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Zelda: A Biography Paperback – November 29, 2011
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From the Back Cover
Zelda Sayre started out as a Southern beauty, became an international wonder, and died by fire in a madhouse. With her husband, F. Scott Fitzgerald, she moved in a golden aura of excitement, romance, and promise. The epitome of the Jazz Age, they rode the crest of the era to its collapse and their own.
As a result of years of exhaustive research, Nancy Milford brings alive the tormented, elusive personality of Zelda and clarifies as never before her relationship with Scott Fitzgerald. Zelda traces the inner disintegration of a gifted, despairing woman, torn by the clash between her husband’s career and her own talent.
About the Author
Nancy Milford holds both an M.A. and a Ph.D. from Columbia University where Zelda was her dissertation. She has held a Guggenheim Fellowship in Biography, and has served on the boards of the Authors Guild, the Society of American Historians, and the Writers Room, of which she is a founder. Her most recent book is Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay. She lives in Manhattan.
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Top Customer Reviews
Second, the other reviews don't, in my view, really convey the depth of tragedy here. If Ford Madox Ford had a time-traveling library and could have read this book, he would not have begun The Good Soldier with, "This is the saddest story I have ever heard." Instead, he would have sad, "This is the second saddest story I have ever heard." Zelda and F. Scott became an incredibly famous and glamorous couple in the early 1920s, but within a decade, their lives were complete misery. F. Scott was a raging alcoholic and his inept responses to what in hindsight were early signs of his wife's mental illness would likely be considered abusive today. And Zelda for her part wasn't particularly loveable. The sheer gratuitousness and abruptness of Zelda's death only underscores the sadness of it all.
The book has two phases. The first reads like a documentary version of The Beautiful and Damned, Fitzgerald's novel of an imploding society couple. In fact, Milford quotes a letter by F.Read more ›
Fitgerald was eager -- obsessed -- to make a name for himself, and her talent (which came through even in her madness) became his plagarized muse. Both of them fell victim to these circumstances and mindset.
After reading this bio I would bet dollars to donuts that the image that kicks off "Tender is the Night," "the tan prayer-rug of a beach," was thought up by Zelda. This bio makes clear, to my mind at least, that Scott, acutely aware of the demands of the literary craft, recognized and basically stole her strikingly visual phrases, to sprinkle through his own writing; as well as making her life the subject of several of his stories and novels.
The drawback to this book and what makes it progressively harder to read is that, in the latter half, the author Milford often uses narrative structure to drain both any sympathy for Zelda's condition and any empathy which admiration for Zelda's talent might cause. Often after a typically striking example of Zelda's prose, Milford will follow it with, "She was truly alone now," or "Her face looked haggard as she..." Milford seems to focus on such not-really-telling "details" of Zelda's life to hide her own (Milford's) basic lack of empathy.Read more ›
The author's writing has a cold, dispassionate quality. She has an irritating habit of mentioning obscure details (names of people, for example), and either explaining them much later or not explaining them at all (her more recent book on Edna St Millay shares this technique). The effect is curiously distancing; as if the author knows far more than she lets on and does not care to explain it all to mere mortals like us.
Given the importance of ballet in Zelda's later life, for example, why is a picture of her as a young teenager in a ballet dress included without any comment whatsoever? Did she learn ballet as a girl? Was she any good at it? Was there anything to indicate that it would later become an obsession? These are important and enlightening details that we never learn. Nor do we hear of anything beyond Zelda's death, which rather abruptly ends the book, offering little insight into her later legacy and reputation. It's as if we're constantly trying to spot the subject in the middle distance, only to find Milford's head in the way every time.
Factually, the book is faultless, which only makes this distance even more frustrating. I wanted to find Zelda; to know this fascinating person and to form my own conclusions about her, but she remained completely elusive amongst the cold, clinical facts.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Amazing story!! So glad I read this! Had no idea the back-story! Would recommend this to anyone! A must read!Published 28 days ago by Amanda MacMillan
Of course Zelda's in Scott's writing and vice-versa, what does that prove? And why wouldn't she be? To hear Mitford, w/o Scott Zelda would've written Gatsby. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Richard Fitzgerald
This biography was well researched and held my interest throughout. The book is full of direct quotes from letters, short stories and novels. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Michael P.
It started out good, the young years of Zelda and Scott were well written and informative. This quickly turned into a disappointment, dragging on and on after Zelda's illness... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Alex
I had digested a good deal of F. Scott Fitzgerald biography before my wife recommended that I read this to balance up my impressions of Scott. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Ben J Korgen