Of all the sights and sounds we have been privy to since moving to New York almost a year ago, my favorite sight has to be Zelda and F.Scott Fitzgerald’s Long Island home in Great Neck, NY. It’s pictured above and it gave me a chill to imagine F.Scott on the balcony with a cigarette and a glass of whiskey or strong black coffee or imagine old fashioned cars parked all over the lawn and sidewalks at one of the Fitzgerald’s legendary parties. It was a powerful place to exercise the imagination and I have more information to inform my imagination now after reading this gem!
The Paris Wife has met its match. How that historical “fiction” illuminated the other side of the beginning of the Hemingway legend was duplicated here for Fitzgerald. I read and read and read about Hemingway and Fitzgerald, and while I consider myself a thinking person, I don’t read critically enough, think critically enough, or create a critical enough interpretation of the reality. Books like Z (and The Paris Wife) are fiction sure, but it reconstructs my preexisting view of the reality of those literary legends.
And the times. Oh, the times. What a time to be a woman. Ambition is a bad word for a wife. Being a wife and mother has to be priority number one. I suppose I knew that would be the twenties and thirties protocol but I forget what that truly means. Funneling this “fiction” through my modern feminist point of view helps me piece together an outrage that I suppose isn’t entirely fair to Fitzgerald but how does marriage function without egalitarian values? How can anyone be happy in that setup?
This is rhetorical, but begs one of the greater questions posed by the narrative. The ultimate question being how well do you understand the Fitzgeralds when you think, you really truly think, about Zelda? What about Zelda?
Hemingway was against her and spread propaganda about how she sabotaged Fitzgerald’s talent, but when you actually work through his campaign against her, the facts of their lifestyles and dispositions, and finally create your own opinion about the truth, it all shakes out to say nothing is as simple as what we are presented. The agenda of biographers aren’t interested in the wives and their lives. They are interested in the heros, the talent, and that preconceived greatness inhibits biographers from writing the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help so help me God. What biographer wants to commit months, years, or a lifetime researching and writing a person if that person isn’t a hero?
It is amazing the function of fiction in creating a more honest illusion of the truth than non-fiction.
Postscript: This novel pushed me to investigate Zelda Fitzgerald’s artwork and, my gosh, I actually love it! I want to buy a coffee table book with a collection of her work and attend an exhibition of her work. Three Ballerinas is very vintage Picasso. The biblical works are intense, passionate, and convey so much. And, of course, the New York City works are probably my favorites. I included a few fan favorites here but this is a tip of the iceberg type situation. Zelda Fitzgerald’s talent may have been eclipsed by her husband but I am enjoying the delightful uncovering of layer after layer of her complex character and life’s work.