When I read the "Publisher's Afterward" and "Brief Life of F. Scott Fitzerald," these texts reminded me of something familiar. "A tuxedo man with a strong jutting jaw line posing next to a fine-featured beauty with a thick blond bob, her slender arms around in a evening gown." This pair could be anyone, but it is no accident that they look almost exactly like the book's author, F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda.

Fitzerald, born 100 years ago in St. Paul Minnesota, made his career out of confusion between art and life, creating fascinating image of youth celebrity and excess. And image that is stronger that it was in the 1920's.

He was only 23 when he published "This side of paradise," his first and great successful novel about the desire and blighted hope of a Princeton undergraduate. "Here was a new generation," he wrote at the end, " a new generation dedicated more than the last to the fear of poverty and the worship of success; grown up to find all gods dead, all wars fought, all faiths in man shake." With these words, Fitzerald seemed to establish himself as the chronicler of an era, the one he called the Jazz age.

Fitzerald, who became universal today, it is impossible for anyone growing up in America with out knowing something about him. "The Great Gatsby," along with "Romeo and Juliet" and "Hamlet," has for decades been on the top required texts for high school students. You might see Fitzgerald looking something like Robert Redford, who played Fitzgerald's mistaken hero. Jay Gatsby, the dreamer who gather a fortune in a vain attempting to repeat the past and win back the rich girl he loved years before.

There is an exhibit in Princeton of Fitzgerald's collections. The glass cases start with a boyhood scrapbook from St. Paul, where Fitzgerald was born on September 24, 1896. He was named for Francis Scott Key, the poet who wrote " The Star-Spangled Banner" and distant relative of Fitzgerlad's father.

From those early days, the exhibit moves on to a display of lyrics from the musical "Fie! Fie! Fi-Fi," which Fitzgerald wrote during his less than studious years as an undergraduate. Another case displays his Army enlistment from World War I when he was sent to the south and met Zelda Sayre. He declared her "the prettiest girl in Alabama and Georgia."

With the publication of "this side of Paradise" a revision of an earlier rejection titled "the Romantic Egoist", Zelda agreed to marry Fitzgerald in 1920. The two set out on a fling of celebration and celebrity that led one of their friends, the humorist Ring Lardner, to declare them "the prince and princess of their generation."

The Fitzerald are an impossible handsome family, but life among the lost generation was all but smooth. A chart shows how sales declined on each of Fitzerald's novels. A letter from Ernest Hemingway criticizes him from being a "rummy". And worst of all, Zelda breaks down and was brought into a mental institute.

Fitzerald spent his final years supercilious with drink, struggling to make it as a Hollywood screenwriter. His final papers include the unfinished manuscript of "the Love of the Last Tycoon," which some calls it his best work.

In December 1940, he was making a list of Princeton's most promising new football recruits when his heart stopped. Some said "Roughly, his career began and ended with the Nineteen Twenties."

The blockbuster movie "the Great Gatsby" pushed the Fitzerald rebirth from academic circles into popular consciousness. The acting was awful, but the sets and costumes were gorgeous, a shallow presentation.

Fitzgerald's success after his death rise rings the bell in the public subconscious. The moral of his stories about the corrupt rich was lost in the struggling of Depression-era Americans and the earnest patriots of the Second World War. But with the first biography in 1951, a more prosperous nation was ready to re-accept the Fitzgerald blend of irony ad optimism, and recover the cult of materialism and youth.

The Gatsby lesson that I learned, is "you can't fix the past"