I sit here thinking about what I’ve just read. Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler explores the tumultuous life of Zelda Fitzgerald and her often times toxic relationship with world renowned literary genius, F. Scott Fitzgerald. As much as this novel is about Zelda, Fowler also gives us a poignant look at the kind of person Scott probably was, which I have to say is not very appealing. I know this is a fiction novel, but it is based on two historical figures and historical events so some of it has to have a measure of truth to it. This couple embodied what life was like in the Roaring 20s. Scott himself coined the term Jazz Age, and Zelda was one of the first flappers.* As you read on though you begin to see their relationship disintegrate and more often than not I felt my heart go out to Zelda. In a lot of ways Scott was manipulative, jealous of her success, controlling, and condescending. He was also a huge alcoholic, which didn’t help the situation. All Zelda wanted to do was be her own person, but by society’s standards it was nearly impossible. She was quite a writer herself and contributed many diary entries to a lot of Scott’s work and had things published on her own but she was always told that her work would sell better under Scott’s name, under her husband’s name. She was struggling to find her own identity, but I have to say that there were also times that I sympathized with Scott. He was an up and coming writer who was looking to make a mark in American Literature and it was a hard, bumpy road. To me, as I was reading this book it seemed like Scott and Zelda were both toxic to each other. I found them to both be obsessive and passionate people who liked to push their limits. Scott was obsessive when it came to his writing. He lived for it. There was something in the book where he says without his writing he doesn’t exist and I believe that’s a very strong statement. Zelda, on the other hand, also had an obsessive nature especially when it came to ballet. She worked herself into exhaustion, dancing hours a day to meet perfection. Dancing partly destroyed her, and I think it all became too much on top of everything else. I believe that Fowler did an astounding job at capturing the essence of these historical literary figures. Even though some of the book is falsified it took a great amount of effort and research to make this story come to life. Scott and Zelda were both larger than life and wanted nothing more than to be remembered.
“There are so many ways to be a writer, but I felt I understood writers in general, inasmuch as I think writers can be understood. We all have something to say and we require the written word–as opposed to musical instruments, or pain, ore canvas, or clay, or marble, or what have you–to say it. Not all writers want to be profound (though an awful lot of them do); some want to entertain, some want to inform, some are trying to provoke the most basic, universal feelings using a minimum of words.”~Zelda Fitzgerald, Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald*
*flapper: (in the 1920s) a fashionable young woman intent on enjoying herself and flouting conventional standards of behavior
*This excerpt from the novel really spoke to my soul because I feel as a writer this hit the nail on the head. Oftentimes writers are looking to make a mark, a difference with their writing. Writing is the only thing that soothes us. That’s why I could empathize with Scott on that level as a writer myself. I see my writing as a way to heal others.