F. Scott Fitzgerald: Under the Influence

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Paragon House, Mar 20, 2006 - Biography & Autobiography - 416 pages

F. Scott Fitzgerald was an artist of extraordinary literary talent who tried to synthesize the ideas and events around him and give them personal expression. And, he was more than that. He and Zelda were personal participants who defined and helped to shape much of what is American. Their lives and American life are so intertwined that they seem impervious to an unwinding. They defined the Jazz Age through self-advertisements; then, Scott gave the epoch its name. Americans generally were obsessed with clever advertising and easy money in a booming stock market. But there is more, much more.

Fitzgerald's life and novels continue to personify the great contradictions in American culture and in American capitalism. Fitzgerald's novels—especially The Beautiful and Damned, The Great Gatsby and Tender is the Night— can tell us about our past but just as much about the present and our future. Notably, Scott had originally set Gatsby in the Gilded Age, an age of excesses similar to those of the 1920s. Today the Casino Economy—beginning in the early 1980s and becoming global—has remarkable parallels to these earlier epochs.

Then, the inevitable; the crashes came. A banking panic in 1907 ended the Gilded Age though not the gild, the Crash of 1929 ended the Jazz Age though not "all that jazz," and the collapse of the technology-driven Nasdaq in 2001 brought an end to the most notorious players in the Casino Economy though not its legacy. Zelda, on the precipice at an earlier age than most supposed then or since, crashed shortly after the stock market. Although the public was unaware of Zelda's plunge, only the Great Depression upstaged Scott's "crack-up." As he dispassionately acknowledged, his literary reputation had gone the way of the economy, as had his earnings from the Saturday Evening Post that sustained his little family.

Though Scott's novels have long been on required reading lists around the world, Fitzgerald and Zelda's cultural presence ebbs and flows. There nonetheless was, of course, a "first" Fitzgerald Revival. It came during the early 1950s—being first literary, but inevitably leading to a renewal of his cultural significance. The Fitzgerald Revival now underway is, if anything, even more confounding because it follows some serious academic studies, yet derives its inert velocity from the vibrant personalities of Zelda and Scott, while its deeper significance once again is properly attributed to Scott.

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About the author (2006)

The versatile Ray Canterbery is author of many acclaimed books and articles, recently including Wall Street Capitalism, A Brief History of Economics, The Making of Economics (4 th Edition), the satirical novel Black Box, Inc., and a forthcoming satirical biography of Alan Greenspan. His histories include biographies of leading economists and other thinkers, and he is one of the founders of an emerging school of Literary Economics. Canterbery has served as president of the Eastern Economic Association and the International Trade and Finance Association. He is among 500 persons worldwide in IBC's Living Legends, among 2000 of its Outstanding Scholars in the 21 st Century, in 1000 Great Intellectuals, in 2000 Outstanding People, and in 1000 Great Americans. He appears in ABI's Great Minds of the 21 st Century and American Biography, as well as Marquis Who's Who in the World, Who's Who in America, and many other sources. Thomas D. Birch is Associate Professor at the University of New Hampshire at Manchester where he teaches economics and team taught interdisciplinary courses in the Business, Humanities and Communication Arts programs. His publications of major economic and literary figures have appeared in the Eastern Economic Journal, Journal of Economic Issues and New England Quarterly.

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