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The Egotist and the Epic

Often I think writing is a sheer paring away of oneself leaving always something thinner, barer, more meager. -Letter to his daughter, 1940

Frances Scott Key Fitzgerald was born an Irish Catholic on September 24, 1896, in St. Paul Minnesota. As a Libra, our author was inclined towards romance and ideals, and is attracted to Leo and Saggitarius. (Heh.) He grew up as a "provical hot tamale", descended from the daughter of a self-made millionare and an old but impoverished family of Maryland Catholics. As a youth, Fitzgerald was not only brilliant and handsome, but also vain and very much disliked. "I didn't know 'till fifteen that there was anyone in the wold except me, and it cost me plenty," he recalled. After attening a prep school in New Jersey, he enrolled at Princeton. He left to join the army in 1917, without graduating, but Princeton still had a profound effect on his writing and his personage.

During the war, he was stationed in the South, where he met Zelda Sayre, the daughter of a former governor. They romanced, and after he finished his duty and wrote This Side of Paradise, they married. TSoP was an instant bestseller, and Fitzgerald soon published a collection of short stories, Flappers and Philosophers which, along with is good looks, solidified his golden boy image. The Fitzgeralds split their time between New York and the French Riviera, where they were part of a circle of expatriates that included Gertrude Stein and a then unknown Ernest Hemingway. It was there that Scott wrote his masterpiece, The Great Gatsby. However, Gatsby wasn't a commercial success, and the Fitzgerald's extravagent lifestyle was taking its toll on their health and finances.

In 1930, Zelda suffered a complete mental breakdown, and Scott's heaving drinking began to affect his writing more and more. He released Tender is the Night his final novel, in 1934, a tragedy which reflected the strains in his own marriage. After publishing a series of confessional essays titled "The Crack-Up", Fitzgerald moved to Hollywood and became a screenwriter. He died of a heart attack on December 21, 1940, at the age of 44. He left behind an unfinished novel, The Last Tycoon and a dying literary reputation. But, his friend from Princeton and literary critic Edmund Wilson published a series of papers that brought Fitzgerald's reputation back into the light, and since then, he has come to be regarded as one of the most important authors of the twentieth century.

Fitzgerald lived the Jazz Age, but he lived it both as a participant and an observer. Though he experienced his wild and lavish life of his characters, he kept a detatched position when writing of their downfalls, at once a part of society and apart from it. As one critic remarked:

"It was as if all his fiction described a big dance to which he had taken, as he once wrote, the prettiest girl...and as if he stood at the same time outside the ballroom, a little Midwestern boy with his nose to the glass, wondering how much the tickets cost and who paid for the music."

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