American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896–1940) is best known for The Great Gatsby (1925), but Gatsby is a minor work in Fitzgerald’s repertoire. At the age twenty-four, This Side of Paradise (1920) was published to overwhelming success, lifted Fitzgerald to literary fame, and remains stylistically groundbreaking. The author would hone his form through The Beautiful and Damned (1922) and peak as a novelist with the aesthetic prose in Tender Is the Night (1934), writing notable short stories along the way, such as The Diamond as Big as the Ritz, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “The Rich Boy,” and others.
Fitzgerald’s counter-cultural associations, his troubled relationship with Zelda Sayre, and the posthumous and immoderate astroturfing of The Great Gatsby—considered a let down after This Side of Paradise and The Beautiful and Damned—contribute to a misleading impression. The mysterious Jay Gatsby, backward-aging Benjamin Button, and secret diamond mountain in Montana stir the imagination and are part of what makes F. Scott Fitzgerald a central figure in Western literature, and arguably the best writer of the twentieth century, but what he teaches us the most about is writing as a craft.