How many novels have been written expressly for the purpose of getting married? Probably not a lot and at the top of the pack of that precious few sits This Side of Paradise which F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote because he needed the money for his dreams of betrothal to a free-spirited Alabama girl of Southern aristocratic breeding named Zelda Sayre. Eight days following the publication of This Side of Paradise Fitzgerald and Zelda were wed. So, if nothing else, This Side of Paradise exists as irrefutable proof that writing a novel is one way to convince a skeptical romantic partner that you will be able to financially support a marriage.
Of course, the legacy of This Side of Paradise extends well beyond merely earning enough dough for its author and the object of its inspiration to become thereafter inextricably linked together as Scott and Zelda. The Great Gatsby may be the ultimate encapsulation of the zeitgeist of the Roaring Twenties, but This Side of Paradise is the Fitzgerald novel that helped to define what would come to be known as the Jazz Age. As first novels invariably seem to be, This Side of Paradise is basically a thinly veiled semi-autobiographical account of a student at Princeton who doesn’t have the mettle to become a sports star and so turns his attention to writing and partying before falling in love with a madcap woman from the South who also loves to party.
The novel’s portrait of the wild exuberance of college life was both inspired by and influential in the portrait of Jazz Age which would be forever associated with Scott and Zelda. This Side of Paradise did much to shape the overriding image of the 1920s mentality of a new generation ready to rip up the conventions and traditions of the old and assume a place in the crafting of a new lifestyle to fit the heady times of a rising stock market, unbounded optimism and an arrogant sense of entitlement. And while the proceeds from the sales of the novel were not exactly to the level where Fitzgerald could assure Zelda of an unbroken continuance of all the instant gratification she had grown used to as a child and young woman, its success threw wide open the doors of potential through Scott marched on his way to becoming the unofficial biographer of the Jazz Age.