F. Scott Fitzgerald was only 23 years old when he published his first novel on March 26, 1920. The book was This Side of Paradise and it launched the young writer into an instant life of fortune and fame.
Fitzgerald was born into a family with a history of wealth, which had lost much of its riches. However, with the financial assistance of a wealthy aunt, he was able to attend boarding school in New Jersey and he went to Prinston University after that. During his years at Princeton, F. Scott felt his background was somewhat poorer than the rest of his classmates, and he believed this caused him to be an outsider. In 1917, after three years at Princeton, Fitzgerald dropped out of school to fight in World War I.
Rather than being sent to Europe, though, Fitzgerald was sent to Montgomery, Alabama, and the war ended in 1918 before he was ever deployed. During his time in Alabama, he met a young woman named Zelda Sayre, the privileged daughter of an Alabama Supreme Court justice. Similar to what happened in Gatsby in the Great Gatsby, though, Zelda rejected Fitzgerald because she felt he did not have the financial means to support her, but that was not the end of Zelda.
The Turning Point in His Career
After moving to New York and failing to create a successful writing advertising career, Fitzgerald went back home to live with his parents in St. Paul. There, the burgeoning writer repaired car roofs to make cash, but he also used his free time to revise a novel called The Romantic Egoist, which was based off his experiences at Princeton. He renamed the book This Side of Paradise, and it was published by Scribner's. Fitzgerald was the youngest writer to ever be published by Scribner's and the book was an instant financial success. Needless to say, Zelda was finally ready to marry Fitzgerald, and the two of them began to live a life of extravagance in New York City.
Life of an Expat Writer
The young Fitzgeralds burned through their money in New York and soon found themselves in debt, which prompted them to move to Europe in order to save money. In Paris, they met other expat writers, like Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway, and Fitzgerald completed his famed novel, The Great Gatsby, in 1925.
Continued Alcoholism and Extravagance
Unfortunately, Zelda and F. Scott continued to live extravagantly. Although Fitzgerald wrote numerous short stories as a source of cash, he developed serious problems with alcoholism and his wife became mentally unstable. In 1930, Zelda was institutionalized. Tragically, she spent the remainder of her life at an asylum.
Fitzgerald, on the other hand, gradually cleaned up his life. The next novel he wrote, Tender Is the Night, was rejected by American audiences, but in 1937 he decided to move to Hollywood to become a screenwriter. There, he stopped drinking, fell in love with a gossip columnist and started to write again. Just three years after his move to Hollywood, though, at the age of 44, Fitzgerald suffered a heart attack and died.
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