Today, September 24th, is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s birthday in 1896.
He fell in love with Zelda when he was in a training camp in Alabama. She wouldn’t marry him because he couldn’t support them on his meager writer’s salary. Eventually he signed a book deal and she accepted his proposal. You can see how The Great Gatsby story line came along when you look at the true history of the Fitzgeralds.
Imagine Zelda (Daisy Buchanan) says no to his proposal. She goes on to marry some rich guy (Tom Buchanan) while F. Scott (Jay Gatsby) becomes a larger than life wonder child of the world… decorated soldier and super rich… with Leonardo DiCaprio good looks.
Then Zelda falls in love with him, wants to leave her husband, but tragedy strikes and our beloved main character is killed off, mostly because F. Scott is still miffed about her turning down his proposal in the first place. In the end, she doesn’t get him when he’s all that and a bag of chips. Take THAT Zelda, in a round about subtle-but-not-so-subtle way of writing about it in a book and calling it fiction. End of story. Cue credits.
And Hemingway (Nick Carraway) narrates the tale by the sidelines, because Scott secretly wished he could write like his pal Hemingway, so he has Nick Carraway narrate The Great Gatsby in a Hemingway-esque voice.
The Fitzgeralds and Hemingways lived in Paris in the 1920s. Many American artists and writers lived in Paris during those days simply because it was cheaper to live there. And these fellas weren’t legends yet so they needed to stretch their hefty American bucks.
Zelda never had the same level of success, which was a knotted tassel in her flapper dress, but I think it’s because of her gratuitous use of dashes. Just look at this letter:
Please, please don’t be so depressed—We’ll be married soon, and then these lonesome nights will be over forever–and until we are, I am loving, loving every tiny minute of the day and night—
Maybe you won’t understand this, but sometimes when I miss you most, it’s hardest to write—and you always know when I make myself—Just the ache of it all—and I can’t tell you.
If we were together, you’d feel how strong it is–you’re so sweet when you’re melancholy. I love your sad tenderness—when I’ve hurt you—That’s one of the reasons I could never be sorry for our quarrels—and they bothered you so—Those dear, dear little fusses, when I always tried so hard to make you kiss and forget—
Scott—there’s nothing in all the world I want but you—and your precious love—All the materials things are nothing.
I’d just hate to live a sordid, colorless existence—because you’d soon love me less—and less—and I’d do anything—anything—to keep your heart for my own—I don’t want to live—I want to love first, and live incidentally…
Don’t—don’t ever think of the things you can’t give me—You’ve trusted me with the dearest heart of all—and it’s so damn much more than anybody else in all the world has ever had—
How can you think deliberately of life without me—If you should die—O Darling—darling Scott—It’d be like going blind…I’d have no purpose in life—just a pretty—decoration.
Don’t you think I was made for you? I feel like you had me ordered—and I was delivered to you—to be worn—I want you to wear me, like a watch—charm or a button hole bouquet—to the world.
And then, when we’re alone, I want to help—to know that you can’t do anything without me…
All my heart—
I love you.
No proofreader alive would let me get away with all those dashes.
This captivating couple made their way into one of my Paris Letters, which made it’s way into the book:
You can get it for literary aficionados in your life over at my shop.
“He told me how he had first met her during the war and then lost her and won her back . . . This first version that he told me of Zelda and a French naval aviator falling in love was a truly sad story and I believe it was a true story. Later he told me other versions of it as though trying them for use in a novel, but none was as sad as this first one and I always believed the first one. . . . They were better told each time; but they never hurt you the same way the first one did.” —Hemingway, A Moveable Feast