Therese Anne Fowler's new novel is Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald.
From her Q & A with Caroline Leavitt:
What is it about Zelda that captures us so much today?Visit Therese Anne Fowler's website.
That’s a great question, because really, Zelda is a kind of pop culture Rorschach test. People who think they know who she is have decidedly specific views—and those views vary considerably. She is said to be: the glamorous jazz princess; the feminist first flapper; literature’s most beloved muse; F. Scott Fitzgerald’s jealous, destructive wife; victim of an abusive, domineering spouse; a thwarted dancer, artist, writer; a pathetic crazy woman who spent most of her life in asylums.
Most of the labels are imprecise at best, damaging and false at worst. Zelda was a woman who didn’t always choose wisely, but she was also bold and fearless and talented and witty and fun. She was a celebrity at a time when the term was being coined, and in the early years she loved to play the part. Later she struggled not with schizophrenia, as we know it, but with what was probably bipolar disorder.
Most interesting—and most accurate among popular beliefs: she was devoted, for good or ill, to a man whose vividness and demons and talent are as fascinating as hers.
It struck me that so much of what Zelda dealt with concerning the proper roles of women, especially married women, resonates in today's political arena. Care to comment?
Yes, it resonates all too well. It’s disheartening to see this political and cultural backslide into a mindset that forward-thinking women of Zelda’s era fought so hard to escape. Conservative ideology today looks frighteningly similar to the early twentieth century’s traditional attitudes—men and women both puzzled by any woman’s desire to achieve professional status in any field. They wonder why being someone’s wife, a homemaker, a mother, isn’t sufficiently satisfying to every single woman. Women who desire more (such people say) are clearly acting against nature’s design.
This kind of thinking fails to take into account...[read on]