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As a child, acclaimed biographer Peter Ackroyd* actually knew the young F. Scott Fitzgerald, who rented a house on Ackroyd’s family estate. His interest in and sympathy for Fitzgerald and many of the characters who populate this book make it exceptionally rich in details and insightful investigations as to how Fitzgerald’s classic novels came to be written and how things went wrong.
Scott and Zelda drive each other crazy
Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald had been married about six months at the time of these diary entries by his friend Alexander McKaig. Fitzgerald was riding high on the publication of his first book, This Side of Paradise, which sold well and made him a household name. He had grown up upper middle class, and Zelda had grown up rich, and they seemed to have had no money management skills whatsoever.
Oct. 12  Went to Fitzgeralds…. Usual problem there. What shall Zelda do? I think she might do a little housework — [apartment] looks like a pig sty. If she’s there Fitz can’t work — she bothers him — if she’s not there he can’t work — worried of what she might do….
… Oct. 16 Spent evening at Fitzgeralds. Fitz has been on wagon 8 days — talks as if it were a century. Zelda increasingly restless — says frankly she simply wants to be amused and is only good for useless, pleasure-giving pursuits; great problem — what is she to do? Fitz has his writing of course — God knows where the two of them are going to end up.
Oct. 20 Fitz is hard up now but Zelda is nagging him for a $750 fur coat & she can nag. Poor devil.
Oct. 21 Went up to Fitzgeralds to spend evening. They just recovering from an awful party. Much taken with idea of having a baby. Have just planned a good baby & a bad baby — former has Scott’s eyes, Zelda’s nose, Scott’s legs, Zelda’s mouth etc. Latter has Zelda’s legs, Scott’s hair etc. Scott hard up for money in spite of fact he had made $20,000 in past 12 months.
Oct. 25 Follies with Scott & Zelda. Fitz very cuckoo. Lost purse with $50.00 & then after every one in place hunted for it, found it. He did not have enough money to pay check of course.
Fitzgerald, widely thought to be one of the great American writers, died thinking he was a failure. Although he’d had some excellent success with his novels, as the years went by his work was forgotten, said to be passé, Jazz Age period pieces, and he was depressed to find bookstores no longer carried his books. To make ends meet, he worked as a screenwriter in Hollywood, where his reluctance to write scripts instead of literature got him fired and turned him into a freelancer.
Fitzgerald was an alcoholic, causing him many health problems as well as a chaotic personal life. Zelda was mentally ill, became violent, and was eventually diagnosed as schizophrenic and hospitalized in an asylum. Their relationship was so all-consuming and so appalling, it makes you wonder how he ever got any work done. But it does make for an interesting story — and Fitzgerald got some unbeatable material for his books.
more ebooks by or about scott fitzgerald you can borrow for free
- Sometimes Madness Is Wisdom: Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald: A Marriage, by Kendall Taylor
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