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Save Me the Waltz
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Group Reads Archive > Save me the Waltz by Zelda Fitzgerald

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message 1: by Ally (new)

Ally (goodreadscomuser_allhug) | 1653 comments Mod
Welcome to the discussion of...

Save Me The Waltz by Zelda Fitzgerald Save Me The Waltz by Zelda Fitzgerald


message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

Prior to reading this book, I assumed that the tales of Zelda's mental illness were exaggerated. Now that I've read the book, I see that I was wrong about that. The end of the book is incoherent at best and I don't think that was the intention of the author. I get the feeling that she was desperate to get the words out of her head, before falling into the depths of mental illness.

As a novel, I didn't think it was very good. For someone interested in the lives of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, I think "Save Me The Waltz" is worth reading.

All I could think, when I finished the book was "how sad."


message 3: by Nigeyb (last edited Jun 02, 2013 07:32AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Nigeyb Thanks Cathy. I hadn't considered Zelda's illness when I read the book. I wonder to what extent it might have contributed to the book's general incoherence?

I was very disappointed by this book. I read a few reviews before opening it. Some suggested it was more than a literary footnote. A few reviewers argue that Zelda was a better writer than F. Scott Fitzgerald. I cannot conceive how anyone could draw that conclusion. Zelda may well have been F. Scott Fitzgerald's muse, however to suggest that she is a better writer, on the evidence of this, her only work, is incomprehensible. I adore The Great Gatsby, and really enjoyed Tender Is the Night, and to me there is no comparison.

I should admit now that I gave up reading after 140 pages. I couldn't take any more. It's overwritten, confused and vainly strives for profundity. I find it hard to imagine this book would have been published were it not for the F. Scott Fitzgerald connection.

The book is probably of greatest interest to people who have the time and the inclination to compare and contrast this book and "Tender Is The Night", and in particular the Riviera scenes.
Here's a couple of examples of the writing style:

"The swing creaks on Austin's porch, a luminous beetle swings ferociously over the clematis, insects swarm to the golden holocaust of the hall light. Shadows brush the Southern night like heavy, impregnated mops soaking its oblivion back to the black heat whence it evolved. Melancholic moon-vines trail dark, absorbent pads over the string trellises." p. 3


"A growing feeling of alarm in Alabama for their relationship had tightened itself to a set determination to get on with her work. Pulling the skeleton of herself over a loom of attitude and arabesque she tried to weave the strength of her father and the young beauty of her first love with David." p. 133


If that style is to your taste then perhaps you might enjoy this book. I found it hard going and tedious.

Having said all of that, I hope there are BYTers out there who can explain what I am missing, and why 87% of people who have rated it on goodreads award it 3 stars or higher. 21% of people gave it 5 stars. I'd love an insight into what those readers found to love in this book.


message 4: by Shelley (new)

Shelley | 30 comments I always wonder if Zelda (along with Marilyn Monroe) might have had a much happier life if she had come along after the feminist movement gained power.

Shelley
http://dustbowlstory.wordpress.com


message 5: by Nigeyb (last edited Jun 10, 2013 01:09PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Nigeyb Hurrah. I look forward to your thoughts.


message 6: by Nigeyb (last edited Jun 18, 2013 09:08AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Nigeyb

“The trouble with emergencies is,” she said, “that I always put on my finest underwear and then nothing happens.”

Zelda Fitzgerald - Save Me The Waltz


Val wrote (on her GoodReads page):

"I hope Zelda Fitzgerald found that writing this book was a valuable and rewarding experience; I can't say that I found reading it was. TBC

I think it may have been therapeutic for her to write it, but perhaps publishing it was not of much benefit to anyone. "


And yet 87% of people who have rated it on goodreads award it 3 stars or higher. 21% of people gave it 5 stars. I'd love an insight into what those readers found to love in this book. I'm hoping someone who feels enthusiastic about it will add their thoughts and insights onto this BYT June 2012 fiction discussion thread.


Nigeyb Val wrote: I will write a longer review when I have considered the book for a bit longer and got all the sarcastic comments out of my head. It will not give you any insight into what people found to love about this book though Nigeyb. "

I look forward to it Val. Thanks.

I hope we get a view more enthusiastic reviews. I'm really curious to hear from people who enjoyed the book. I

t's a shame that, so far, there's been so few people getting involved in the discussion. None of those who voted for it back in April, except Cathy, have discussed it yet.


message 8: by Nigeyb (last edited Jun 21, 2013 03:13AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Nigeyb In the absence of any positive reviews yet, I went out and looked online for some. Here's one...

"As good as any F.S.Fitzgerald piece I've read" stated Al_Jr_22 on Amazon.com on August 30, 2012

"I would like to first state that I am by no means a literary giant. I do think however that those who feel they are well educated in the field may overlook the talent displayed in this novel simply because it doesn't fit the cast of a "well polished and paced" Scott Fitzgerald work. In fact, I do believe that Zelda is all too often unfairly and with much bias compared to her husband. This story is a fairly easy and captivating read (yes, you do need a firm grasp of the English language and have a head to think through simile and metaphor) and the descriptive tangents that an English professor may find detracting and pointless are in fact what make this book such an interesting work. Some of these sections can be read over multiple times, an impetus for pulling images out of thought and time. I think to a fault in this day and age people want their imagination to be spoon fed...don't make me think too much for myself! It seems to me that anyone who would find this novel boring, distracting and/or pointless is probably more interested in being a literary critic than admitting that it is a very good story written in a very extravagant style by the wife of an early American classic novelist."


