Not until the early fifties did interest in Fitzgerald revive, and when it did, it became a veritable scholarly industry. A closer look at his life and career reveals a writer with an acute sense of history, an intellectual pessimist who had grave doubts about Americans’ ability to survive their infatuation with the bitch goddess success. At the same time he conveyed in his best novels and short stories the sense of youthful awe and hope America’s promises created in many people. Few historians have matched the closing lines of The Great Gatsby, when the narrator reflects on how the land must have struck Dutch sailors’ eyes three hundred years earlier: “For a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity to wonder.”
But Fitzgerald did press tax conventions on some occasions. On his 1924 tax return, he deducted $2,450 as a business expense for a “trip to Europe for the purpose of obtaining material for stories, etc.” Fitzgerald understood that personal expenses like meals, clothes, and rent are not deductible. But Section 162 of the Internal Revenue Code allows a deduction for the ordinary and necessary expenses of carrying on a trade or business. There is no doubt that being an author is a trade or business. Fitzgerald regularly deducted his recurring expenses—typing, rent, and so forth—without any problem. What about a trip to Europe to gather material? Fitzgerald had a point. No one could reasonably expect Fitzgerald to stay in St. Paul, Minnesota, and write about expatriates enjoying the high life on the Riviera. Fitzgerald’s reasonable argument simply is that the line between personal and business, in his case, didn’t exist. But the IRS has always insisted there is a line—even if it has to be artificially drawn—and when it objected to the deduction, Fitzgerald decided to give it up.
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Jazz Age author F. Scott Fitzgerald was quintessentially American. Learn about his upbringing, "The Great Gatsby," and his untimely death in this video.