F. Scott Fitzgerald is in many ways one of the most important American writers
of the twentieth century. In his first novel, This Side of Paradise, Fitzgerald
epitomized the mindset of an era with the statement that his generation had,
grown up to find all Gods dead, all wars fought, and all faiths in man
shaken(Fitzgerald 307). Aside from being a major literary voice of the
twenties and thirties, Fitzgerald was also among The Lost Generations
harshest and most insightful social critics. In his classic novel The Great
Gatsby, Fitzgerald blatantly criticized the immorality, materialism, and
hedonism which characterized the lifestyles of Americas bourgeois during the
nineteen-twenties. Collectively, Fitzgeralds novels and short stories provide
some of the best insight into the lifestyles of the rich during Americas most
prosperous era, while simultaneously examining major literary themes such as
disillusionment, coming of age, and the corruption of the American Dream. The
life of F. Scott Fitzgerald is marked by as much, if not more, romanticism and
tragedy than his novels. Throughout Fitzgeralds life, he unsuccessfully
battled alcoholism, depression, and himself, in a quest for both personal and
literary identity. At the age of twenty-three, Fitzgerald published his first
novel, This Side of Paradise, to critical raves and unimaginable economic
success. Shortly after the publishing of this novel, Fitzgerald was able to
coerce Zelda Sayre into marriage. This marriage is manifestly the most
significant event of his lifeeventually, Zelda would not only expedite, but
essentially, cause the personal and literary downfall of Fitzgerald. Upon
marriage, and also coinciding with the pinnacle of Fitzgeralds fame, Scott
and Zelda began living a life of wasteful extravagance that was often
characterized by recklessly drunken behavior. In order to maintain this
lifestyle, Fitzgerald was forced to put aside working on novels, and focus his
creative efforts on penning lucrative, but by no means extraordinary, short
stories. Throughout their marriage, Zelda put constant economic, as well as,
emotional strains on Fitzgerald. She encouraged his short story writing, as well
as his drinking, and was continually swaying his focus from writing to
socializing. Also, Zeldas eventual mental breakdown triggered Scotts own
series of nervous breakdowns. Because of these factors, Zelda is often
considered the prime instigator of Fitzgeralds literary and personal
declines. Yet in spite of Zeldas overtly negative influence on Fitzgerald, he
continued to love his wife to the day he died. Later in life, after Zelda became
mentally ill, Fitzgerald clearly illustrated his unconditional love for his wife
by compromising his artistic integrity in order to write short stories to
support her medical expenses. Aside from Zelda, two major American literary
figures played a substantial role in Fitzgeralds life, and his personal
decline as well. On an extended trip to Europe, and at the pinnacle of his fame,
Fitzgerald met and became acquainted with a then obscure fellow expatriate named
Ernest Hemmingway. Throughout the course of their friendship, Hemmingway would
become Fitzgeralds harshest critic, and in the eyes of Fitzgerald, his,
artistic conscience(Meyers 263). The second major American literary figure
who influenced Fitzgeralds life was Edgar Allen Poe. Fitzgeralds intrigue
with both the tragic and romantic elements of Poes life, as well as the many
similarities these two men shared, may have very well facilitated his plunge
into the unforgiving abysses of alcoholism and depression. Jeffrey Meyers
biography Scott Fitzgerald provides a complete and seemingly unbiased account of
the life of one of the most complex men in American literary history. Whereas
previous biographies tended to over-exaggerate either the romantic or tragic
elements of Fitzgeralds life, Scott Fitzgerald does not in any way attempt to
emphasize these aspects. Rather, this biography offers a strait-forward
interpretation of both the life and works of Fitzgerald. It illustrates the
importance of his relationships with Zelda Sayre and Ernest Hemmingway; the
mentally and physically destructive influence of his alcoholism; and the
parallels between his life and his writings. Through these facets, and many
others, Meyers provides insight into Fitzgeralds life, without forcing his
own opinion of the subject upon the reader. Personally, I found Scott Fitzgerald
to be both insightful and interesting. Compared to other Fitzgerald biographies
that I have read, Meyers biography was clearly the least biased and the most
strait-forward. In terms of literary style, I found this biography very pleasing
to read. Meyers deftly wove primary quotes, his own prose, and excerpts of
Fitzgeralds writing into a coherent and thought provoking portrayal of a very
complex man. To all fans of F. Scott Fitzgerald, I recommend this biography
strongly, but to those who dont know the difference between Scott and Ella
Fitzgerald, I recommend this biography with reservation.

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