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F. Scott Fitzgerald
The novelist and short story writer F.Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) was renowned for living the 1920s version of the rock 'n' roll lifestyle. The drinking, partying culture of the American Jazz Age is the foundation for much of his writing but it was also his personal downfall.
His writing describes his society. Tales of excess; people sliding across the surface of life without probing for meaning. It was the Prohibition era in the US, but that didn't stop the wealthy and well-connected from partying hard. Fitzgerald completed the picture with his marriage to the Southern belle, Zelda Sayle. Together they were the centre of the social whirl, whether in New York or living the ex-pat life in Paris.
His career as a novelist was stalled under the pressure to fund their lifestyle. His spending always exceeded his income; he wrote frequently for newspapers in order to survive (hence the large number of short stories to his name) and tried his hand at screen writing in Hollywood. Much of his writing was neither critically acclaimed nor a commercial success in his lifetime. Only in the 1950s was he accepted as worthy of inclusion in the canon of American literature.
The mental illness of his wife Zelda led to Fitzgerald committing her to an asylum, and she lived the rest of her life in a range of such institutions until her death in a fire in 1948. While Zelda was a heavy drinker Fitzgerald himself was an alcoholic, which may have contributed to his early death at 44, having failed to achieve the recognition he deserved.
In his most famous novel 'The Great Gatsby' Gatsby has achieved his position at the centre of fashionable society from lowly beginnings. However, his ultimate goal eludes him and leads to a tragic end. Fitzgerald's life had similarities with his most well known creation but he aligned himself perhaps more with Nick Carroway, the novel's narrator - the observer of the society that both repels and attracts him, who cannot remain unchanged by it.
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