Tuesday, July 12, 2011

For Sunday Scribblings and ABC Wednesday

You know the story of Scott and Zelda?
“Scott,” of course, was F. Scott Fitzgerald, who in 1920 was poised to become one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century. Zelda Sayre was the beautiful -- not just beautiful, captivating -- Southern girl he wanted to marry.

But she wasn’t all that eager to marry Scott. At the time, he had a mediocre job in an advertising agency, making a mediocre twenty dollars a week.
In effect, Zelda said to Scott: Come back when you’re successful. Maybe then...

The novel Scott proceeded to write, This Side of Paradise, wasn’t just successful; it was a blockbuster. Three days after publication, the entire first printing was sold out. Seeing this, and realizing what this meant for his future, on the fourth day after publication he sent a wire to Zelda to come north to New York; they were going to be married. He promised her "all the iridescence of the beginning of the world.”
After their marriage in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the young couple became instant celebrities.
What did you do in those days, if you found yourself suddenly rich and famous? You had a few drinks; you got drunk.

So Scott did, and stayed that way a good deal of the time. In the early days, Zelda matched him, drink for drink.
The newspapers of New York saw the couple as embodiments of the Jazz Age and the Roaring Twenties: young, wealthy, beautiful, and energetic.
“Energetic” seems to have pretty well described them.
They were ordered to leave both the Biltmore and the Commodore hotels because of their drunken behavior. Zelda once jumped into the fountain at Union Square.
Another example of their behavior was when Dorothy Parker first met them; she wrote that Zelda and Scott were riding on the roof of a taxi.
When, in 1921, Zelda gave birth to their baby girl, Scott Fitzgerald carefully wrote what she said as she emerged from the anesthesia. He recorded Zelda saying, "Oh God, Goofo, I'm drunk. Mark Twain. Isn't she smart—she has the hiccups. I hope it's beautiful and a fool—a beautiful little fool". Many of her words found their way into Scott's novels; in The Great Gatsby, the character Daisy Buchanan expresses the same hope for her daughter.
Zelda was not dumb; she had wit and a sense of humor. When Harper & Brothers asked her to contribute to Favorite Recipes of Famous Women she wrote: "See if there is any bacon, and if there is, tell the cook which pan to fry it in. Then ask if there are any eggs, and if so try and persuade the cook to poach two of them. It is better not to attempt toast, as it burns very easily. Also, in the case of bacon, do not turn the fire too high, or you will have to get out of the house for a week. Serve preferably on china plates, though gold will do if handy".
Seeking an artistic identity of her own, Zelda wrote magazine articles and short stories and managed to publish a novel, Save Me the Waltz, in 1932.

But the days of rapture, excitement and world-iridescence faded: Scott and Zelda bickered and fought. The strain of her tempestuous, alcoholic marriage led to Zelda’s growing instability. She was admitted to a mental hospital in 1930. The end was a true tragedy. In 1948, the hospital in which she was a patient caught fire, causing her death.
Inscribed on her tombstone is the final sentence of The Great Gatsby: "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

20 comments:

Roger Owen Green said...

It is an iconic tale, well told by you.

ROG, ABC Wednesday team

Kay L. Davies said...

I had forgotten about her grisly death, Berowne. Grisly, grim, ghastly, and probably unnecessary. I have often wondered what those two might have accomplished if it weren't for their drinking.
— K

Kay, Alberta, Canada
An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

sharplittlepencil said...

Lex and I just saw "Midnight in Paris," and though I am not a huge Woody Allen fan (his ethics make my skin crawl), I must admit this is probably his best. Alison Pill as Zelda is a wonder. You must see it.

Thanks, as always, for your research and your choice of one of my favorite subjects, along with Twain, Sandburg, Parker, and Stein... and oh, so many more. My gram was institutionalized in the same era as Zelda, and I know the horror stories of those days and ways. Amy

Tumblewords: said...

A life much like a novel! Excellent telling...

Leslie: said...

Always enjoy reading your posts and this is no exception. Sounds like Zelda lived life to the fullest even if, as a result, her life was shortened.

Berowne said...

Amy: "'Midnight in Paris' -- you must see it."
Yes, and I agree; it was very good. I especially enjoyed seeing Gertrude Stein, played by Kathy Bates, in her Paris apartment. I shot a film in that place a few decades ago...

Berowne said...

It's always a pleasure to read enthusiastic comments from Roger O G, Kay L D, Tumblewords and Leslie -- thanks.

Reader Wil said...

What a waste of talent! I read "The Great Gatsby"but it was not one of my favourites. Anyway it makes me always sad when talented people destroy their personality.
Great and interesting post, Berowne!

Jingle said...

lovely post on Z/

Berowne said...

Reader Will: "Great and interesting post, Berowne!" Jingle: "Lovely post on Z."
More fine comments -- thanks.

EG Wow said...

Such a tragic story! Success is not always a good thing, I fear.

Dishita said...

loved the quotes.

J Cosmo Newbery said...

Aw, that's sad.

Rinkly Rimes said...

Once again, an interesting post. And it's comforting to read that even the 'captivating' don't have it all!

Andy said...

WoW! Fascinating information.
Good old alcohol...the bane of many an existence.

Thanks for sharing.

Altonian said...

This is a very interesting tale. It has filled a gap in my knowledge that I didn't really know existed. Thanks.

Trulyfool said...

Berowne,

This couple has always fascinated me. I 'concentrated' on his work into graduate school. I 'concentrated' on some of his habits past my schooling.

Scott's downfall was his image. Tender Is The Night is a great book, but no one wanted 'him' anymore.

Thanks for this reminder!

Trulyfool

naramalone.com said...

What a sad story. Amazing how people burn themselves up. I love your writing style, pulled me from one line to the next effortlessly.

Berowne said...

It's a fine morning when I check in and find enthusiastic comments -- from naramalone, Trulyfool, Altonian, Andy, Rinkly Rimes, J Cosmo Newbery, Dishita and EG Wow. Thanks so much.

jabblog said...

I didn't know much of this and enjoyed reading and learning. It's sad when appetites become ungovernable. Poor Zelda - despite her wealth her end was miserable and her death was truly horrific.

 
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