Anyone having an affinity for writing a novel should read, The Great Gatsby, one of the greatest American novels written by F. Scott Fitzgerald. My journey as a novelist included reading every novel and most of the short stories published by Fitzgerald and then traveling to Asheville where he spent his final years with Zelda, his wife and muse. They had one child a girl named Scottie. F. Scott was born to an aristocratic father who lacked ambition and never achieved the status F. Scott admired. All of the novels weaved a theme of affluent socialites, social elitism and the descent into addiction. Fitzgerald died in 1940 at age 44 from heart failure after years of alcohol abuse.
On an extended trip to Asheville to view where F. Scott Fitzgerald made his final attempt to beat his addictions in 1935 and again 1936 I was able to walk the paths he walked at the Grove Point Inn and see the sight where he committed Zelda to a mental institution. She was predeceased by Fitzgerald eight years earlier and actually died in a fire in the Highland Hospital near Asheville where he left her as he made his way to California for a new life. The Grove Park Inn has an elevator to the rooms used by Fitzgerald which are kept as he left them in memory of the great author. By all accounts Scott, as Zelda called him, would take her out of the mental institution and have her join him for lunch at the Grove Park Inn on the terrace. I enjoyed all of my meals on the visit on that very same terrace area of the restaurant.
In 1935 Fitzgerald felt he had one more chance to write and visited the Grove Park Inn with its magnificent views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, clean air and luxury accommodations to tame his insatiable desire for alcohol and write a new novel. He decided if only he could omit gin he would cure himself and switched to a case of beer a day. He also decided his wife was unresponsive to his need for her literary expertise and he flirted a great deal while in Asheville with other women perhaps to recapture or add to the long line of women who functioned to inspire him. Zelda once accused him of plagiarism when she noticed some of his novel taken directly from her diary. They agreed that the semi- autobiographical nature of his work should be a combined effort and joined forces to improve his career.
Mr. Fitzgerald was named for his relative Francis Scott Key who of course gave America the Star Spangled Banner. Francis Scott Fitzgerald spent his early years in Minnesota born to an upper middle class family he also went to private schools eventually made his way to New Jersey to attend Newman High School a Catholic prep school in Hackensack. After graduating he stayed in New Jersey and enrolled in Princeton. As a matriculated Princeton student he met, fell into deep infatuation with Ginevra King who he dated and lost and eventually caused him to flunk out of Princeton University before graduating. Yes, attachments according to the Buddha cause suffering, a concept probably not entertained by Fitzgerald. Since WWI was raging he enlisted but it was toward the end of the war, so he never deployed out of the United States.
Fitzgerald’s first novel was published in 1920, he called it This Side Of Paradise taking the title from Tiare Tahiti a poem by Brooke. It told his semi autobiographical story of being a Princeton student at the lower end of the social economic status, love lost, greed and status seeking. This was followed by three more novels, Beautiful and the Damned in 1922 this time about an affluent Harvard culture. In 1925 he wrote what many consider to be his masterpiece if not one of the greatest American novels ever written, The Great Gatsby detailing social climbing ambition, greed, and unrequited love during the party days of heavy drinking in the Jazz Age. Tender Is the Night published in 1934 detailing the marriage and the psychological intervention set in France. The Last Tycoon written in 1940 was not completed by Fitzgerald as he died from a heart attack and complications of alcohol addiction that year.
The Jazz Age, a phrase F. Scott Fitzgerald made famous complete with bathtubs filled with gin, drugs on the party coffee tables and yes dancing the Charleston Gatsby style are sights that remain with the reader forever. Hollywood has created two amazing movies of the The Great Gatsby further immortalizing that era. The Grove Park Inn has a September 24th celebration of F. Scott Fitzgerald when they open Rooms #441 and #443 to the public and finish the celebration with dancing the Charleston. In is an adventure that by today’s standards actually seems tame. It is also inspirational for future authors as they put pen to paper as Fitzgerald was known to do or they are writing into a computer program that spell checks, corrects syntax and formats the 21st Century novel!
All of the blog photos were taken at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC: