Sometimes Madness is Wisdom: Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald: A marriage – Kendall Taylor
Hello and welcome to my commitment to reading more non fiction! Also, what a title! It certainly is a mouthful!
Irresistibly charming, recklessly brilliant, Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald epitomized everything that was beautiful and damned about the Jazz Age. But behind the legend, there was a highly complex and competitive marriage–a union not of opposites but almost of twins who both inspired and tormented each other, and who were ultimately destroyed by their shared fantasies. Now in this frank, stylish, superbly written new book, Kendall Taylor tells the story of the Fitzgerald marriage as it has never been told before.
Following the success of Fitzgerald’s first novel, This Side of Paradise, Scott and Zelda took New York by storm. Scott was recognized as the greatest American author of the twenties and everyone was fascinated with Zelda, his ravishing young wife, known as the model for all his flapper heroines. Ultimately it all fell apart, and Kendall Taylor tells us why. Drawing on previously suppressed material, including crucial medical records, Taylor sheds fresh light on Zelda’s depths and mysteries–her rich but largely unrealized artistic talents, her own ambitions that were unfulfilled because she was Mrs. F. Scott Fitzgerald, her passionate love affairs. Zelda’s contribution to Scott’s fiction, which was based on her diaries, her letters, and her life, was her only great achievement–and for that she may have paid the terrible price of her own sanity.
In Sometimes Madness Is Wisdom, Kendall Taylor has created the definitive Fitzgerald biography. Written with sympathy, original insight, and dazzling style–and featuring memorable appearances from Edmund Wilson, Gertrude Stein, and Ernest Hemingway, among others–this is a stunning portrait of a marriage, an age, and a fabulous but tragic woman.
So, you may remember at the beginning of the month I made a plea for help in getting more into non fiction, you guys really came through for me on here, Twitter and YouTube, so I, armed with a list of titles from you all, headed to the library. Sadly, there wasn’t a single one in the library, I am undeterred, there are other libraries to try! However I did find this, so I figured I should ease myself into my non fiction project by grabbing a book on a subject I’m already a bit familiar with.
Long time visitors here (or any of you that know me IRL) will know that I bloody love the Fitzgeralds. Scott is a problematic fave of mine, I find him and the other writers of his time infinitely fascinating and I learning more about the time in history and them as people is always something I’m happy to do. This book was one of the best biographies of the two I’ve ever read, mostly because it spent a lot of time talking about Zelda, her life before Scott and referred to her as a separate entity to him. So few biographies on the Fitzgeralds and their relationship focus on her, which is a shame because Zelda was a fascinating woman, she was incredibly talented and often overshadowed by Scott – who, although a very talented author, did use bits of Zelda’s writing in his own. Like I said, problematic fave.
Aside from being interesting historically and socially, especially as the Fitzgeralds lived in so many different countries and seeing how society moved with the times in each of those places was pretty captivating, I think the most fascinating part of this book was the chapters talking about Zelda’s health, particularly about the onset of her schizophrenia and how it affected her marriage and her creative aspirations. I’ve been interested in mental health issues for a really long time (previous readers of this blog, will know why), so reading about the different symptoms and treatments, especially in the time period, was so interesting! (How many times have I used that word so far? Sorry, but this was FASCINATING, this was exactly why I wanted to read more non fiction!)
Basically, this was great, although I was familiar with a lot of the material, I did learn so much more! The only thing I would say is that I didn’t appreciate the way the author wrote about Hadley Hemingway. Hadley may not have been as vibrant as Zelda, but she was an incredibly strong woman with integrity and I aint got time for any shade throwing!
Got any more non fiction I should read? Give me titles to add to my list!