—alight; it was agony to comprehend her beauty in a glance."
Francis Scott Fitzgerald was born in 1896 to an aristocratic father from Maryland (who could trace family to the author of the "Star Spangled Banner") and the daughter of self-made Irish immigrants. He received a private education at Catholic schools and was admitted to Princeton, where after an initial burst of success on the literary and social fronts, he neglected most of the actual educational parts of college, and ended up on academic probation. He dropped out and joined the army in 1917, and wrote his first novel (which, though rejected by the publisher was encouraged for revision and resubmission). In 1918 while stationed in Montgomery, Alabama, he met prominent local belle Zelda Sayre. After a somewhat tumultuous engagement, the two were married in 1920 as Fitzgerald's first novel, 'This Side of Paradise,' was published.
Fitzgerald had tapped into the zeitgeist of the Jazz Age with his novels, of which The Great Gatsby is considered the most exemplary. His heroes and heroines are socialites, young, idealists, devoted to leisure. There is a sense of imminent catastrophe about them, of imminent disillusion, and a mortal fear of aging out of the moment of beauty. The specter of the just-finished War to End All Wars looms, having laid waste to the old order and old moralities, but there is often no real sense of what is to follow. In many ways, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald's life paralleled these themes. The couple were celebrities and fixtures of the social scene, and Scott Fitzgerald's drinking (and its consequences) was often as widely and hotly discussed as the stories he wrote. Fitzgerald wrote and drank, fought with Zelda and drank, published stories and articles in magazines and drank, and moved to Europe and drank. As the Jazz age waned, Zelda Fitzgerald's mental health deteriorated, and she was institutionalized for the rest of her life. Scott Fitzgerald eventually moved to Hollywood and earned a living as a screenwriter to pay down his enormous debts. He died in relative obscurity in 1940, only 44 years old.
His literary reputation improved in the decades after his death, and now his work is regarded as some of the best and most iconic of the Jazz Age. No other writer captured the heady joy and sharp glamour of the era the way Scott Fitzgerald could. And perhaps no other writer's life embodied the tragic end and lost promises of the Jazz Age the way F. Scott Fitzgerald's did.