Curiously, F. Scott Fitzgerald has appealed to two diverse audiences since the beginning of his career: the popular magazine audience and the elite of the literary establishment. His work appeared regularly in the 1920’s and 1930’s in such mass-circulation magazines as the Saturday Evening Post, Hearst’s, International, Collier’s, and Redbook. The readers of these magazines came to ask for Fitzgerald’s flapper stories by name, expecting to find in them rich, young, and glamorous heroes and heroines involved in exciting adventures. Popular magazines in the 1920’s billed Fitzgerald stories on the cover, often using them inside as lead stories. Long after Fitzgerald lost the knack of writing the kind of popular stories that made him famous as the creator of the flapper in fiction and as the poet laureate of the Jazz Age, magazine headnotes to his stories identified him as such.
Those who recognized the more serious side of Fitzgerald’s talent, as it was evidenced particularly in his best stories and novels, included Edmund Wilson, George Jean Nathan, H. L. Mencken, Gertrude Stein, Edith Wharton, and T. S. Eliot, who offered criticism as well as praise. Fitzgerald was generous with advice to other writers, most notably to Ring Lardner, Ernest Hemingway, and Thomas Wolfe, but also to struggling unknowns, who wrote to him asking for advice, and receiving it.
Many of Fitzgerald’s critical opinions went into the public domain when he published essays in Esquire in the late 1930’s, his dark night of the soul. Regarded by some in Fitzgerald’s time as self-pitying, these essays are now often anthologized and widely quoted for the ideas and theories about literature and life that they contain. At the time of his death, Fitzgerald seemed nearly forgotten by his popular readers and greatly neglected by literary critics. After his death and the posthumous publication of his incomplete The Last Tycoon, a Fitzgerald revival began. With this revival, Fitzgerald’s reputation as a novelist (principally on the strength of The Great Gatsby and Tender Is the Night), short-story writer, and essayist has been solidly established.