December 21, 2007

December 21 | F. Scott Fitzgerald

September 24, 1896 - December 21, 1940: Age 44

F. Scott Fitzgerald was a writer of short stories and novels who thrived during the 20s, then dived during the 30s. For Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, living famously high off the profits of his first novel, the 1920s were one long party. But don't be fooled, like I was, by the appearance of superficiality: Fitzgerald was a sensitive, profound writer and his style was brilliant, immaculate, accessible and yet elevating at the same time.

By the 1930s the drinking had ravaged his health and Zelda's intense personality had self-destructed, leading to a breakdown, a diagnosis of schizophrenia, and life in an asylum. Fitzgerald's literary output dwindled. To earn money, he turned to Hollywood, writing what he referred to as "hack" scripts. He completed only one novel in the 30s (Tender is the Night). He tried to commit suicide twice.

In 1940, his heart began to go: he had a heart attack in November of that year. He continued to work on his last novel, The Last Tycoon, in bed. On December 20 he felt well enough to go to the theatre, but experienced chest pains during the show. The next day, while waiting for the doctor to visit, Fitzgerald was sitting in an armchair making note for an article. According to Malcolm Forbes in They Went That-a-Way, he "suddenly stood up, reached for the mantel, then fell over dead of another heart attack."

Scott Fitzgerald was one of the 20th century's best writers. If you haven't read any of his stories or novels, run to a library right now. The Great Gatsby is a good place to start, but there is much more.

Also, here is some rare footage of him at work.

Sources: Wikipedia; Forbes, Malcolm, They Went That-a-Way, Simon and Schuster, 1988

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