Beautiful Fools: The Last Affair of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald

Beautiful Fools: The Last Affair of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald

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by R. Clifton Spargo
     
 

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In this evocative and meticulously detailed novel about the last romance of one of America's greatest literary couples, R. Clifton Spargo crafts an exhilarating portrait of the passionate yet tragically dysfunctional relationship between F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.
In 1939 Scott is living in Hollywood, a virulent alcoholic and deeply in debt. Despite his

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Overview

In this evocative and meticulously detailed novel about the last romance of one of America's greatest literary couples, R. Clifton Spargo crafts an exhilarating portrait of the passionate yet tragically dysfunctional relationship between F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.
In 1939 Scott is living in Hollywood, a virulent alcoholic and deeply in debt. Despite his relationship with gossip columnist Sheila Graham, he remains fiercely loyal to Zelda, his soul mate and muse. In an attempt to fuse together their fractured marriage, Scott arranges a trip to Cuba, where, after a disastrous first night in Havana, the couple runs off to a beach resort outside the city. But even in paradise, Scott and Zelda cannot escape the dangerous intensity of their relationship.
In Beautiful Fools, R. Clifton Spargo gives us a vivid, resplendent, and truly human portrait of the Fitzgeralds, and reveals the heartbreaking patterns and unexpected moments of tenderness that characterize a great romance in decline.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“If you’re looking for a Great Gatsby retelling with more substance than Baz Luhrmann’s latest, Beautiful Fools is it.”—Miami New Times 

"Beautiful Fools [is] F. Scott’s story as well as Zelda’s, and a Fitzgeraldian wistfulness prevails. This approach to the Fitzgeralds’ story is the most successful of the bunch…With its contained arc and energetic plotting, Beautiful Fools takes the focus off more familiar episodes in the couple’s history."—New Yorker.Com

“…In Spargo’s hands, the Fitzgeralds emerge as fully human, if crazed and ruined characters. . . .as they trade back and forth a valueless currency of hopes, promises and vows of loyalty. This is as far from the fantasy of DiCaprio’s “Gatsby” as an asylum in Baltimore is from the Riviera, but it’s the one version of the story that resists the temptation to glamorize Scott and Zelda out of their humanity.”—Washington Post

"Beautiful Fools is the work of a genuine literary talent...Spargo’s characters transcend reality and become rich and fictional, and the novel, in the form’s paradoxical brilliance (at its best, as often here) speaks truth through invention. Spargo’s Fitzgeralds come alive."—The Spectator

"Spargo's book is richly imagined, and paints a delightfully detailed portrait of Cuba of 1939. It's a positively delicious travelogue."—Chicago Tribune

"Beautiful Fools skillfully evokes Cuba at the end of the 1930s, redolent of the music and scents and tastes of the tropics. Beyond the customary tourist haunts, adventure and danger seem to lurk in every bar and cafe, along every road and deserted beachfront…Writing in third person, and alternating between Scott’s and Zelda’s perspectives, Spargo describes the imperfect communion of two troubled souls who can’t quite let go of their past or each other."—Boston Globe

Praise for the work of R. Clifton Spargo:

"Here is a writer possessing the greatest talent: that of fully inhabiting the lives of others. Spargo conjures up these two as no one has done before. Scott and Zelda become, in Spargo's remarkable novel, not people of history but of literature, and reminders of what we fight for, what we fail to win, and the beauty that abides between. A marvel of a book." —Andrew Sean Greer, author of The Story of a Marriage

"In a voice both intimate and expansive, tender and shrewd, R. Clifton Spargo manages to do the near impossible: craft a story worthy of his iconic subjects." —Holly Goddard Jones, author of The Next Time You See Me

"Spargo's voice is entirely his own and is capable of articulating certain ranges of experience only rarely now available to us.  At once we are in contemporary America and also in a timeless space of personal loss…His work seems to me marked for permanence." —Harold Bloom

