Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Z - A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald

Z: A Novel of Zelda FitzgeraldZ: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For a man who defined the Jazz Age through his writing, it is no surprise that F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda Sayre personified the Age simply by the lives they led. In “Z”, Fowler fictionalizes one of the most intriguing women of the era – whose real life matched the sensationalism of her and her husband’s creative work. The extravagance and decadence that seems to ultimately end Gatsby’s life also plagues the Fitzgeralds as they attempt to make their way into the circle of the literary elite.  Fowler opens part one of “Z” with a quote from T.S. Eliot: “If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?” This whole story is about how Zelda is in over her head for her whole adult life – not because Zelda is not smart or talented, but because the man she loves is forever seeking for something he cannot quite attain.

Reminiscent of Paula McLain’s “The Paris Wife”, I found myself captivated again by the expatriate scenes of France and Italy during the 1920s. More unsettling than “The Paris Wife”, “Z” brings up the argument again of whether truly great artists – be they writers, musicians, or painters – can achieve critical and financial success without leading debaucherous or tragic lives. Thus far in my reading, the answer seems to be a resounding no. Hemingway, who I appreciate but dislike profoundly, married four times and put a gun his mouth at 61. Fitzgerald literally drank himself to death at the age of 40. O’Brien had to live through the horrors to Vietnam to create his masterful “The Things They Carried”. Steinbeck was a manic-depressive. Perhaps a simplistic way to view the situation, but I cannot help thinking that great art needs great tragedy – be it self inflicted or out of their control.

As for whether or not you should read this story, it is not amazing, but it is powerful. If you love Gatsby or were fascinated by The Paris Wife or even thoroughly entertained by Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris”, then this book should keep your attention. I know it held mine. Happy Reading.

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

No comments: