Tag: Save Me the Waltz

Save Me the Waltz by Zelda Fitzgerald

Posted March 14, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Classic / 2 Comments

Save Me the Waltz by Zelda FitzgeraldTitle: Save Me the Waltz (Goodreads)
Author: Zelda Fitzgerald
Narrator: Jennifer Van Dyck
Published: Vintage, 1932
Pages: 225
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Audiobook

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Save Me the Waltz is the story of Alabama Beggs, a young Southern girl who meets and falls in love with David Knight during World War I. The two inevitably get married and David goes on to become a successful painter, before moving their family to the French Riviera. However Alabama is determined to find her own success and takes up ballet. When she lands her first solo debut in the opera Faust the cracks in their marriage become evident.

After an episode of hysteria in 1932, Zelda Fitzgerald was admitted to the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for treatment. Dr Adolf Meyer, an expert on schizophrenia was her doctor and as part of her recovery routine he got her to write at least two hours a day. Save Me the Waltz was written over the course of six weeks and was the first and only novel to be published by Zelda Fitzgerald. Her husband was outraged that she took so much of their personal life and added it into this novel. Despite the fact that the majority of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novels are also autobiographical and he used the same material for his novel Tender is the Night.

I wanted to read Save Me the Waltz after reading Tender is the Night to compare the similarities. The problem I soon discovered is that Save Me the Waltz has possibly been whitewashed by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Apparently he helped Zelda revise her book and the amount that has been changed is unknown because her original manuscript has been lost. However Scott went from being irate to writing to Maxwell Perkins at Scribner (their publisher) “Here is Zelda’s novel. It is a good novel now, perhaps a very good novel—I am too close to tell.” I am inclined to believe that he has made sure he comes across better than originally written but without the original that is purely speculation.

The major theme within Save Me the Waltz is around the intense desire for Alabama/Zelda to succeed for themselves. It was not enough for either person to be the wife behind a successful man, and it explores the problems faced in doing this in a male dominated society. When Alabama gets her dream job in Naples with the San Carlo Opera Ballet Company, David does not want to move. Considering that he is a painter and could really work from anywhere, it says a lot about their marriage. This does not hinder Alabama from perusing her dreams and she goes to Naples anyway, leaving her husband to look after their child alone. Now this move may make people uneasy but it really plays with the power dynamic of marriage. Zelda Fitzgerald wants to challenge the conceptions people had of the role of a wife in a marriage and ask why it was alright for a man to go away for work but not the woman.

This can be a very difficult novel to read, knowing the historical context and history behind the story. Comparing this book with Tender is the Night does not leave F. Scott Fitzgerald in pleasant light but then again his novel did not do that either. One of the most powerful lines in this novel can be found right near the end and it beautifully wraps up the whole book into a few lines. “Emptying the ashtrays was very expressive of myself. I just lump everything in a great heap which I have labelled ‘the past,’ and having thus emptied this deep reservoir that was once myself, I am ready to continue.”

While I cannot say that Save Me the Waltz is a strong novel, it was a fascinating exploration into the lives of the Fitzgeralds. I am glad to have read and compared this book to Tender is the Night but I think it has only fuelled my interest into this couple. I still need to read a biography or two on the Fitzgeralds but I am beginning to get a better idea of their lives. I think if you are going to read Tender is the Night, you need to read Save Me the Waltz so you can have perspective on the autobiographical elements; even if they were tainted by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s edits.

Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Posted January 30, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Book of the Month, Classic / 2 Comments

Tender Is the Night by F. Scott FitzgeraldTitle: Tender Is the Night (Goodreads)
Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Published: Vintage, 1933
Pages: 344
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Rosemary is a young movie scarlet on vacation in the French Rivera, with her mother. It is there that she meets the handsome psychologist Dick Diver and falls madly in love with him. The only problem is Dick is married and his wife, Nicole, a sophisticated socialite is just as lovable. While this magnetic couple draw in admirers and bask in the social spotlight, things are not as perfect as they seem. Tender is the Night is an exploration into a degenerating marriage and the differences between what people project publicly verses what is really happening under the surface.

In 1932 Zelda Fitzgerald was hospitalised for schizophrenia, although there have been huge debates since as to whether she should have been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder (if it was classified back then) instead. While Zelda was being treated at the Phipps Clinic at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, she had a burst of creativity. Over six weeks she wrote her only novel Save Me the Waltz which was published the same year. The novel was semi-autobiographical and when F. Scott Fitzgerald read it he was furious that she shared so much of their personal life within the book. Even though Scott shares a lot of their lives in his own novels, the anger may have to do with the fact he planned to use the material for his next novel Tender is the Night. It is hard to tell how much of Scott’s novel is based on real life and how much is just written in anger towards his wife, I will have to read Save Me the Waltz to make up my own mind.

While Nicole Diver is heavily based on Zelda Fitzgerald, it is up to the reader to make up their mind about Dick and if F. Scott Fitzgerald based this character on himself. I personally think there is a lot of Scott in this character and he wants to portray himself as the handsome, intelligent husband that is devoted to his wife, looking after her through her mental illness. However this is where it gets a bit passive aggressive; Tender is the Night chronicles the downward spiral of Dick Diver’s life. As the novel progresses you begin to see just how this lifestyle and his marriage effects Dick to the point where he is nothing but a shell of his former self.

