Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald (September 24, 1896 – December 21, 1940) was an American author of novels and short stories, whose works are the paradigmatic writings of the Jazz Age. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century. Fitzgerald is considered a member of the “Lost Generation” of the 1920s. He finished four novels: This Side of Paradise, The Beautiful and Damned, The Great Gatsby (his best known), and Tender Is the Night. A fifth, unfinished novel, The Love of the Last Tycoon, was published posthumously. Fitzgerald also wrote many short stories that treat themes of youth and promise along with age and despair.
Fitzgerald’s work has inspired writers ever since he was first published. The publication of The Great Gatsby prompted T. S. Eliot to write, in a letter to Fitzgerald, “[I]t seems to me to be the first step that American fiction has taken since Henry James …”. Don Birnam, the protagonist of Charles Jackson’s The Lost Weekend, says to himself, referring to The Great Gatsby, “There’s no such thing … as a flawless novel. But if there is, this is it.” In letters written in the 1940s, J. D. Salinger expressed admiration of Fitzgerald’s work, and his biographer Ian Hamilton wrote that Salinger even saw himself for some time as “Fitzgerald’s successor.” Richard Yates, a writer often compared to Fitzgerald, called The Great Gatsby “the most nourishing novel [he] read … a miracle of talent … a triumph of technique.” It was written in a New York Times editorial after his death that Fitzgerald “was better than he knew, for in fact and in the literary sense he invented a generation … He might have interpreted them and even guided them, as in their middle years they saw a different and nobler freedom threatened with destruction.”
Into the 21st century, millions of copies of The Great Gatsby and his other works have been sold, and Gatsby, a constant best-seller, is required reading in many high school and college classes.