Following on from this review, here's some questions you might like to consider and respond to:

To what extent is Zelda unfairly compared with her husband?

How easy is it to judge this book on its own merits?

To what extent do you agree with the statement "people want their imagination to be spoon-fed"?

How captivating did you find the book?

To what extent do you agree that anyone who would find this novel boring, distracting and/or pointless is probably more interested in being a literary critic than admitting that it is a very good story written in a very extravagant style?



Nigeyb One week of June still to go - come and get involved.


message 10: by Nigeyb (last edited Jun 23, 2013 08:58AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Nigeyb I'll answer my own questions in the hope we can generate some more discussion for Save Me The Waltz:

To what extent is Zelda unfairly compared with her husband?

I'm not sure. I suppose there's an inevitability that, when married to a celebrated author, a book by his or her partner will draw comparisons. Is that fair? Probably not - but understandable.

How easy is it to judge this book on its own merits?

Very difficult. As Zelda apparently uses some of the same source material as F. Scott Fitzgerald used in Tender Is The Night.

To what extent do you agree with the statement "people want their imagination to be spoon-fed"?

I don't agree. I am someone who finds more obtuse and/or an overtly modernist writing style (e.g Joyce's Ulysses) difficult and ultimately tedious. I prefer the meaning to be reasonably clear and, whilst I understand the desire to experiment with form, for me it rarely works.

I found many of the passages in this book just feel overwritten and confused. Almost as if she had a thesaurus by her side and just threw in numerous adjective and adverbs - frequently her meaning was difficult to discern and I thought she was trying to appear clever.

How captivating did you find the book?

My main reactions were boredom and irritation.

To what extent do you agree that anyone who would find this novel boring, distracting and/or pointless is probably more interested in being a literary critic than admitting that it is a very good story written in a very extravagant style?

This question follows on well from my previous answer. I disagree. Indeed I'd reverse the statement so it reads "anyone who would find this novel interesting, exciting and/or compelling is probably more interested in being a literary critic than admitting that it is a very thin story overwritten in a very confused style."

Over to you BYTers. One week of June still to go - come and get involved.


message 11: by Jan C (new) - added it

Jan C (woeisme) | 1525 comments I am still trying to decide whether to read this or not. I'm still on the first 10 pages.

Some of the narrative is distinctly Southern and slightly flowery. I started flipping through it last night and noticed that conversations didn't seem to flow but seemed to be slightly disjointed.

This may just be a problem with first-time novelists.


message 12: by Val (new) - rated it 2 stars

Val I may have undermined your last point slightly by writing a rather literary critics type of review Nigeyb:
http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...
but I agree with you about this book on the whole.


message 13: by Val (last edited Jun 24, 2013 02:05AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Val To consider your questions:
To what extent is Zelda unfairly compared with her husband?
I think the parts where Zelda tries to write like Scott are easily the most readable parts of the book, although it may be unfair to say that is what she is doing. Her styles are very different to his for most of the book, so any comparison would be meaningless.

How easy is it to judge this book on its own merits?
Well, I tried to judge it on its own merits, but am not at all certain that the publisher did.

To what extent do you agree with the statement "people want their imagination to be spoon-fed"?
Pardon? Don't most readers want their imagination to run free? In my opinion any inaccessibility in the writing applies a brake to that imaginative freedom, while a simpler style would let it run.

How captivating did you find the book?
I didn't, although I did finish it and had some interest in trying to work out what the author was hoping to achieve in writing it.

To what extent do you agree that anyone who would find this novel boring, distracting and/or pointless is probably more interested in being a literary critic than admitting that it is a very good story written in a very extravagant style?
It is not a very good story; it is written in an extravagant style. There is a story, but the style completely overwhelms it, where a simpler telling might have allowed it to shine through and not seem so slight.
I do not think that telling the story is the only (or main?) point of the book. I think Zelda's stylistic extravagances are her way of showing her character's and her state of mind at the different stages of her life.


Nigeyb Thanks Val. I thought your review was very thoughtful, considered and fair.

Val wrote: "I do not think that telling the story is the only (or main?) point of the book. I think Zelda's stylistic extravagances are her way of showing her character's and her state of mind at the different stages of her life. "

Because I was so put off by the early pages, and because I didn't finish the book, I had not really thought about the way her writing style changed according throughout the book, and the extent to which that might be deliberate.

This bit nails the early part of the book...

Val wrote: "The overblown metaphors and strings of similes are the style and voice of a pretentious, self-obsessed, romantically inclined teenager.

The teenage Alabama Beggs is of little interest to anyone but herself."


