F(rancis) Scott Fitzgerald was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, on September 24, 1896. He was educated at Princeton University and served in the U.S. Army from 1917 to 1919, attaining the rank of second lieutenant. In 1920 Fitzgerald married Zelda Sayre, a young woman of the upper class, and they had a daughter, Frances. Fitzgerald is perhaps best known for his short stories and novels, but his many contributions to American literature also include plays, poetry, music, and letters. He is now highly regarded as an American writer. Ernest Hemingway, who was greatly influenced by Fitzgerald's short stories, wrote that Fitzgerald's talent was "as fine as the dust on a butterfly's wing." Yet during his lifetime Fitzgerald never had a best-selling novel and, toward the end of his life, he worked sporadically as a screenwriter at motion picture studios in Los Angeles. There he contributed to scripts for such popular films as Winter Carnival and Gone with the Wind. Fitzgerald's work is inseparable from the Roaring 20s. Berenice Bobs Her Hair and A Diamond As Big As The Ritz, are two short stories included in his collections, Tales of the Jazz Age and Flappers and Philosophers. His first novel The Beautiful and Damned was flawed but set up Fitzgerald's major themes of the fleeting nature of youthfulness and innocence, unattainable love, and middle-class aspiration for wealth and respectability, derived from his own courtship of Zelda. This Side of Paradise (1920) was Fitzgerald's first unqualified success. The Great Gatsby (1925) is considered by many to be the greatest American novel. Tender Is the Night, a mature look at the excesses of the exuberant 20s, was published in 1934. Much of Fitzgerald's work has been adapted for film, including Babylon Revisited, adapted as The Last Time I Saw Paris by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1954. The Last Tycoon, adapted by Paramount in 1976, was a work in progress when Fitzgerald died of a heart attack on December 21, 1940, in Hollywood, California. Fitzgerald is buried in St. Mary's Cemetery in Rockville, Maryland.
Bryant Mangum is Professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University. In addition to F. Scott Fitzgerald in Context, he is the editor of Modern Library's The Best Early Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald. He is also author of A Fortune Yet: Money in the Art of F. Scott Fitzgerald's Short Stories. His essays have appeared in Resources for American Literary Study, the F. Scott Fitzgerald Review, the Fitzgerald/Hemingway Annual, The Cambridge Companion to F. Scott Fitzgerald, New Essays on F. Scott Fitzgerald's Neglected Stories, and many other books and journals.
Edith Wharton was a woman of extreme contrasts; brought up to be a leisured aristocrat, she was also dedicated to her career as a writer. She wrote novels of manners about the old New York society from which she came, but her attitude was consistently critical. Her irony and her satiric touches, as well as her insight into human character, continue to appeal to readers today. As a child, Wharton found refuge from the demands of her mother's social world in her father's library and in making up stories. Her marriage at age 23 to Edward ("Teddy") Wharton seemed to confirm her place in the conventional role of wealthy society woman, but she became increasingly dissatisfied with the "mundanities" of her marriage and turned to writing, which drew her into an intellectual community and strengthened her sense of self. After publishing two collections of short stories, The Greater Inclination (1899) and Crucial Instances (1901), she wrote her first novel, The Valley of Decision (1902), a long, historical romance set in eighteenth-century Italy. Her next work, the immensely popular The House of Mirth (1905), was a scathing criticism of her own "frivolous" New York society and its capacity to destroy her heroine, the beautiful Lily Bart. As Wharton became more established as a successful writer, Teddy's mental health declined and their marriage deteriorated. In 1907 she left America altogether and settled in Paris, where she wrote some of her most memorable stories of harsh New England rural life---Ethan Frome (1911) and Summer (1917)---as well as The Reef (1912), which is set in France. All describe characters forced to make moral choices in which the rights of individuals are pitted against their responsibilities to others. She also completed her most biting satire, The Custom of the Country (1913), the story of Undine Spragg's climb, marriage by marriage, from a midwestern town to New York to a French chateau. During World War I, Wharton dedicated herself to the war effort and was honored by the French government for her work with Belgian refugees. After the war, the world Wharton had known was gone. Even her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Age of Innocence (1920), a story set in old New York, could not recapture the former time. Although the new age welcomed her---Wharton was both a critical and popular success, honored by Yale University and elected to The National Institute of Arts and Letters---her later novels show her struggling to come to terms with a new era. In The Writing of Fiction (1925), Wharton acknowledged her debt to her friend Henry James, whose writings share with hers the descriptions of fine distinctions within a social class and the individual's burdens of making proper moral decisions. R.W.B. Lewis's biography of Wharton, published in 1975, along with a wealth of new biographical material, inspired an extensive reevaluation of Wharton. Feminist readings and reactions to them have focused renewed attention on her as a woman and as an artist. Although many of her books have recently been reprinted, there is still no complete collected edition of her work.