Introduction F. Scott Fitzgerald, “the Cultural World,” and the Lure of the American Scene

  • Michael Nowlin
Part of the American Literature Readings in the 21st Century book series (ALTC)


“My one hope is to be endorsed by the intellectually élite & thus be forced on to people as Conrad has,” wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald to his editor Maxwell Perkins late in 1921.1 Enjoying unusual early success as a twenty-five-year-old author of an autobiographical novel and a handful of well-placed stories, he was alerting Perkins that he was going to alienate a good portion of his readership with his more serious and mature follow-up novel, The Beautiful and Damned (1922). His wish—or fear—did not come true: The Beautiful and Damned sold over thirty thousand copies within its first two months and proved Fitzgerald’s most commercially successful novel during his lifetime. Still, his unabashed statement of ambition spoke volumes about the contradictory nature of literary success as he understood it— and he understood it astutely. One was never really an artistic success until one risked commercial failure; and one could risk commercial failure because of the power invested in an authoritarian, cultural court-of-appeal to confer true and final value.


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  1. 1.
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© Michael Nowlin 2007

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  • Michael Nowlin

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