"It takes a brave novelist to tackle Scott and Zelda, those mythic ghosts of the Jazz Age. Luckily, Spargo is more than just brave—Beautiful Fools is a vivid and revealing look at two charismatic, self-destructive people, and the love that sustained and ruined them. It's a real feat of historical imagination and novelistic empathy." —Tom Perotta, author of Election and Little Children

"Spargo writes with animation and fervor, a style conducive to the heat generated by his subjects." —Kirkus Reviews

The Washington Post - Joanna Scutts
In Spargo's hands, the Fitzgeralds emerge as fully human, if crazed and ruined characters…There's no remnant of glamour in this final vacation, only the end of love, as they trade back and forth a valueless currency of hopes, promises and vows of loyalty…[Beautiful Fools] resists the temptation to glamorize Scott and Zelda out of their humanity.
Kirkus Reviews
Yet another addition to the spate of novels about Scott and Zelda, this one concentrating less on the toxic and more on the loving side of their relationship. Spargo has an unconventional take on the Fitzgeralds here. Except for a brief introduction set in 1932, when Zelda is first hospitalized for schizophrenia, the novel takes place in April of 1939, on their extended vacation to Cuba. "Vacation" is, however, a circumlocution, for two personalities as intense and brittle as Scott and Zelda can't ever be said to kick back, relax and temporarily forget about their "normal" lives, for there is no normal. Scott is deep into (and taking a break from) his illicit affair with Sheilah Graham, and Zelda is between hospitalizations, hoping for some kind of therapeutic epiphany with Scott. In Havana, Scott quickly finds a simpatico drinking buddy in the form of the darkly charismatic Matéo Cardoña, though Zelda is less impressed and worried about his influence over Scott. After a tragic knife fight in a bar, Cardoña tries to cover for Scott and Zelda, who have witnessed the event, for he wishes both to protect and to assert greater power over them. Cardoña is less than pleased when the Fitzgeralds take off for a resort away from Havana and develop a friendship with a newly married couple: Spaniard Aurelio, wounded in the Spanish Civil War, and his French wife, Maryvonne. Their friendship quickly develops an almost erotic quality, as Maryvonne is both flirtatious and seductive with Scott, but Zelda begins to come undone when they visit a Cuban fortuneteller who hints that Scott has been unfaithful to Zelda--and Zelda takes the seer at her word, pressing Scott for details. Spargo writes with animation and fervor, a style conducive to the heat generated by his subjects.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781468308808
Publisher:
The Overlook Press
Publication date:
04/29/2014
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
378,575
Product dimensions:
7.90(w) x 5.40(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher

Praise for the work of R. Clifton Spargo:

"Here is a writer possessing the greatest talent: that of fully inhabiting the lives of others. Spargo conjures up these two as no one has done before. Scott and Zelda become, in Spargo's remarkable novel, not people of history but of literature, and reminders of what we fight for, what we fail to win, and the beauty that abides between. A marvel of a book." —Andrew Sean Greer, author of The Story of a Marriage

"In a voice both intimate and expansive, tender and shrewd, R. Clifton Spargo manages to do the near impossible: craft a story worthy of his iconic subjects." —Holly Goddard Jones, author of The Next Time You See Me

"Spargo's voice is entirely his own and is capable of articulating certain ranges of experience only rarely now available to us.  At once we are in contemporary America and also in a timeless space of personal loss…His work seems to me marked for permanence." —Harold Bloom

"It takes a brave novelist to tackle Scott and Zelda, those mythic ghosts of the Jazz Age. Luckily, Spargo is more than just brave—Beautiful Fools is a vivid and revealing look at two charismatic, self-destructive people, and the love that sustained and ruined them. It's a real feat of historical imagination and novelistic empathy." —Tom Perotta, author of Election and Little Children

"Spargo writes with animation and fervor, a style conducive to the heat generated by his subjects." —Kirkus Reviews

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Meet the Author

R. Clifton Spargo is an Arts Fellow at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He is a novelist and critic who writes the HI/LO, a blog on the interplay between high and low culture, for The Huffington Post. Creator of "The Stories We Tell," a testimonial writing workshop sponsored by The Voices and Faces Project, he has published stories, essays and reviews in The Kenyon Review, The Antioch Review, Glimmer Train, SOMA, Raritan, Commonweal, The Yale Review, New City and the Chicago Tribune, among other places. He lives in Iowa City, IA.

