The Real Great Gatsby
Happy Birthday F. Scott Fitzgerald!
Are you a Gatsby Fan? Learn About the “Real” Great Gatsby!
Are you a Gatsby Fan? September 24th is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s birthday! Anyone who knows me knows I’m a huge Gatsby fan. This was actually one of the first things my husband and I bonded over. We even had a Great Gatsby-themed wedding, and well anyone who follows my social media knows my yellow furry friend- Gatsby 🙂
Some have questioned why I’m drawn to such a supposedly depressing book or why we’d choose to highlight our happiest day with a theme that ended in such catastrophe. But what I tell any of those people is I strongly believe both the novel and Fitzgerald himself were tragically misunderstood.
The Man Behind the Writing- The “Real” Great Gatsby
Fitzgerald took to writing at a young age. He was published for the first time at thirteen. He continued writing short stories and plays to the point of neglecting his studies at Princeton and soon found himself failing his classes and unlikely to graduate.
Fitzgerald joined the Army in 1917. Convinced he would die in war, he wanted to leave a piece of himself behind, so he rapidly wrote his first novel, The Romantic Egoist, which later became, This Side of Paradise.
It took years to bring This Side of Paradise to publication. However, when it did publish, it literally made him famous overnight.
By this point, Fitzgerald had also made a name for himself, writing short stories for magazines. He was fully supporting himself with his writing. It was his dream come true, followed by his long-time love, Zelda Sayre, finally agreeing to marry him.
They married in March of 1920 and began what became known as a famously tumultuous marriage. They traveled the world and lived an extravagant lifestyle while often leaving chaos in their wake.
Fitzgerald wanted to be taken seriously in the literary world; however, his drinking, partying ways, and chaotic marriage damaged his reputation with critics. They began to dismiss him as irresponsible and a flaky writer. This, however, was far from the truth. Although Fitzgerald was definitely an alcoholic, he always wrote soberly and was a critical perfectionist. He belabored over drafts, revising each line until he deemed it perfect.
Despite critics’ opinions of him as derelict or irresponsible, or perhaps because of it–– Fitzgerald’s name soon became synonymous with the Jazz Age in which he lived. He embraced this and even wrote about it in his novel, Echoes of the Jazz Age.
Fitzgerald’s writing mirrored his personal life in other ways as well. Many would argue he was, in fact, the real Great Gatsby in his story. Like Fitzgerald, Gatsby and his other characters possessed his idealistic, romantic soul. They were also often seeking the American dream, striving for something better. However, they were often plagued as Fitzgerald himself was, with a lack of control and loss.
Like his characters, Fitzgerald continued to strive for more-– constantly chasing his next dream-– to write for Broadway, to write for Hollywood. He attempted both of these and yet, never fulfilled the opportunities the way he envisioned. Much of this was due to his drinking and inability to handle his finances. He and Zelda always burned through money faster than he could make it. Zelda also suffered from mental health issues and was eventually hospitalized in a care facility.
Fitzgerald’s last unfinished novel, The Last Tycoon, again mirrored many of his beliefs about his own life. Fitzgerald, unfortunately, passed away from a heart attack before finishing the novel and died believing himself a failure wasting away in literary obscurity. Indeed, for years, that did appear to be the case. However, somewhere in the late 1940s, his work went through a “resurgence” period until he was solidified in 1960 as an enduring American writer. So much so that his novel, The Great Gatsby, has been listed most often as a novel that defines an American classic.
I’ve always felt that Fitzgerald’s writing, The Great Gatsby, in particular, is one of those books that needs to be read more than once. It needs to be unpacked for the multiple layers that are there. Fitzgerald was a master at symbolism, and his themes do withstand the test of time. After all, aren’t we still obsessed with status and money? Will unrequited love ever go away? Or sadly, even the treatment and lack of choices for women is still an issue today.
What are your thoughts on Fitzgerald? Literary classic? Idealistic waste? Have you read any of his other novels aside from The Great Gatsby?
Have you read any of Fitzgerald’s other books? Check out my Fitzgerald Book List Below!
This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
This Side of Paradise is the debut novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, published in 1920. The book examines the lives and morality of post–World War I youth. Its protagonist Amory Blaine is an attractive student at Princeton University who dabbles in literature.
