F. Scott Fitzgerald, one of America’s greatest writers, was born this day in 1896. He came of age during the 1920s, a time of flappers and ex-patriots, romance and disillusionment, and traditional values clashing with fast emerging modern views. Fitzgerald who coined the term “Jazz Age” set out to map its manners and mores.
With a sharp eye for telling detail and a gift for characterization, the novelist could capture the mood of the moment and the depth of an individual’s feelings with aching clarity. As early as 1922, Fitzgerald began to focus on the dark side of his character’s yearnings for love and success. Critic Morris Dickstein said of his talent:
“Fitzgerald’s real story was that he never stopped developing, never stopped growing, even as he made breakdown and failure his dominant theme.” A final gift which this writer possessed was an ability to capture the class conflict and the primary role of money during these unconventional times.
To Name This Day:
Celebrate Fitzgerald’s birthday by watching The Great Gatsby, The Last Tycoon, or Tender Is the Night.
Ponder the connections between Fitzgerald’s views on riches, the unreality of the wealthy, and the messes made by the powerful.
- “Riches have never fascinated me, unless combined with the greatest charm or distinction.”
- “The world, as a rule, does not live on beaches and in country clubs.”
- “I couldn’t forgive him or like him, but I saw that what he had done was, to him, entirely justified. It was all very careless and confused. They were careless people, Tom and Daisy — they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”
— The Great Gatsby