With only five novels written during his lifetime (including one unfinished novel, but not including shorts stories and novellas), F. Scott Fitzgerald left us with more to love, cherish, and appreciate than many could with one thousand written works due to the quality of his storytelling. Though not without his personal troubles (his life was tragically cut short by a heart attack at the age of 44 due to poor health and alcoholism), it's often the most troubled minds that leave us with the most inspirational and impressive works of art. With his birthday just around the corner on September 24th, it's time celebrate this revered writer by exploring his ultimate success and re-discovering why he is rightfully remembered as one of the greatest American authors of the 20th century.
Born in Minnesota in 1896 but spending much of his childhood in Buffalo, New York, Fitzgerald took his first steps towards a career as a writer in his early teens. Having already shown himself to be a promising writer of higher-than-average intelligence during his formative years in Buffalo, he saw his first detective story published in his school's newspaper at the age of 13 upon his return to Minnesota. His passion and promise for a literary career continued throughout his teens, and his educational mentors continued to encourage and support him in pursuit of his literary ambitions.
Moving to a prep school in New Jersey, Fitzgerald decided to remain in the state and continued developing his creative skills at Princeton University. However, his choice to prioritise his writing endeavours above his actual education lead to him being placed on academic probation, eventually leading him to drop out of Princeton and and join the army. Desperate to write and release a novel in case of his death during his service, he quickly wrote The Romantic Egotist which, though rejected, received promising feedback and praise.
After the end of the First World War, Fitzgerald revised his draft of The Romantic Egotist. This would become his early-life semi-biographical debut novel, This Side of Paradise, which he reworked whilst supporting himself repairing car roofs. The novel was accepted by Scribner, the same publisher that rejected his first draft but encouraged him to send further submissions, and sold 41'075 in its first year of publication. In turn, this repaired his rocky engagement and allowed him to support his wife, Zelda, and their future daughter, Frances.
However, despite his success with This Side of Paradise, later novels would only reach the true height of their success after Fitzgerald had passed away. As time went on, his relationship with his wife and his work would prove to take more and more of a toll. Having befriended fellow author, Ernest Hemingway, Hemingway would even claim that Fitzgerald's wife encouraged her husband to drink so she could distract him from his novel work and focus more on the short stories he wrote - which, at the time, were making more money. Hemingway himself even went on to describe Zelda as "insane" in his memoir, The Moveable Feast.
Fitzgerald's alcoholism, his wife's increasingly deteriorating mental health, and his struggles to achieve much financial success with later novels unfortunately lead to a decline in his career and quality of life. Though classic novels such as The Great Gatsby and Tender is the Night are revered today, they weren't quite so successful during his lifetime. And, as he continued to struggle with his alcoholism and lack of success, his issues eventually became public knowledge, in turn dearly affecting his reputation - and, of course, his overall health. Fitzgerald suffered two heart attacks in the late 1930's, and things did not improve.
Fitzgerald's drinking and poor health eventually took an irreversible toll, and he died of a heart attack at the age of 44 - far sooner than such a talented individual (or anyone for that matter) should pass away. He was unable to finish his fifth and final novel, The Last Tycoon, before his death, though it was ultimately published nonetheless, along with extended notes for the unwritten parts of the story. And so ended the life and work of one of the brightest minds in American literature.
Though his life may have come to an untimely end, and was not without its troubles, F. Scott Fitzgerald has gone on to leave behind a legacy that most of us could only ever dream of. Remembered as one of the greatest American authors of all time, his works are revered, studied, adapted, used for inspiration by millions, and continue to have an impact on the world of literature to this day. While there are many of us who would have loved to see what else such a mind could create, the works he gave us truly are gifts to be treasured by all.
So here's to F. Scott Fitzgerald - thank you for the wonderful literature you graced us with before you stepped on over to the other side of paradise.