Today in Literary History – September 24, 1896 – F. Scott Fitzgerald is born

The great jazz age novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald was born on September 24, 1896, in St. Paul, Minnesota. His full name was Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald and he was named after his distant cousin Francis Scott Key who wrote the American national anthem “The Star Spangled Banner.”

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Like his most famous character, Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby, Fitzgeraald was embarrassed by his humble Minnesota origins and spent much of his life trying to fit in with wealthy high society. He attended Princton but dropped out to join the Army in World War I, but never served overseas.

He married Zelda Sayre in 1920 and they had their only child a year later, their daughter “Scottie.” Fitzgerald was determined to be a writer and moved his family to Paris, where it was cheaper to live. He became great friends there with other writers of the so called “Lost Generation,” particularly Ernest Hemingway.

Much of Fitzgerald’s life was destroyed by two tragedies. One was his rampant alcoholism which hampered his career, friendships and health, hastening his death at the age of forty. The other was Zelda’s schizophrenia which eventually meant having to move her to a series of expensive clinics.

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His life was very sad in many ways but his novels are clear-eyed and often, to borrow a word from one of his titles, tender. Readers seem to divide up between Team Hemingway or Team Fitzgerald, the two drunken dynamos of the Lost Generatiom. I’m definately on Team Fitzgerald

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