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Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald: An American Woman's Life

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Linda Wagner-Martin has created a new kind of biography of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald: Zelda's story from her perspective, instead of her famous husband's. This is the first biography to tell her entire life story, describing what it meant to be born in 1900, and then to be a "New Woman" in Montgomery, Alabama. Featuring for the first time information from the newly available archives at Princeton, Wagner-Martin vividly illustrates Zelda's psychiatric landscape. Detailed discussions of the roots of alcoholism and ...
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Overview

Linda Wagner-Martin has created a new kind of biography of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald: Zelda's story from her perspective, instead of her famous husband's. This is the first biography to tell her entire life story, describing what it meant to be born in 1900, and then to be a "New Woman" in Montgomery, Alabama. Featuring for the first time information from the newly available archives at Princeton, Wagner-Martin vividly illustrates Zelda's psychiatric landscape. Detailed discussions of the roots of alcoholism and infidelity are juxtaposed with the first comprehensive critiques of Zelda's diverse artistic accomplishments as a dancer, short story writer, essayist and novelist. This is an evocative portrayal of a talented woman's professional and emotional conflicts, a story with as much relevance today as it had half a century ago.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Prolific literary biographer Wagner-Martin (Sylvia Plath, etc.) utilizes newly available files at Princeton for this fresh reassessment of F. Scott Fitzgerald's flamboyant, creative, troubled wife, stressing that Zelda's personality and character were shaped by her Southern upbringing and her relationship with her parents. Using documents pertaining to Zelda's psychiatric history and the works of contemporary psychologists to interpret the behavior that institutionalized Zelda (1900-1948) for the last half of her short life, Wagner-Martin concludes that it was Scott who drove Zelda into breakdown, with his compulsive drinking, cruel and abusive behavior, and scathing criticism of Zelda as a "third rate" writer and dancer. While Wagner-Martin sometimes uses such constructions as "it could be" to assess Zelda's state of mind and speculate about what was apparently the misdiagnosis of schizophrenia, she cogently argues that Zelda's breakdown was basically caused by her feelings of inferiority to Scott, her desire to alleviate their financial insolvency and, above all, the need to express herself creatively. Each attempt, she shows, was jealously blocked by Scott. Wagner-Martin's sturdy analysis does much to dispel the myth that the necessity of coping with Zelda's mental problems was Scott's tragic nemesis, effectively suggesting instead that "Zelda's crack-up gave him both alibi and cover" and that his alcoholism and "mean, inhuman" behavior toward Zelda were responsible for the destruction of two lives. 11 b&w illus. (Nov.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Another analysis of the Zelda-and-Scott train wreck, this one heavier on feminist psychology, lighter on quotidian detail. The prolific Wagner-Martin (Sylvia Plath, 1999, etc.) doesn't offer much that's new in her narration of one of the saddest stories of the last century; for that, see Sally Cline's much more richly detailed Zelda Fitzgerald: Her Life in Paradise (2003). The author acknowledges that much of the Fitzgeralds' story can't be known because both principals told self-serving versions of their troubles; correspondence is missing, and even the remaining documents (e.g., Scott's ledger) offer only dubious, unreliable evidence. So Wagner-Martin's approach is to include commentary-sometimes piquant, relevant, and enlightening, sometimes not-by an assortment of psychologists and psycho-theorists, from Jung to Jean Baker Miller to Marilyn Yalom to Jane Ussher. (An annoyance: sometimes the quotations are unattributed in the text, forcing the curious reader to search the endnotes for the source.) From these folks we are supposed to learn more about how women are affected by pregnancy, how the death of a parent can hurt, why alcoholics drink, what schizophrenia really means. The technique is generally obtrusive and unsuccessful. Wagner-Martin emphasizes Zelda's early life as a cosseted child and a southern belle (she was the unconventional teen-queen of Montgomery, Alabama) and declares, a tad unfairly, that previous biographers have not recognized the significance of these years. The author also highlights Zelda's talents as a dancer-better than either her husband or her critics have acknowledged-an artist, and a writer, at one point waxing effusive about the "sonority" and "tonalpattern" of her prose. And Wagner-Martin provides a good account of the double narrative Scott and Zelda provided her doctors in May 1933, a bizarre and heart-wrenching confrontation that runs 114 pages in the typed version of the stenographer's record. When an angry Scott calls her a third-rate writer and dancer, Zelda replies, "You have told me that before."Adds very little to this far more than twice-told tale. (11 b&w photos)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781403934031
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Publication date: 11/28/2004
  • Edition description: REV
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.66 (w) x 8.78 (h) x 0.95 (d)

Meet the Author



LINDA WAGNER-MARTIN is the Frank Borden Hanes Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of North Carolina. She is the author of more than forty books on American writers and genres - among them Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Gertrude Stein, William Carlos Williams, Anne Sexton, Robert Frost, Denise Levertov, John Dos Passos, and Sylvia Plath. The recipient of awards from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, The National Endowment for the Humanities, and others, she has been a Bunting Institute fellow and the President of the Hemingway Foundation. Among recent books are: William Faulkner: Six Decades of Criticism, A Historical Guide to Ernest Hemingway, a biography of Gertrude Stein, and her co-edited encyclopaedia, The Oxford Companion to Women's Writing in the United States. She has also written Sylvia Plath, A Biography (1988) and Sylvia Plath: A Literary Life (the second edition of which was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2003)..
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Table of Contents

Preface
Zelda Sayre, Belle
The Courtship
Celebrity Couple
Travels
Europe Once More
Hollywood and Ellerslie
Zelda as Artist: Writer and Dancer
The Crack-Up, 1930
On the Way to Being Cured
The Phipps Clinic and Baltimore
Zelda as Patient
The Crack-Up, 1936
Endings
Notes
Bibliography
Index
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