Posts Tagged F. Scott Fitzgerald
The engaging new novel from author Erika Robuck, CALL ME ZELDA, illuminates the fascinating and complicated Zelda Fitzgerald. Married to F. Scott Fitzgerald and a party girl in the 1920s, Zelda fought mental illness and thwarted creative endevours. See my review. Currently on a book tour, Erika took the time to answer a few questions.
Amy Steele: Why did you decide to write about Zelda Fitzgerald?
Erika Robuck: My research on Ernest Hemingway for my last novel, HEMINGWAY’S GIRL, led me to Zelda. His dislike of her intrigued me, so I wanted to find out about her for myself.
Amy Steele: What interests you about the women involved with well-known writers?
Erika Robuck: I’m curious about spouses who support and endure their artistic partners. It takes a special person to marry a creative man or woman, and the experiences in the relationship often shape or inform the work. It is what comes from that intimacy that fascinates me.
Amy Steele: Do you think Zelda truly had an untreated or misdiagnosed mental illness or do you think the relationship with F. Scott Fitzgerald pushed her to a breakdown?
Erika Robuck: I think it was a combination of factors. Scott’s alcoholism and Zelda’s place in history as a woman had something to do with her troubles, but from hearing voices, to vision issues, to suicide attempts, to family members’ suicides, there is compelling evidence that she did have mental illness. Contemporary psychiatrists say she may have been bipolar or manic depressive.
Amy Steele: Sometimes it seems in the novel that you place blame on Scott and not a chemical imbalance. What type of research about her condition did you find or complete?
Erika Robuck: I hoped to show that he aggravated her symptoms, but I do not wish to imply that he is the cause of her illness. The two of them were toxic for each other, but still had enormous love and loyalty for the other.
What most informed my portrayal of Zelda were the Fitzgerald papers at Princeton University: Zelda’s medical records, journals, letters, and various other documents were essential to my understanding of the Fitzgeralds at that time and place.
Amy Steele: How did Scott hinder Zelda’s treatment?
Erika Robuck: This is a hard question. He worked himself to death to keep her well cared for in reputable psychiatric clinics, and clearly loved her. That said, physicians’ requests to him to curb his drinking were resented or unheeded, he thwarted her attempts at creative expression at times, and could be abusive. It seemed to be a classic co-dependent relationship.
Amy Steele: How did Zelda and Scott go from being such a celebrated and popular couple to becoming so unhinged and insolvent?
Erika Robuck: Like any celebrity couple who indulges in excess, the party has to end at some point. Zelda’s mental collapse corresponded with the economic crash and depression. Scott’s stories about the problems of the rich went out of fashion as families struggled to feed their children. Scott’s alcoholism and Zelda’s increasingly troubling mental episodes hindered their ability to recover.
Amy Steele: Why did you want the narrator of CALL ME ZELDA to be a psychiatric nurse?
Erika Robuck: I needed a character who would be intimately connected to the Fitzgeralds, and I kept noticing the reference to nurses as companions and escorts. Zelda didn’t have many close female friends but formed strong attachments to some of her nurses, so it seemed like the most natural choice for a narrator.
Amy Steele: How did Anna’s tragic life help you tell Zelda’s story?
Erika Robuck: I needed a nurse who would bond with Zelda more than her other patients, so there had to be a deeper connection. That connection came through loss of a husband and daughter—one from mental illness, the other from the war. I wanted my character, however, to bring redemption to the story. Scott and Zelda’s story is so tragic, I needed balance.
Amy Steele: What do you like about writing historical fiction?
Erika Robuck: Reading and writing historical fiction is my passion. The greatest challenge is remaining faithful to historic timelines while weaving in the stories of my fictional characters. I love experiencing history through the emotions of compelling characters. It’s what I hope to bring to readers.
Sunday, June 9, 3pm, Concord Bookshop, Concord, MA
Monday, June 10, 7 pm, River Run Bookstore, NH
Thursday, June 13, 7 pm, Common Good Books, MN
Saturday, September 7, 11-2:30 pm, Author Reception hosted by the Metastatic Breast Cancer Assoc.
Thursday, September 26, 7 pm, Broadneck Library, MD
Tuesday, October 8, 10 am, Linthicum Women’s Association, MD
Tuesday, October 15, 10 am, Crofton Library Book Club, MD
note to Becky at One Literature Nut— thank you so much for hosting this. I hope we can do another readalong in the future. you’ve done such a fantastic job with it all.
