Remarkably, when his life ended with a heart attack at 44, writer Francis Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) "died thinking he was an absolute failure," explained writer Irwin Shaw. "Today he is one of the icons of American fiction."
The New York Times eulogized that Fitzgerald "epitomized all the sad young men of the post-war generation."
Fitzgerald said, "An author ought to write for the youth of his generation, the critics of the next, and the schoolmasters of ever afterward." Translated into 35 languages, his works sell about 500,000 copies yearly.
"Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy," observed Fitzgerald, born on this day in St Paul, Minnesota. His classics The Great Gatsby (1925) and Tender is the Night (1934) chronicled the Jazz Age and are considered the finest in American literature.
Believing that, "All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath," his career soared like a meteor with the publication of his first novel, This Side of Paradise (1921). That success coincided with his meeting and marrying Zelda Sayre, the beauty who would inspire and consume his writing.
"I fell in love with her courage, her sincerity, and her flaming self-respect and it's these things I'd believe in even if the whole world indulged in wild suspicions that she wasn't all she should be," he said. "I love her and that's the beginning of everything."
Fitzgerald became friends with Ernest Hemingway in Paris, lived lavishly, watched his wife sink into madness, and wrote with elegant precision about his disillusionment.
"There never was a good biography of a good novelist," he explained in his Notebook. "There couldn't be. He is too many people if he's any good."
"Fitzgerald was a hero with flaws," observed biographer Matthew J. Bruccoli. "He wrote brilliant stories while afflicted with a host of troubles, many of his own making. He was honorable and generous. His words endure."
More FITZGERALD Quotations
Put into effect what is in your mind.