LITERATURE

Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda: The Love Letters of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald

Scribner. Jul. 2019. 416p. ed. by ed. by Jackson R. Bryer & Cathy W. Barks. index. ISBN 9781982117122. pap. $22ebk. ISBN 9781982117139. LIT
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Together for more than 20 years, F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896–1940) and Zelda Sayre (1900–48) made headlines with their extravagant, unconventional behavior, often characterized by his alcoholism and her mental illness. Meeting in Montgomery, AL, when Scott was a young lieutenant in the infantry and Zelda a popular Southern debutante, they married in 1920. Both were wildly ambitious, with Scott vowing to become a great writer and Zelda trying to succeed as a ballerina. Although Zelda’s writing was overshadowed by Scott’s, her letters, youthful and schoolgirlish at first, develop a witty elegance that rivals or surpasses that of her husband, even though she mostly wrote while institutionalized. Financial struggles were always present for the couple, with Zelda’s care straining the budget and causing Scott considerable stress. This collection of letters includes an introduction by the Fitzgeralds’ great-granddaughter, Eleanor Lanahan, and detailed commentary by editors and scholars Bryer (emeritus, English) and Barks (American literature, both Univ. of Maryland) that help to reduce the sensationalism that often characterized the duo and to depict them as intelligent and hardworking, if also dysfunctional.
VERDICT Fitzgerald enthusiasts will find these revealing letters sad but insightful

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