FRANCIS SCOTT KEY FITZGERALD (1896-1940) was so ambitious for his literary career that he finished at Princeton before he had completed his degree. His first novel was published when he was 23: it yielded royalties enough to afford marriage to Zelda. He completed only four novels; his best known, The Great Gatsby, was published in 1925. Fitzgerald was a standout figure in mid-1920s Paris where, with other American émigrés such as Stein, Hemingway and Pound—together known as the ’Lost Generation’—he lived a life of excess. His time hereafter in America proved to be difficult: Zelda’s schizophrenia, his developing alcoholism and constant financial difficulties meant that, in H. L. Mencken’s words, “The case of F. Scott Fitzgerald has become distressing.” He was torn between a desire to write novels and a monetary need to write short stories. He referred to his short story writing as “whoring”); he wrote over 160. A later career as a Hollywood hack proved fruitless, but at least he was able to parody this experience through the character of Pat Hobby in a last sequence of his most outstanding short stories.
Fitzgerald died of a heart attack aged only 44. Dorothy Parker was reported to mutter “poor son-of-a-bitch” at his funeral, a line from Gatsby’s funeral.