Thursday, October 22, 2009

F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tax Returns

Man, this story is just about the perfect storm for me. It's where a literary giant and tax analysis meet:
What can be learned from Fitzgerald’s tax returns? To start with, his popular reputation as a careless spendthrift is untrue. Fitzgerald was always trying to follow conservative financial principles. Until 1937 he kept a ledger—as if he were a grocer—a meticulous record of his earnings from each short story, play, and novel he sold. The 1929 ledger recorded items as small as royalties of $5.10 from the American edition of The Great Gatsby and $0.34 from the English edition. No one could call Fitzgerald frugal, but he was always trying to save money—at least until his wife Zelda’s illness, starting in 1929, put any idea of saving out of the question. The ordinary person saves to protect against some distant rainy day. Fitzgerald had no interest in that. To him saving meant freedom to work on his novels without interruptions caused by the economic necessity of writing short stories. The short stories were his main source of revenue.

Nothing really new here. Fitzgerald was popular and earned a lot then he wasn't and didn't then he went to Hollywood. But it's interesting to see the numbers behind those assertions. I'd like to see the returns, too.

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