Why does Zelda Fitzgerald continue to hold our attention 65 years after her death? Yes, she was beautiful, artistic, volatile, and often in the shadow of one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, her own husband. She perished catastrophically, a victim of a fire at the mental institution where she was a patient. But there must be something beyond the bare facts of her tragic life that continues to inspire people to get inside her head, to make attempts at figuring her out. Perhaps it was her talent—real or imagined, tapped or untapped— that is the real source of intrigue. She had a flair—for living, for writing. She insisted on the title The Great Gatsby instead of Scott’s Trimalchio in West Egg. They both died young, victims of extreme disorders, and we wonder — Could Zelda really have ever outshone her husband?
Zelda always claimed she was as talented as the men in her life, and she often fell to pieces trying to prove it. She was swamped by her love for Scott, and speculation abounds that this hindered her from being as prolific as she might have been, had she had the inclination to unglue herself from their toxic relationship. Some believe her talent was truly limited anyway, and that our fascination with her stems from our basic preoccupation as humans with scandal and gossip and melodrama. Or maybe the answer is simple and kind — appreciate her for who she was, and for what she continues to inspire.
In 2013, Zelda Fitzgerald posthumously visits us in the form of three new novels. Fortunate perhaps, for those of us who immediately forage for a new book on a particular subject the second we finish the previous one. But this is not the beginning of Zelda fever. She lives on in movies, and there have been plays and even a graphic novel dedicated to Zelda alone. In fact, since 1970, the year Nancy Milford’s biography was published, there have been over 20 books dedicated to this complicated woman.
Who is Zelda? Her husband’s muse, the model for many of his female characters, an aspiring ballerina for a time, a writer herself, a woman with an uncanny flair for the dramatic? Can this question be answered at all?
Read up, and decide for yourself.
Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, Therese Ann Fowler, 2013
Call me Zelda, Erika Robuck, 2013
Superzelda: The Graphic Life of Zelda Fitzgerald, Tiziana Lo Porto and Daniele Marotta, 2013
Beautiful Fools: The Last Affair of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, R. Clifton Spargo, 2013
Save Me the Waltz, Zelda Fitzgerald, edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli, 1932
Zelda Fitzgerald: Her Voice in Paradise, by Sally Cline, 2003
Zelda: A Biography, by Nancy Milford, 1970
Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda: the Love Letters of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Fitzgerald, edited by Cathy W. Barks and Jackson R. Bryer