The novel explores the theme of love warped by greed and status seeking, and takes its title from a line of Rupert Brooke’s poem Tiare Tahiti. The novel famously helped F. Scott Fitzgerald gain Zelda Sayre’s hand in marriage; its publication was her condition of acceptance.
A True Classic that Belongs on Every Bookshelf!
It’s title taken from John Keats’s ‘Ode to a Nightingale’, Tender is the Night (1934) is Fitzgerald’s best-known and most widely read novel after The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald actually considered Tender is the Night to be his greatest novel. It was his fourth novel, and the last novel he completed before his death in 1940.
Set in the south of France in the late 1920s, Tender Is the Night is the tragic tale of a young actress, Rosemary Hoyt, and her complicated relationship with the alluring American couple Dick and Nicole Diver. A brilliant psychiatrist at the time of his marriage, Dick is both husband and doctor to Nicole, whose wealth pushed him into a glamorous lifestyle, and whose growing strength highlights Dick’s decline.
Lyrical, expansive, and hauntingly evocative, Tender Is the Night was one of the most talked-about books of the year when it was originally published in 1934, and is even more beloved by readers today.
This is probably Fitzgerald’s best-known short story, especially since it was made into a movie in 2008 by David Fincher, with Brad Pitt in the starring role.
Although better known today for his novels, in the 1920s F. Scott Fitzgerald ranked among the top writers of magazine fiction. Fitzgerald represented the dreams and aspirations of the post-World War I generation in his life as well as his works. With his glamorous wife, Zelda, and his cosmopolitan social circle, he projected the perfect image for narrating tales of restless youth in a hectic world.
These short stories offer insights into many themes, characters, and techniques that emerged in Fitzgerald’s later works. The title tale, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” reflects his preoccupation with life’s fleeting nature. “Winter Dreams,” written three years before The Great Gatsby, shares the concept of commitment to an idealized dream. “Babes in the Woods,” developed during the author’s Princeton days, evidences the roots of This Side of Paradise. Thirteen other selections offer further insights into the author’s growing skills as well as examples of his sparkling prose, understated wit, and deft characterizations.
Are you a Gatsby Fan? Then you also need to check out this more recent retelling of the famous tale-
“Jillian Cantor beautifully re-crafts an American classic in Beautiful Little Fools, placing the women of The Great Gatsby center stage: more than merely beautiful, not so little as the men in their lives assume, and certainly far from foolish. Both fresh and familiar, this page-turner is one to savor!” —Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Rose Code
“Jillian Cantor’s shifting kaleidoscope of female perspectives makes F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic tale of Jazz Age longing and lust feel utterly modern. A breathtaking accomplishment.”—Fiona Davis, New York Times bestselling author of The Lions of Fifth Avenue
On a sultry August day in 1922, Jay Gatsby is shot dead in his West Egg swimming pool. To the police, it appears to be an open-and-shut case of murder/suicide when the body of George Wilson, a local mechanic, is found in the woods nearby.
Then a diamond hairpin is discovered in the bushes by the pool, and three women fall under suspicion. Each holds a key that can unlock the truth to the mysterious life and death of this enigmatic millionaire.
Daisy Buchanan once thought she might marry Gatsby—before her family was torn apart by an unspeakable tragedy that sent her into the arms of the philandering Tom Buchanan.
Jordan Baker, Daisy’s best friend, guards a secret that derailed her promising golf career and threatens to ruin her friendship with Daisy as well.
Catherine McCoy, a suffragette, fights for women’s freedom and independence, and especially for her sister, Myrtle Wilson, who’s trapped in a terrible marriage.
Their stories unfold in the years leading up to that fateful summer of 1922, when all three of their lives are on the brink of unraveling. Each woman is pulled deeper into Jay Gatsby’s romantic obsession, with devastating consequences for all of them.
Jillian Cantor revisits the glittering Jazz Age world of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, retelling this timeless American classic from the women’s perspective. Beautiful Little Fools is a quintessential tale of money and power, marriage and friendship, love and desire, and ultimately the murder of a man tormented by the past and driven by a destructive longing that can never be fulfilled.