Zelda Sayre, Writer

December 27, 2013 § Leave a comment

Cornelia gazed out of the window and sighed, not because she was particularly unhappy, but because she had mortified her parents and disappointed her friends. Her two sisters, younger than she, were married and established for life long ago; yet here she remained at thirty years of age, like a belated apple or a faded bachelor’s button, either forgotten or not deemed worth the picking. Her father did not scold. He kindly suggested that perhaps Neilie would do more for herself if the rest of the family would leave her alone. Her brother said, “Cornie’s a fine girl and good looking enough, but she’s got no magnetism. A fellow might as well try to tackle an iceberg.”

The New Yorker turns up a story written by Zelda Sayre—then a Montgomery, Alabama teenager, and soon to become wife to F. Scott Fitzgerald—for her high school literary journal. “The Iceberg” was written circa 1917 and concerns an unmarried Southern woman who, without her family’s knowledge, goes to business school and secures a job taking dictation for a multimillionaire, whom she later marries.

For a slight story (just under 1,100 words) by a writer yet to reach adulthood, it is pointed in its messages about wealth, ambition, and status, and its themes, appropriately, speak of a spirited young woman looking to free herself from the hot, mannered South.

Zelda did a good deal of her own writing during the early part of her marriage to Scott, before succumbing to breakdown (and the apparently stifling criticism, plagiarism, and likely envy on the part of her husband), and even published a novel, Save Me the Waltz, still in print as part of The Collected Writings of Zelda Fitzgerald. Marion Meade’s fascinating book, Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin: Writers Running Wild in the Twenties, gives Zelda a fair contextual evaluation alongside peers Edna Ferber, Dorothy Parker, and Edna St. Vincent Millay.

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