There are some interesting themes worth exploring within this novel; for me I was mostly interested in the ideas of appearance and reading about F. Scott Fitzgerald’s thoughts about being married. There is such beauty within the writing, but then there is so much sadness to be found as well. I found this to be a heart-breaking novel and the fact that this is based so much on his own marriage just makes things worse. I’m planning to read Save Me the Waltz very soon, just so I can compare the two novels.

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler

Posted February 22, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Historical Fiction / 0 Comments

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne FowlerTitle: Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald (Goodreads)
Author: Therese Anne Fowler
Published: St. Martin's Griffin, 2013
Pages: 384
Genres: Historical Fiction
My Copy: ARC from Netgalley

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

The beautiful and reckless Southern belle Zelda Sayre first met Lieutenant Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald at an Alabama country club dance in 1918; she was seventeen at the time. Scott had a big dream, to be a rich writer and he wanted Zelda to join him on this ride of a lifetime. Taking a chance on him, their life soon became a whirlwind of glamour and fame. Z is a fictionalised account of Zelda Fitzgerald and her life with the dashing F. Scott Fitzgerald who everyone wants to meet.

This Side of Paradise (1920)

The novel starts off with Zelda just shy of her 18th birthday, when she meets Scott, a man with big dreams and unlike all the others. The novel The Romantic Egotist was rejected multiple times and almost killed Scott’s dreams, but it was Zelda who kept pushing him to try again. Their attraction blossoms quickly and soon they find themselves engaged. Scott goes off to try and makes a life for them; Zelda doesn’t take too kindly to waiting and with a bit of pushing they are married. Just a little after This Side of Paradise is released with great success. The popularity of this novel turns them into celebrities; everyone wanted to get to know this new author and his scandalous wife.

The Beautiful and Damned (1922)

Life is good with their new found fame for this newlywed couple, but both are passionate people and slowly this started to cause issues. Firstly with the success of Sinclair Lewis’ novel Main Street, the popularity of This Side of Paradise fadeds quickly and soon this couple found themselves struggling to make ends meet. With all the short stories and  eventually the release of The Beautiful and Damned, which was largely based on their marriage, they were able to get back to living beyond their means.

The Great Gatsby (1925)

Scott began working on a new novel, which he was very passionate about. So passionate in fact that their marriage suffered again and Zelda planned on leaving. With a lot of beginning she eventually stayed and Scott continued to work on the novel that would eventually become The Great Gatsby. He was so passionate about what this novel would become, he could envision what was wrong with the drafts and what needed to be fixed to make it work, when it was released with mixed results, it really hurt him.

Save Me the Waltz (1932)

When Scott became friends with Ernest Hemingway, he started to spend most of his time with him. Scott loved truly loved Hemingway (platonically presumably) and with all the time he spent with him, Zelda and their daughter Scotty felt left out. Due to either boredom or isolation, Zelda’s behaviour became increasingly erratic and eventually she was diagnosed as a schizophrenic. Her novel Save Me the Waltz is a semi autobiographical account of her life and marriage.

Tender Is the Night (1934)

The failure of Save Me the Waltz, and her husband’s scornful criticism of her book by calling it “plagiaristic” and her a “third-rate” writer crushed her spirits and she never wrote creatively again. Scott became an increasingly heavy drinker, which caused many health problems for him as well, but while Zelda was hospitalised, he managed to write Tender is the Night, a book about the rise and fall of a promising young psychoanalyst and his wife (who was also his patient). These were the darkest years of their lives together and this was reflected in this novel.

The Love of the Last Tycoon (1941)

Zelda found out her husband had died of a heart attack from her parents, first thinking something was wrong with Scotty. His death, his legacy and her life afterwards were never really explored in this book. We do know that they were in debt when he died and most of his life insurance went towards covering those costs. His unfinished novel The Love of the Last Tycoon was completed by his friend, the literary critic, Edmund Wilson, based on the notes Scott had written but this wasn’t explored either.

I was really interested in reading about Zelda Fitzgerald after seeing Alison Pill’s brief performance of her in Midnight in Paris. I was more interested in her life than his; she seemed like a real fiery person and Z does really explore the first part of her life really well. The major problem I had was that I didn’t really find out enough about the struggles they faced from the 1930’s onwards. The bulk of the book takes place in the 1920’s and then really skips over their marriage and health issues. It completely missed life after his death all together.

I also had issues with the writing style, it just felt too modern and didn’t feel like how a person would talk in the 1920’s. To put it in perspective in the author notes at the end Therese Anne Fowler used the terms “Team Scott” and “Team Zelda” and the novel felt it was using modern phrases like this as well. While it was an interesting look at their lives, I can’t help wonder how much is actually true; fictionalised accounts of historical events are great but sometimes you need to know when creative licensing is in effect. I might have to read the biography Zelda by Nancy Milford and Save Me the Waltz to really know more about her life. I’m not sure why learning more about her life is more important than his life, but I’m just going to go with it.

Z is a great look at the quintessential “Flapper” of the Jazz Age and the Roaring Twenties but for me I wanted more of the other stuff. Glamour and Fame do have their hardships but it looks like they are nothing compared to what happened next. I really enjoyed learning about Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald; they had an interesting life and I know there was so much to cover. I know more about their lives than I thought I would and while I’m still not sure how much is true, it’s enough to make me want to continue exploring; right after I read every novel written by the Fitzgerald’s as well as Main Street by Sinclair Lewis.