Val wrote: "It is not a very good story; it is written in an extravagant style. There is a story, but the style completely overwhelms it, where a simpler telling might have allowed it to shine through and not seem so slight."

Yes. Another very good point. Perhaps, if it were written in a simpler and more accessible way it might have worked.

The Wikipedia plot summary is clear and succinct :

Save Me the Waltz, according to its author, derives its title from a Victor record catalog, and it suggests the romantic glitter of the life which F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald lived and which Scott’s novels have so indelibly written into American literary and cultural history. Divided into four chapters, each of which is further divided into three parts, the novel is a chronological narrative of four periods in the lives of Alabama and David Knight, names that are but thin disguises for their real-life counterparts.

Save Me The Waltz is the story of Alabama Beggs, a Southern girl who marries a twenty-two-year-old artist, David Knight. As with Zelda and Scott, Alabama met David when he was in the South during World War I. Knight becomes a successful painter, and the family moves to the Riviera where Knight begins an affair with an actress. Determined to be successful in her own right, Alabama decides to become a ballet dancer and devotes herself relentlessly to the cause, eventually achieving success. Alabama dances her solo debut in the opera Faust. Though outwardly successful, Alabama and David are miserable. At the novel's end they return to the South when Alabama's father dies. Though she says otherwise, her friends from the South go on about how happy and lucky Alabama is. Alabama searches for meaning in her father's death, but finds none. While cleaning up after their final party before returning to their unhappy lives, Alabama remarks — an interesting contrast to the closing lines of The Great Gatsby — that emptying the ashtrays is "very expressive of myself. I just lump everything in a great heap which I have labeled 'the past,' and having thus emptied this deep reservoir that was once myself, I am ready to continue."


Perhaps there's enough there to make a more interesting and compelling novel. I'm not sure. What do others think?

I wonder to what extent Zelda Fitzgerald saw writing Save Me The Waltz, as akin to "emptying the ashtrays". Was she lumping everything in a great heap which she labelled 'the past? Was she hoping that this would be cathartic, and, once the novel was completed she would be ready to continue?


message 15: by Val (new) - rated it 2 stars

Val I think the mixed metaphors are a little confusing, mentions of ashtrays and reservoirs do not evoke the same images of their contents. If we stick with the ashtray metaphor for a moment, emptying it would be getting rid of something which is burnt up and finished with and so could be cathartic and beneficial in moving on with a new phase in her life. On the other hand, emptying a reservoir is more suggestive of a loss of potential, of anything held in reserve, and would not be such a good image for a fresh start. She may well have had both images in mind, emptying out both the good and bad from the past.


Nigeyb Val wrote: "I think the mixed metaphors are a little confusing..."

I hadn't considered the curious metaphorical mix - and the very different interpretations. That's very perceptive Val.

I am conscious that I frequently quote from Wikipedia (which, let's face it, is not the most reliable source) however, here I go again. I think it's quite interesting to note what Wikipedia states happened after Save Me The Waltz was published...

The book sold only 1,392 copies for which she earned $120.73.(The book would be reprinted years after her and Scott's deaths, when interest in the Fitzgeralds was rekindled.) The failure of Save Me the Waltz crushed her spirits.

She had been working throughout the fall of 1932 on a second novel, based on her experiences in psychiatric treatment. But Scott's reaction was unkind. In a fight before Zelda was readmitted to treatment, Fitzgerald said her novel was "plagiaristic, unwise in every way... should not have been written." Zelda asked, "didn't you want me to be a writer?" Though Scott once had, he lashed out "No, I do not care whether you were a writer or not, if you were any good... you are a third-rate writer and a third-rate ballet." The psychiatrist agreed with Scott. Zelda was devastated; she never published another novel.


I'm not clear whether the comments attributed to F. Scott Fitzgerald refer to Save Me The Waltz, or the unpublished second novel. Either way it's a tragic end to her creative life - as well as her actual life. Whether she had a great novel in her or not, it must have been an enormous burden to write in the shadow of such a celebrated partner and - on the basis of the quotes - one who was not always supportive.


message 17: by Val (last edited Jun 24, 2013 07:20AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Val It sounds more as if the comments refer to the second novel, by which time their relationship had probably deteriorated past the point where he could be either objective or supportive.
Scott's reactions to "Save Me the Waltz" were not always consistent. He didn't like her using what he saw as his source material, although it was just as valid for her to use it, apart from the fact that he was more likely to make money from the resultant book. He feared that Zelda would be exposed to ridicule if she published it. He complained about the character of David Knight. He also praised it to his publisher as a very fine novel, once she had done the revisions he suggested.
(The Neapolitan ballet company as described by Zelda does sound third-rate to be fair, compared to the ones Arienne Jeanneret dances with.)

PS He didn't say she was a third-rate painter.


Nigeyb Val wrote: "He didn't like her using what he saw as his source material, although it was just as valid for her to use it..."

Yes, I'd picked that up too. It seems a bit unreasonable given that she was as much a part of those experiences as he was. Though I take your point that he would probably have more more money from his books.


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