Published in 1934, Tender Is the Night was one of the most talked-about books of the year. "It's amazing how excellent much of it is," Ernest Hemingway said to Maxwell Perkins. "I will say now," John O'Hara wrote Fitzgerald, "Tender Is the Night is in the early stages of being my favorite book, even more than This Side of Paradise." And Archibald MacLeish exclaimed: "Great God, Scott...You are a fine writer. Believe it -- not me."
Set on the French Riviera in the late 1920s, Tender Is the Night is the tragic romance of the young actress Rosemary Hoyt and the stylish American couple Dick and Nicole Diver. A brilliant young psychiatrist at the time of his marriage, Dick is both husband and doctor to Nicole, whose wealth goads him into a lifestyle not his own, and whose growing strength highlights Dick's harrowing demise. A profound study of the romantic concept of character -- lyrical, expansive, and hauntingly evocative -- Tender Is the Night, Mabel Dodge Luhan remarked, raised F. Scott Fitzgerald to the heights of "a modern Orpheus."
Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1896 and was educated at St. Paul Academy, the Newman School, and Princeton University. In 1917 he left Princeton to join the army and shortly after his demobilization sold his first short story to the Smart Set, edited by H. L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan. Encouraged by his early success Fitzgerald went on to write his first novel, This Side of Paradise (1920), which was published by Scribners when he was just twenty-three. An exuberant and unconventional novel of undergraduate life at Princeton, it immediately established him as the bright light of his era -- the spokesman for the "jazz age." That same year Scott married Zelda Sayre and the notorious couple divided their time among New York, Paris, the Riviera, and Rome, becoming a part of the American expatriate circle that included Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, and Thomas Wolfe.
The crowning achievement of his career was his novel The Great Gatsby (1925), but Fitzgerald's popularity waned thereafter. In 1930 Zelda suffered a nervous breakdown that required her to be institutionalized. Beset as he was by his wife's illness and his own drinking problems, Fitzgerald was having a difficult time writing Tender Is the Night (1934), for which he drew on both his own experiences and Zelda's fifteen months in a Swiss sanitarium. To accommodate the high life-style to which he was accustomed, he came to rely more and more on his commercial short story writing for The Saturday Evening Post, Scribner's Magazine, and Esquire, earning at his peak more than $36,000 a year.
Fitzgerald died of a heart attack at the age of forty-four while working on his unfinished novel of Hollywood, The Love of the Last Tycoon, which Edmund Wilson considered his most mature work. For his keen social insight, glib sophistication, and breathtaking lyricism, Fitzgerald stands as one of the most important American writers of the first half of the twentieth century.
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