Monday, June 24, 2013

Book Review: Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler

Title: Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald
Author: Therese Anne Fowler
Enjoyment Rating: ***
Source: Audible
This book would be rated: PG-13 for general debauchery

As a former English major and English teacher, I thought I knew about Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. I'd read some of his novels and A Moveable Feast, after all. They were rich and wild and talented and crazy-- the poster children for the 1920s flappers. But reading Z demonstrated just how little I knew about the Fitzgeralds, and how it may be difficult for anyone to know about the intimacies of someone else's marriage.

Z starts out when Zelda is about to graduate from high school and follows the trajectory of her life until Scott's death about twenty years later. It really zones in on the early years of her marriage when everything was bright and shiny and the couple could blow through forty or fifty thousand dollars like it was nothing.

The thing that surprised me most about Z was the universality of ambition and ego. Scott reminded me so much of some of the guys I went to grad school with-- guys who were going to be WRITERS. I don't mean that there weren't women who wanted to be writers (this was an MFA program, after all), but rather than just writing, it seemed that Scott was somewhat caught up in the celebrity of what it meant to be a WRITER, to the point that actually writing became secondary. I was also struck by the way that Fowler was able to capture the way that Scott's ego increased and created a lot of the anxiety problems Zelda suffered from, and then he used those problems to justify his own bad behavior. It's been several weeks since I read the book, and now that I look back on it, what I remember most is how it was an insight into a marriage even more than an insight into Zelda herself. Which I guess is fitting, since she often felt that her marriage both brought her fame and limited her potential.

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