Here’s a line that really sticks with me from Ch. 5: ” I think that voice held him most, with its fluctuating, feverish warmth, because it could’t be over-dreamed–that voice was a deathless song.”
what does that mean? Daisy’s voice holds Gatsby in reality because he’d never be able to dream about such a voice? Does he dislike hearing her speak and just want to look at her pretty face?
In Chapter 6 we’re told about Gatby’s past. He changes his name from Ganz. who can blame him. I changed my name because I didn’t like my birth name very much. So why not change your name to reflect who you want to be.
The bit about Gatby’s past is confusing. it makes you not despise Gatsy in that he worked for his money or didn’t come from money and managed to earn what he amasses in one way or another. Nick admonishes him for trying to get back to idyllic moments in the past before things changed and he lost what he had.
“He talked a lot about the past and I gathered that he wanted to recover something, some idea of himself, perhaps that had gone into loving Daisy.” Perhaps Gatsby no longer loves Daisy but feels that things but be easier if he could love Daisy again.
Daisy Buchanan to Nick on having a girl:
“I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she’ll be a fool– that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.
” You see I think everything’s terrible anyhow . . . and I know I’ve been everywhere and seen everything and done everything.”
–Daisy wants to shield her daughter from the bitter reality of the world. she’s seen and experienced terrible things and if her daughter can just play the “fool” then she might be able to protect herself.
on Tom Buchanan:
“Something was making him nibble at the edge of stale ideas as if his sturdy physical egotism no longer nourished his peremptory heart.”
hosted by BECKY at One Literature Nut
these are questions she’s asked for chapters 3 and 4:
What do you think of Gatsby’s absence from his own parties?
Is Gatsby a character you feel sympathy or cynicism towards?
Are we supposed to feel for Daisy as Jordan does, and if she really wanted to meet up with Gatsby again, wouldn’t she already have done it?
Is there anything else that stood out to you or you questioned?
–Gatsby seems to hold parties to be popular and well-respected and not really for his own amusement. He’s putting on a lavish show. He’s the host. When he wants to speak with someone he sends for that person and has a private conversation with that person. He doesn’t mingle about all that much. He sat at a table for a bit and then he disappeared.
“Instead of rambling, this party had preserved a dignified homogeneity, and assumed to itself the function of representing the staid nobility of the country-side–East Egg condescending to West Egg, and carefully on guard against its spectroscopic gayety.”
–I feel empathy rather than sympathy for Gatsby. I feel that because he has so much wealth that many people use him for his wealth and position and probably don’t want to know who he really is or to take the time to get to know him for his true self. They’re mostly social climbers and are thrilled to be around Gatsby. When Gatsby finally speaks with Nick, he assumes that Nick knew who he was.
“He smiled understandingly–much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced–or seem to face–the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believe in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.”
Fitzgerald seem to be creating in Gatsby a mirror in which a person finds one’s best self. Gatsby reflects one’s best self back and believes in his friends and champions his friends to his utmost ability.
Later when Nick and Gatsby go out, Nick thinks that Gatsby’s rather shallow and has little to say. So is he merely a pretty face with tons of money?
What stood out for me is Nick’s feeling about Jordan being a dishonest woman– “Jordan instinctively avoided clever, shrewd men, and now I saw this was because she felt safer on a plane where any divergence from a code would be thought impossible.” He said he forget immediately about it and it made “no difference” to him. On his next outing with her he refers to her as a “clean, hard, limited person.”
As for Daisy not seeking out Gatsby on her own. I think she may have just gotten wrapped up in her marriage to Tom and her her child and life.
Then I’m thinking a lot about this quote from Nick: “There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy, and the tired.”
looks like a brilliant new adaptation of The Great Gatsby directed by Baz Luhrmann [fantastic] with a Jay-Z soundtrack due out on May 10. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire and Carey Mulligan.
It’s a perfect time to re-read the classic novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I’d been talking about it on twitter with Becca from I’m Lost in Books and she told me that Becky of One Literature Nut is hosting a read-a-thon.
In college I took a Hemingway/Fitzgerald class my senior year and that’s the last time I read The Great Gatsby but I recall it vividly. I enjoyed the classic 1974 film version with Robert Redford as Jay Gatsby and Mia Farrow as Daisy Buchanan but definitely look forward to this update.
Here’s the schedule:
4/10 to 4/17 Chapters 1-2 (40 pages)
4/17 to 4/24 Chapters 3-4 (47 pages)
4/24 to 5/1 Chapters 5-6 (34 pages)
5/1 to 5/8 Chapters 7-End (72 pages)
5/10 –Go see the movie!