Legendary author F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose stories of Jazz Age glamour and Lost Generation disillusionment are classics of American literature, died in 1940 at the age of 44, but Saturday marks what would have been his 120th birthday.
Fitzgerald made his literary debut with This Side of Paradise in 1920, about the “romantic egotist” Amory Blaine (who significantly resembles his creator). His next novel, 1922’s The Beautiful and Damned, was about the relationship of a glamorous couple of New York café society and is believed to be based on Fitzgerald’s relationship with his wife Zelda Sayre, who provided the inspiration for many of the author’s female characters.
The most famous of the fictional flappers partially based on Zelda is, of course, Daisy Buchanan, the beautiful party girl whom Jay Gatsby longs for in Fitzgerald’s most enduringly popular work, 1925’s The Great Gatsby. The author’s last completed novel was Tender Is the Night, about the dissolution of the marriage of a pair of beautiful American expats. Fitzgerald’s final novel, The Last Tycoon, was unfinished when he died in 1940 and was published posthumously the following year.
In addition to his celebrated novels, Fitzgerald wrote a few novellas and a number of short story collections (many of the latter published after his death). In honor of the birthday of the icon of the Jazz Age, whose stirring, romantic prose is still some of the greatest in all of American literature, here are 10 of the best lines from the brilliant F. Scott Fitzgerald.
“No, I’m a romantic — a sentimental person thinks things will last — a romantic person hopes against hope that they won’t.” — This Side of Paradise
“I fell in love with her courage, her sincerity, and her flaming self-respect. And it’s these things I’d believe in, even if the whole world indulged in wild suspicions that she wasn’t all she should be. I love her and that’s the beginning and the end of everything.” — letter to Isabelle Amorous, about Zelda
“That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.” — as said to Hollywood journalist Sheilah Graham
“Things are sweeter when they’re lost. I know — because once I wanted something and got it. It was the only thing I ever wanted badly, Dot, and when I got it it turned to dust in my hand.” — The Beautiful and Damned
“All life was weather, a waiting through the hot where events had no significance for the cool that was soft and caressing like a woman’s hand on a tired forehead.” — “The Jelly-Bean”
“Show me a hero, and I will write you a tragedy.” — “Notebook E”
“The world only exists in your eyes– your conception of it. You can make it as big or as small as you want to.” — The Crack-Up
“’Think how you love me,’ she whispered. ‘I don’t ask you to love me always like this, but I ask you to remember. Somewhere inside me there’ll always be the person I am to-night.’” — Tender Is the Night
“You are the loveliest, tenderest, and most beautiful person I have ever known — and even that is an understatement.” — letter to Zelda
Finally, of course, he wrote one of the greatest last sentences in all of American fiction — or in all world literature — with The Great Gatsby’s immortal closer:
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
Happy birthday, F. Scott F.