Shelf Life

Shelf Life: Chicago author writes about the love and last trip the Fitzgerlds shared together

2013-07-21T09:30:00Z Shelf Life: Chicago author writes about the love and last trip the Fitzgerlds shared togetherJane Ammeson Times Correspondent
July 21, 2013 9:30 am  • 

What is it about the Roaring 20s with its flappers, bathtub gin and frenzied energy as women bobbed their hair and shortened their skirts, couples dance until early morning hours and literary heroes like Jay Gatsby and Jake Barnes and heroines – always beautiful and often loose – emerged as icons. This Lost Generation of post World War I literature beguiles, taking us into in a seeming glamorous world now gone forever. But for all the golden lads and lasses, there was also loss and sadness and the couple who personified both so well were novelist and screenwriter Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda. He would die of the effects of alcoholism and she, incarcerated in a mental asylum, in a fire.

Their marriage, so brilliant, was dissolving and in an attempt to recapture the magic, the couple traveled to Cuba. It was the last time they would spend together and Chicago author R. Clifton Spargo, writes about this trip in his new novel, "Beautiful Fools, The Last Affair of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald" (Overlook 2013; $26.95).

“You can read everything about Scott and Zelda and you can’t find anything about this trip to Cuba, not more than maybe two sentences,” said Spargo, who became fascinated by what he describes as the missing last chapter of Scott and Zelda’s extensively documented lives. “This final trip they took together had long intrigued me, and I wrote my book about it because it is as much about Scott and Zelda as it is about any of us having one last week with the love of our life and not knowing it’s the last time you will ever be together.”

Spargo, who created and regularly teaches the testimonial writing workshop “The Stories We Tell for the Chicago-based, international non-profit The Voices and Faces Project, is the Provost’s Fellow in Fiction at the University of Iowa for 2013-2014 and also writes the "HI/LO” blog, on the interplay between high and low culture, for The Huffington Post . A long time Fitzgerald fan, he was interested in the bond that held them together after so much had gone wrong.

“I wanted to tell the story of ways that love works, not always practically,” he said, “but still with tremendous devotion and loyalty.”

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