By: Angie Haddock
Scott Fitzgerald’s life reads like one of his own stories: a young man of great promise marries into wealth, but beneath the golden surface lie alcoholism, debt, insecurity, and in Fitzgerald’s particular case, the mental instability of his beautiful, unconventional wife, Zelda. Fitzgerald scholar Ruth Prigozy provides fresh insight into the life of the novelist who, in both his work and life, captured the rise and fall of the Jazz Age.
I am one of those crazy kids who actually did like a few of the “classics” I had to read in school, and one of my faves was “The Great Gatsby.” So, when I came upon this slim, picture-filled bio of the author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, at a library book sale – buying it was a no-brainer for me. (I was supporting the library!)
I feel like most avid readers have a few ideas about Fitzgerald – many of his books were at least semi-biographical, and he and his wife were famous symbols of the roaring twenties. This book dashes through all the eras of Fitzgerald’s life, though, without much romanticizing.
One of the things I found interesting was that his mother was a distant relative of Francis Scott Key (writer of “The Star Spangled Banner”), and that is actually who he is named after.
While most of us know Fitzgerald from his novels, he mostly paid his bills (or didn’t, often) by writing short stories. Many of these were published in magazines first, most notably in “The Saturday Evening Post.” Some were later compiled into anthologies, as well.
Fitzgerald drank a lot, and his wife Zelda spent her later years in a mental institution. These two issues soaked up most of his money, and he spent a lot of time worrying about money. To his credit, though, he always pushed himself to write more to make money. He also borrowed from family, but his drunkeness never led to a period when he wasn’t writing – and often profusely.
There are some interesting tidbits in this book about his friendships (and rivalries) with other writers (including Ernest Hemingway), editors, and even Hollywood personalities of the time. The Fitzgeralds were always trying to be fashionable, and several of Scott’s stories made it to the silver screen during his lifetime. While he did try his hand and screenwriting on several different occassions, he did not have much luck hanging around Hollywood himself.
F. Scott Fitzgerald did die in Hollywood, though, at the home of his girlfriend. He was only 44 years old at the time.
This was a quick read, and I loved all the pictures of the Fitzgeralds’ travels.