Last Years of F. Scott Fitzgerald's Life Subject of New Novel

Dec 21, 2015

Stewart O'Nan's latest novel reveals the story of F. Scott Fitzgerald's life after his "Gatsby" fame.
Credit stewart-onan.com

It was on this date, exactly 90 years ago that one of the classics of American literature was published. The Great Gatsby cemented the place of F. Scott Fitzgerald in the American literary tradition, and helped make a celebrity of Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda.

The image of Fitzgerald as a roaring 1920s celebrity is one that has stuck with him nearly a century later. But the next decade wasn’t nearly as kind to him, or to Zelda. The harsh final years of Fitzgerald’s life – in which his wife was confined to a mental institution and Scott worked as a Hollywood screenwriter – could have been drawn from fiction.

For writer Stewart O’Nan, they have become the stuff of fiction in his new biographical novel, West of Sunset.

According to O'Nan, Fitzgerald saw himself as "the outsider looking in" while he struggled with alcoholism, massive debt and an institutionalized wife, all while trying to find work as a writer in Hollywood during the Great Depression.

F. Scott Fitzgerald eventually paid off all his debts and began writing stories of his own again.

"He always worked. I look at him the way I look at somebody like a Joyce Carol Oates, or an Updike, or a Stephen King, or a Margaret Atwood. Somebody who would take on almost every form and just work, and work, and work. He was tireless," says O'Nan.

Through the unique lens this book offers, O'Nan hopes that history will remember more than the image of F. Scott Fitzgerald of The Great Gatsby and the roaring twenties, and see the person he became after.