Sunday, 19 June 2016

'Super Zelda - The Graphic Life of Zelda Fitzgerald'

On a trip to Paris this April, I briefly distracted myself from my pre-marathon nerves by paying a pilgrimage to the world famous Shakespeare & Company bookshop, close to the Notre Dame Cathedral. 

This legendary mecca for bibliophiles was inspired by a similar Parisian bookshop opened by Sylvia Beach in 1919, which was a second home for the many American literary ex-pats who fled to Paris during the war to avoid conscription. Ernest Hemingway, F Scott Fitzgerald, Djuna Barnes, James Joyce... these were just a handful of the writers whose patronage of the shop is immortalised in beautiful illustrated portraits up and down the store's staircase. With a Master's Degree in Modernist Literature, this has long been a period of cultural history that fascinates me, and Djuna Barnes and F Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald particularly caught my imagination.

As a souvenir, I decided to buy myself a book on my visit to Shakespeare & Company, not least so I could have it stamped on the inside cover with the shop's famous ink stamp, and to have a collectible paper bag to take it home in. Because that's how acquisitive I am! 

It felt only right to choose a book that had a link to the shop's Modernist history, and after much debate I finally selected Super Zelda: The Graphic Life of Zelda Fitzgerald by Tiziana Lo Porto and Daniele Marotta. As the name implies, this is a graphic novel that is also a biography of F Scott Fitzgerald's wild wife Zelda - a woman who was the muse for all but one of his most famous novels, and from whom, she claimed, Scott lifted entire passages from her letters and diaries to put into his novels and pass off as his own. Zelda's own novel, Save Me The Waltz, is one of my favourite books. 

Oh - and the book also includes an illustration of the Shakespeare & Company bookshop, which I've put a copy of here next to my photo of the shop front in April.

Super Zelda is a charming and unusual way to celebrate the life of this wonderful Modernist and the original Flapper. Daniele's drawings are evocative and fun, while Tiziana's text (although perhaps losing something in translation to English from its original Italian) is captivating. Although I already know the life story of Zelda fairly well, it's fun to see it here interspersed with quotes from the Fitzgeralds' famous friends (such as Dorothy Parker, Carl Van Vechten and co) to put a different slant on the story of this most tempestuous of artistic couples. 

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