'Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald: An American Woman's Story is our fullest portrait yet of one of the twentieth century's most intriguing and idiosyncratic women. Linda Wagner-Martin's sympathetic and incisive account changes our image of Zelda from devil-may-care flapper to Southern Belle, from lunatic to professional woman, from hysteric to talented writer. Ballerina, author, mother, and wife, Zelda was the product of a specific time and place. This cultural biography at long last helps us to locate Zelda within an unfolding history of American women's social, sexual, and artistic practices.' - Cathy N. Davidson, Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies and Ruth F. DeVarney Professor of English, Duke University, USA
'Wagner-Martin has done more research into the life of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald and brought greater intelligence to its interpretation than anyone else. She captures what it was like to grow up a belle in Montgomery, Alabama. She demonstrates how abuse of alcohol, by both parties, impaired Zelda's marriage to F. Scott Fitzgerald. And in an excellent and sensitive reading of voluminous correspondence, some of it available for the first time here, she effectively challenges the easy conclusion that Zelda was a victim of 'madness', a word often used to undermine her value as a human being. Anyone who wants to understand how it was with Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald will learn a great deal from this book.' - Scott Donaldson, author of the Fitzgerald biography, A Fool for Love and Hemingway vs. Fitzgerald
'Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald wanted it all: husband, family, work - along with glamour, fame and creative success. In the psychiatric terms of her time, she was a woman who did not know her place. And she paid an awful price. The question is - would things have been any easier for her today? Once more Linda Wagner-Martin maps the ups and downs of a woman's life in thought provoking and illuminating ways...' - Dale Spender, Adjunct Professor, University of Queensland, Australia
'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....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...' - Publishers Weekly
'A prolific author, Wagner-Martin has written biographical and critical studies of many American writers, including Sylvia Plath, Ernest Hemingway and Anne Sexton. Her work in this book, as in many of those previous efforts, excels in its efficiency, clarity and readability.' - Charity Vogel, Buffalo News
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.
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)