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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

#15 - Zelda - Nancy Milford

Title:  Zelda
Author:  Nancy Milford
Genre:  Biography
Publisher/Date:  Harper Collins/1970
ISBN: 0-06-091069-0
Pages:  383
Read:  3/9/17 - 4/19/17
Here is the story of Zelda Sayre, wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald.  She was also an author, artist, dancer and mother.  As a child, Zelda’s mother indulged her, the Montgomery, Alabama townsfolk labeled her “smart as a whip” and “quick as a steel trap”.  Indeed, she was a young hellion.  One day to get attention she climbed up on the roof after calling the fire department and telling them there was a child on the roof who couldn’t get down.  Her father, Judge Sayre, had no sympathy for such pranks.  Perhaps being named for a gypsy queen in a novel entitled Zelda gave way to her precociousness. 
Before her twentieth birthday she had met and married Scott.  They were the epitome of the roaring twenties – rich, living the life of the young and happy by partying, drinking, smoking.  Scott became a celebrity for This Side of Paradise.  The newlyweds discovered they were “being heralded as models in the cult of youth.”  And they proceeded to lap up their newly found fame.

Zelda was in love with Scott and he with her.  She saw how well Scott wrote and decided she wanted to follow in his footsteps.  And follow she did, with his help.  At first with each article she wrote, his name appeared first in the by-line.  As she got bolder with her desires to be published she angered Scott by plagiarizing his work.  He was very demanding and tried to make her change or delete parts of her novel, Save Me the Waltz, that were in his book, Tender is the Night. 

Dampened by Scott’s over-zealous nature and jealousy, Zelda turned to ballet dancing, something she aspired to in her younger years.  Yet at 27 she was too old to be any good.  Living the good life included for Zelda watching her husband with a 17 year old actress.  She became so enraged at their affair, “she burned all of the clothes she had designed in the bathtub of their bungalow.”   They rowed endlessly over his demands that she do something worthwhile and her inability to please him and herself at the same time.  She desperately wanted to be her own person.  More and more of their verbal abuses resulted in Zelda becoming hysterical.

As her mental state deteriorated, she spent months here and there in mental institutions, mostly in Europe.  Scott, too, suffered from his constant smoking and drinking, becoming depressed and “over-nervous about small things.”  Scott “complained of a fever and cough” in 1940.  He experienced a cardiac spasm in November of that year.  He felt himself lucky that he hadn’t suffered a major heart attack.  However, on December 20, he died.

By 1946, Zelda devoted more time to their now-married daughter, Scottie, and her new husband and baby son.  Zelda never totally regained her health.  In the spring of 1948, at a local health facility she took a “series of insulin treatments and was moved to the top floor of the main building.”    On March 10, a fire broken out in a kitchen in that building, and shot up a dumbwaiter shaft to the roof.  “Nine women were killed, six of them trapped on the top floor.  Zelda died with them.”

Sunday, April 16, 2017

#14 - Another Brooklyn - Jacqueline Woodson

Title:  Another Brooklyn
Author:  Jacqueline Woodson
Genre:  Fiction
Performed by:  Robin Miles
Publisher/Date: Harper Collins/2016
Dates listened to:  4/10/17 – 4/16/17
CDs/Hours:  3/2.75
ISBN:  978-0-0625-7375-9

So familiar are the characters in this work of fiction, that if you’ve met Woodson in print, you’d swear you were reading her memoir.  As the back cover tells us, Another Brooklyn heartbreakingly illuminates the formative years when being a kid gives way to adulthood and the promise and peril of growing up.  And exquisitely renders a powerful, indelible, and fleeting friendship that unite four young girls.

#13 - All Over But the Shoutin' - Rick Bragg

Title:  All Over But the Shoutin’
Author:  Rick Bragg
Genre:  Memoir
Performed by:  Frank Muller
Publisher/Date: Recorded Books/2016
Dates listened to:  3/10/17 – 4/16/17

In a book dedicated to his mom, Rick Bragg touches on the bases of his family – dad, mom, and two brothers.  Raised in Alabama close to the Georgia border, Rick and his family were poor.  Rick credits his mother to giving up material things for herself so that her sons would not want from lack of clothes, food and the basics.  

Rick was the boy in the middle.  Sam was about 3 years older, Mark, three years younger.  The father was absent much of the time – yet left a love of books to Rick.  When Rick reached adulthood and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1996, for Feature Writing that covered stories among which are about the bombing of the federal office building in Oklahoma City in April 1995, and later that year of the woman named Susan Smith who killed her two young sons.

Later, Rick wanted to give back to his mother for her years of hardship and bought her a house.   He struggled with wondering if he was buying the home for the right reason -- to help his mom or because of the guilt if he didn’t buy it.   Rick married once but that didn’t work out.  Rather than settle down, he would rather be flying to an assignment and writing from his heart the stories of people he met.