24 September 2015

Happy Birthday, Scott!

Today is the birthday of one of America's greatest writers, F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was born on September 24, 1896 in St. Paul, Minnesota. He was a bright boy who showed an interest in writing from an early age. At Princeton, he wrote for school groups and publications but neglected his studies. When he dropped out, he joined the Army, expecting to be sent overseas to the War. He never made it but while stationed in Alabama, he met his future wife and muse, Zelda Sayre. 

Determined to be a successful writer, Fitzgerald worked hard at his writing. In 1920 he achieved his goal when Scribner's published his first novel, This Side of Paradise; it was a huge hit and he became famous over night. Fitzgerald would go on to write four more novels, a play, and numerous short stories and articles that chronicled his generation. 

He and Zelda lived extravagantly and partied long into the night; newspapers reported their exploits, and they became the Jazz Age's golden couple. Even the birth in 1921 of a daughter, Scottie, didn't seem to slow them down. 

But by the 1930s, alcohol and financial problems along with Zelda's increasing mental illness were taking a toll on Fitzgerald. He died in 1940 at the age of 44, believing he was a failure. 

Oh, how wrong he was. Fitzgerald wrote some of the most beautiful prose in the English language. If you haven't read The Great Gatsby in a while, read it again and revel at passages like this:

"The only completely stationary object in the room was an enormous couch on which two young women were buoyed up as though upon an anchored balloon. They were both in white, and their dresses were rippling and fluttering as if they had just been blown back in after a short flight around the house. I must have stood for a few moments listening to the whip and snap of the curtains and the groan of a picture on the wall. Then there was a boom as Tom Buchanan shut the rear windows and the caught wind died out about the room, and the curtains and the rugs and the two young women ballooned slowly to the floor."

It doesn't get much better. Happy Birthday, Scott!

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