"I'm sick of a system where the richest gets the most beautiful girl if he wants her, where the artist without an income has to sell his talents to a button manifacturer. Even if I had no talents I'd not be content to work ten years, condemned either to celibacy or a furtive indulgence, to give some man's son an automobile."
This one is the main idea expressed by one of F.Scott Fitzgerald's characters, Amory and that synthetizes the idea that the beloved writer had about money.
This new, wonderful biography published by Harvard Press Paradise Lost A life of F.Scott Fitzgerald by David S. Brown
I couldn't put this book down and I read it in one day.
A part of the parents of Fitzgerald were born and raised in the South of the USA and they were of Irish origins. Catholic, they made fortune, and a story told by everyone tells that it was not a real declaration of love from a man in love the one experienced by the future mother of Francis, Mollie, no.
She was not very well seen; she was in her thirties and people thought that she would have remained alone; but one day there was a long chat with a guy, and later the declaration that this man would have married her. To Mollie's point of view.
Edward, the future dad of Francis, at that times manners were different, couldn't say no.
Francis was not the first child of the Fitzgeralds. Not only: he was born just after that the couple had lost their beloved daughters, a pain described by his dad as immense, absolute, devastating.
Surely, little Francis suffered also because of the product of a joy "inflicted" by his arrival; the devastation for the loss remained in the memory of his parents and I am sure in the one of this kid.
Scott Fitzgerald has never suffered of economic problems and studied in the best schools of the USA.
St. Paul Academy, then the prep school of Newman where he discovered with more clarity his talent for writing and then the final choices thanks to the departure of a relative and a good amount of money arrived to his parents: Princeton.
In 1915 a crucial encounter, the one with another student, Ginevra King. Ginevra was the daughter of a banker and Francis lost his head for her. The two saw each other for more or less two years when they decided to ending their relationship.
Later Ginevra wrote him a letter where she communicated she would have married a much more richer man than him and Scott would have replied: "Doesn't it make you sigh with relief to be settled and think of all the men you escaped marrying?"
Francis Scott decided to settle down although Ginevra remained in his thoughts, books, characters, and one of his fixations during the years.
Zelda Sayre, a Southerner bell, was the girl he met one day to Montgomery and the one he would have married with a certain rapidity (see at the voice: Ginevra.)
The 1900s and the entrance in that new century was characterized according to the sensibility of Francis Scott Fitzgerald in his writings, by the end of the Victorian Age experienced by his parents and relatives and of all the beauty values that characterized that age. This new historical moment was a mixture of sadness because of the war, the first world war conflict, told by Fitzgerald in his writings with delicacy and sensibility and a certain predatory attitude and visibility from the richest part of the USA.
If Francis Scott Fitzgerald portrayed spendidly well what it meant to the USA richness, Thornston Veblen, writer and sociologist, although born rich, although a member of the upper class would have revealed in a book I would suggest to everyone what it meant the so-called "conspicuous consumption" of the elite of the early 1900s.
A new state of things that intellectuals although rich couldn't tolerate; Fitzgerald at the same time writes the author passing through Jay Gatsby understands that "Wealth...is more than money; it is the right schools, right Manhattan telephone exchanges, and right marriages."
Being rich, like being poor is, after all, a system.
Was Fitzgerald just so critical about the USA?
No, Fitzgerald, reassures the author, loved the USA because more than the American Dream, so the personal realization, there was also an unique different vision of world, things; different expectations and that freedom that somewhere else maybe wouldn't never have been possible.
Sure, what he noticed in his novel Fitzgerald, the USA was a nation "In danger of losing its soul."
Francis Scott Fitzgerald found in Maxwell Perkins not only the man of Scribner, the publishing house of all his books but also a great and good friend, introduced later to Hemingway as well.
The fortune of Scott Fitzgerland was that also when magazines published short stories he was paid divinely well; he was in grade to accumulate a lot of money just with short stories.
This writer of the so-called Lost Generation didn't lose time in making a lot of money, while at the same time the first signal of alcoholism touched the existences of Zelda and Francis Scott.
For what people told, Fitzgerald could lose his state of sobriety just drinking a glass of wine.
In general when Francis Scott drunk, he did it for self-punishment, because something was wrong, because unsatisfied.
There's to say that for some writers drinking mean relaxing their mind and writing more fluently.
Alcohol didn't touch his reputation as a big author; he was acclaimed everywhere and the Fitzgeralds were requested and beloved everywhere.
Zelda suffered because of the success of her husband. When she published short stories, they didn't add her name in magazines; when her book released she was treated as a dependent, because of the high influence of the husband, agent and publishing house. Only decades later and once dead (sic!) the publishing house admitted that Zelda was "suffocated" by the importance of the husband.
Francis Scott couldn't be shadowed.
Was the couple of Francis Scott and Zelda a happy one? Well, maybe the first years, because for the rest, jealousy started to be soon a great component of the couple. Zelda became jealous of Hemingway as well, but also of a new muse of 17 years. She started to having other stories like also Francis Scott.
Shortly their marriage, with a daughter, Scottie, became a territory not too friendly.
What Francis Scott did, was to put most of the situations experienced by him on his writings; what he saw and what he perceived although his point of view was distant by the one of Edith Wharton the beloved author of The Age of Innocence.
Wharton, part of that system, she was born rich, tried all her best to give an idea of richness completely different from the one portrayed by Fitzgerald.
Once published The Great Gatbsy, politely, the big writer invited the Fitzgeralds, adding later in her journal that the experience was: "Horrible." No one know further details of what happened that day.
Francis Scott Fitzgerald lived to Paris, but not in the Left Bank as most of his friends did, but in the Right Bank, the part populated by important, rich men, enjoying a lot the French Riviera and in many other parts of the world.
The mental health of Zelda became of certain interest; after the respective horns, after a lot of violent episodes and a deep depression that left Scottie in big sadness as well, worries became many. In Zelda's family two members killed themselves and other ones coped with profound depression.
In 1932 Zelda was treated at Philipps Clinic. She didn't lose her creativity, writing Save me the Waltz. She became obsessed with ballet, followed by a Russian teacher and she became a good painter.
The first to disappear was Francis Scott Fitzgerald, in Hollywood, a place after all that he didn't like a lot in 1940 because of a heart attack. He survived the first one; the second was fatal.
Zelda died intoxicated in a hospital because of a fire many years later.
The cover of this book is wonderful. A fluid pic of Fitzgerald, speaking and inviting readers, with delicacy, in his world.
A world populated by the warm of the South of the USA, Catholicity, Minnesota, luxury, good schools, great books, important women, richness, trips, alcohol, mental illness, and a reality more complicated than not the one of the past.
I thank Harvard University Press for the physical copy of this book.
Anna Maria Polidori