Thursday, March 10, 2016

Book of the Day: Lee Smith's life of Zelda Fitzgerald

smith guests on earth.jpg

Today in 1948, Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, widow of the novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, died in a fire at an Asheville, North Carolina asylum. She was 47 years old. In her memory Henry Bemis Books celebrates a recent novel that sheds new light on the famous flapper from Anniston, Alabama.
Lee Smith, Guests on Earth (A Shannon Ravenel Book/Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 1st ed., 1st printing, 2013). ISBN 978-1-616230-253-8. North Carolina novelist Smith recreates life in an Asheville women’s asylum, among whose patients is Zelda, wife of novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald.  
A highly regarded addition to Smith’s published works. The Washington Post noted, “By the time she’s done, Smith has covered the entire spectrum of Southern women. In her acknowledgments, she writes, “I . . . have my own personal knowledge of the landscape of this novel. My father was a patient here in the fifties. And I am especially grateful to Highland Hospital for the helpful years my son, Josh, spent there in the 1980s, in both inpatient and outpatient situations. Though I had always loved Zelda Fitzgerald, it was then that I became fascinated by her art and her life within that institution, and the mystery of her tragic death.” 
Autographed on the title page. Hardcover, unclipped dust jacket, fine condition. Inquire re pricing.


Long dismissed as a half of the Jazz Age’s stereotypical beautiful people, Zelda Fitzgerald has come to be appreciated as an artist and writer who could stand on her own and might have, in later decades, made a substantial career for herself. Her one published novel is a prized collectible, and much-praised by scholars and critics. Being the wife of a famous novelist in the 1920s and ‘30s, though, held Zelda back. She just wasn’t taken that seriously, especially by her husband.

The critic Edmund Wilson, who dined with the Fitzgeralds in 1928, summed her up in her heyday:
I sat next to Zelda, who was at her iridescent best. Some of Scott's friends were irritated; others were enchanted, by her. I was one of the ones who were charmed. She had the waywardness of a Southern belle and the lack of inhibitions of a child. She talked with so spontaneous a color and wit—almost exactly in the way she wrote—that I very soon ceased to be troubled by the fact that the conversation was in the nature of a 'free association' of ideas and one could never follow up anything. 
I have rarely known a woman who expressed herself so delightfully and so freshly: she had no ready-made phrases on the one hand and made no straining for effect on the other. It evaporated easily, however, and I remember only one thing she said that night: that the writing of Galsworthy was a shade of blue for which she did not care.


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