Fitzgerald was born in St. Paul, Minnesota and attended prep school, then Princeton University. ("I was always the poorest boy at a rich man's school," he claimed.) He was a lackluster student; when he dropped out to enlist in the army during World War I, he was on academic probation. The armistice was signed before Fitzgerald could see service, and he was discharged in 1919. He began writing THIS SIDE OF PARADISE, based on his Princeton years, when he was 21, and was 24 when it was published. The success of the novel--which was called by Edmund Wilson "one of the most illiterate books of any merit ever published"--enabled him to marry Zelda Sayre, whose family disapproved of him and his prospects. Fitzgerald gained growing celebrity as a major new voice in American fiction, and he and Zelda became the 1920s' equivalent of jet-setters, dividing their time between New York, Paris, and the Riviera--part of the circle of American expatriates that included Gertrude Stein, Hemingway, and Dos Passos, writers about whom Stein coined the term "the lost generation." Fitzgerald continued to write all his life, including the obligatory stint in Hollywood, but was gradually taken over by alcoholism and the general dissolution of his life, and many of his later years were plagued by doubt, debt, and failure. He died at the absurdly young age of 44, of a heart attack.
"'This Side of Paradise' is a little slice carved out of real life, running over with youth and jazz and virile American humor--everything in short that is dear to a Princeton man (Mr. Fitzgerald himself) or a Yale man, or a Harvard man, or just any kind of man."
"'This Side of Paradise' commits almost every sin that a novel can possible commit....But it does not commit the unpardonable sin: it does not fail to live. The whole preposterous farrago is animated with life."
"This is a bad book about good things."
From the Publisher
THIS SIDE OF PARADISE, the novel that established F. Scott Fitzgerald as the voice of his generation, was written while he was in the army, extensively revised, and finally published in 1920 when he was only 23 years old. The young "romantic egoist" Amory Blaine--vain, shallow, and self-absorbed--whose progress from prep school to Princeton frequently parallels Fitzgerald's own life, is the quintessential youth of the postwar "Lost Generation." Fitzgerald's unsparing portrait of a young man who takes himself far too seriously makes THIS SIDE OF PARADISE one of his most endearing and entertaining books. Upon its publication, Fitzgerald became an instant literary superstar, and this early fame--and his inability to mature--helped bring about the downfall, only 20 years later, of a major American writer.
Amory Blaine inherited from his mother every trait, except the stray inexpressible few, that made him worth while. His father, an ineffectual, inarticulate man with a taste for Byron and a habit of drowsing over the Encyclopædia Britannica, grew wealthy at thirty through the death of two elder brothers, successful Chicago brokers, and in the first flush of feeling that the world was his, went to Bar Harbor and met Beatrice O'Hara. In consequence, Stephen Blaine handed down to posterity his height of just under six feet and his tendency to waver at crucial moments, these two abstractions appearing in his son Amory.