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Beautiful Fools: The Last Affair of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book by a great author!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Spargo novel is a story for all times. Why? Because this is not only the story of Zelda and Scott, but also the story of the madness and kindness of the complexity of the human personalities. Scott and Zelda relationship was swimming in rivers of fantasy. It is for that reason that they were the perfect auto destructive cocktail because they could not visualize that the world was more than an idea. They confused their expectations with their reality, and this was exactly their turning point their point of not return. 
Mirella More than 1 year ago
Beautiful Fools is a poignant, heartwrenching, and tender portrayal of a couple who desperately try to hang on to a doomed love. Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald had risen to great heights, but the Great Depression and drink and mental illness have taken their toll upon their lives and their marriage. So, in 1939, Fitzgerald leaves his mistress and scrapes up enough money to take Zelda out of the mental institution for a vacation in Cuba. This novel spans those precious dwindling few days.  Spargo's portrayal of this famous husband and wife is beautifully rendered depicting Zelda's love for her husband and her attempt to keep any bitterness against him for past faults like not taking her dancing seriously and for writing abouther. Scott on the other hand, struggles to keep his drinking at bay for his wife's sake, his reckless behavior, his lies, his secrets.  This character driven story is a beautiful rendition of their lives, of lost love, of dying dreams, of the struggle to let go of the past. The author has given us an indepth look at the secrets and failures of this very fascinating couple.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
R. Clifton Spargo’s Beautiful Fools is brilliant work...one of those novels that I could visualize as I read along and one that I did not want to end. Paragraphs that sometimes demanded re-reading because of their intensity and depth. An identification on my part that will not  soon be shaken because I can still feel Zelda & Scott's desperation and humanity. And chaos. Beautiful and masterful work, really. With an intellectual style of writing that challenges the reader to discard the illusion of catharsis grounded in Aristotelian homogeneity, Spargo masterfully depicts the non-cohesive and dissonant reality of the Fitzgeralds.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beautiful Fools is a compelling fictional novel about real people - in this case, F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda - and chronicles their trip to Cuba in what proves to be the last time they see each other before his death. For me, the book stirred a range of emotions - from being totally angry at the ridiculous behavior of the fools, to sorrow that they just can't seem to overcome their own demons. In the end, I'm still unsure of whether a "good" marriage can be one where the pair seem more obligated to "love" than freely giving - but certainly this novel has given me a subject that I'll ponder for some time to come. I LOVE a book that makes me question something that I think I already have an answer to. In the midst of so many tales on our bookshelves that overly romanticize tumultuous relationships, Spargo offers a refreshing alternative. Superbly written, thoroughly enjoyed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beautiful Fools by R Clifton Spargo paints a vivid portrait of the time, place and characters in this courageous work of historical fiction. I felt as though I was transported to Cuba and into the fascinating psyches of both Scott and Zelda. A lot to take on for both author and reader - fortunately the story is so captivating and exciting, you won't be able to put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. Gorgeously written, deeply emotional, a fabulous understanding/imagining of a complicated and fascinating relationship. My comparison would be to "Alabama Song" by Gilles Leroy. "Alabama Song" was written from the POV of Zelda, using the facts of her life to create a very probable fiction. I think BEAUTIFUL FOOLS does the same. It is a beautiful and sensual fiction story of Scott and Zelda, imagined at a point in their lives when their self-destructive paths could no longer be altered. Spargo seems to have slipped under the skin of both Zelda and Scott and come very close to describing their real joy as well as their pain. The book paints a rare sensibility of both of their futures and the battle they wage for their bodies as well as their souls. He does a wonderful job of mixing elements of fact/biography and imagination. Kudos to the author!