Sunday, August 3, 2014

Beautiful Fools: The Last Affair of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald by R. Clifton Spargo

Zelda Fitzgerald
The Woman behind the Artist
(1900 - 1948)

Now on virtually all high school reading lists, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novels, especially The Great Gatsby, were initially commercial failures. Although we now consider Fitzgerald one of America’s greatest writers, he died young, penniless, and forgotten, until scholarly research revived his writing and reputation almost half a century later. But, what most don’t know is that his wife, Zelda Fitzgerald, was also a writer--or at least an aspiring one.

Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald

Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald began writing her first book while being treated for schizophrenia at the Phipps Clinic of John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Zelda finished writing her almost entirely autobiographical novel, Save Me the Waltz, in a two-month manic frenzy. She sent her manuscript to the renowned literary editor Maxwell Perkins.

Scott read the book after Zelda sent it out, and he was furious. He had been working for years on what would become Tender is the Night, and he felt that Zelda “plagiarized” the material he was using for his own book, which was also based on the couple’s life together. Scott insisted the book would not sell, calling Zelda a “third-rate writer.” Nonetheless, Perkins agreed to publish her book, although it was, as Scott predicted, received poorly. Save Me the Waltz was later reprinted in 2001.

In Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda, their marriage is documented in a series of love letters. Zelda was an unstable, gregarious socialite, and Scott was jealous, obsessive, and domineering. Still, the letters demonstrate an astoundingly deep affection for one another. Shortly before their marriage, in a letter to a friend, Fitzgerald calmed fears that the marriage might not work: “I fell in love with [Zelda’s] courage, sincerity, and her flaming self-respect, and it’s these things I’d believe in even if the whole world indulged in wild suspicions that she wasn’t all that she should be. But of course the real reason…is that I love her and that’s the beginning and end of everything.”

As Fitzgerald turned to the bottle more and more, Zelda’s behavior grew increasingly erratic. After Save Me the Last Waltz was published, she spent the rest of her adult life in and out of mental hospitals. Although she never published work after her first failed novel, she dabbled in both art and ballet. Her interest in ballet was especially troubling, as she practiced to exhaustion, putting in eight hours of work every day.

When Scott died in Hollywood from a heart attack at 44, Zelda, staying at a hospital in North Carolina at the time, was unable to attend the funeral. Zelda died in a fire at the same hospital eight years later. We emember Zelda, whom her husband proclaimed “the first American flapper,” for her tumultuous love affair with one of America’s greatest artists. Yet she should still be understood as a fascinating figure in her own right, a woman who defined an era.

This guest post is contributed by Pamelia Brown, who writes for the site associate degree . She welcomes your comments at her email Id:

A poignant portrayal about the dying love of a famous couple

Book Summary

In this evocative and meticulously detailed novel about the last romance of one of America's greatest literary couples, R. Clifton Spargo crafts an exhilarating portrait of the passionate yet tragically dysfunctional relationship between F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. 

In 1939 Scott is living in Hollywood, a virulent alcoholic and deeply in debt. Despite his relationship with gossip columnist Sheila Graham, he remains fiercely loyal to Zelda, his soul mate and muse. In an attempt to fuse together their fractured marriage, Scott arranges a trip to Cuba, where, after a disastrous first night in Havana, the couple runs off to a beach resort outside the city. But even in paradise, Scott and Zelda cannot escape the dangerous intensity of their relationship. 

In Beautiful Fools, R. Clifton Spargo gives us a vivid, resplendent, and truly human portrait of the Fitzgeralds, and reveals the heartbreaking patterns and unexpected moments of tenderness that 
characterize a great romance in decline. 

Book Review

Beautiful Fools is a poignant, heartwrenching, and tender portrayal of a couple who desperately try to hang on to a doomed love. Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald had risen to great heights, but the Great Depression and drink and mental illness have taken their toll upon their lives and their marriage. So, in 1939, Fitzgerald leaves his mistress and scrapes up enough money to take Zelda out of the mental institution for a vacation in Cuba. This novel spans those precious dwindling few days. 

Spargo's portrayal of this famous husband and wife is beautifully rendered depicting Zelda's love for her husband and her attempt to keep any bitterness against him for past faults like not taking her dancing seriously and for writing abouther. Scott on the other hand, struggles to keep his drinking at bay for his wife's sake, his reckless behavior, his lies, his secrets. 

This character driven story is a beautiful rendition of their lives, of lost love, of dying dreams, of the struggle to let go of the past. The author has given us an indepth look at the secrets and failures of this very fascinating couple.


Audra said...

I love Zelda so much -- fabulous guest post!

Amanda said...

I adore Zelda. I have the great fortune to be from F. Scott's birthplace, so I hear ever so much about the glorious couple - especially around the year 2001 (I'm not exactly sure why).

VonSomething said...

I am yet to read her novel but it is definitely on my "summer-reading" list! Both Zelda and F. Scott (amongst many more) are beautifully portrayed in the 2011 Woody Allen movie, "Midnight in Paris". For those of you who haven't seen it, it's a must see!

Anonymous said...

I just finished reading Call Me Zelda by Erika Robuck last night. I am fascinated with this couple who loved each other so much, despite their descent into madness.

This book sounds fascinating and very interesting so I went ahead and downloaded it and started reading it tonight. The review was wonderful and I loved all the pictures, too!!

Mirella Sichirollo Patzer said...

I'm so glad my review was helpful. I'm fascinated by this couple too. How horrible for Scott who reached such heights of success only to crash down into poverty. And all the while, his colleague Ernest Hemingway was hitting the heights of success.

Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did.