“I believed I was a Salamander and it seems that I am nothing but an impediment.”*

*Zelda Fitzgerald (born 24 July 1900), wife of the writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. On the evening of March 10, 1948, fire destroyed the Central Building of Highland Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, claiming the life of Zelda Fitzgerald and eight other women.

Extracted from the blog of Alembic Rare Books:

The Salamander (1914), by Owen Johnson was the first novel to feature a flapper as a protagonist. It was a novel about young women who were rejecting their traditional upbringings and flocking to big cities for adventure. By the beginning of the 1920s they would be known as flappers, but Johnson called them “salamanders”. Like the salamander of ancient myth, which could withstand fire, they seemed unscathed by the social conflagration of which they were the center.

Despite their freewheeling lifestyle, one of the key goals for any salamander was marriage. Though Johnson’s book was a best-seller and predated F. Scott Fitzgerald’s flappers by six years, he never received credit for the concept, and his books gradually fell out of the public consciousness.

Sarah Hughes, writing in The Observer of 30.10.16:

“…After a few giddy years, all the youthful promise crumbled away, leaving Scott a dazed and drunk jobbing hack in Hollywood and bringing Zelda to breakdown at the age of 30, a diagnosis of schizophrenia, now widely thought to be a bipolar disorder, and a life in and out of sanatoriums…

(Therese Anne Fowler, author of Z):

“We do anoint her as a kind of proto-feminist heroine, even though she didn’t see herself as a feminist and didn’t fully succeed at anything,” she says. “But her original reputation is based on conventional paternalistic standards of what a woman, mother and wife ought to be and do. Her ambitions and her insistence on pursuing them were considered inappropriate and unhealthy; after her psychotic break she was literally told that this insistence had created her ‘split mind’ and that the path to a cure lay in giving up all ambitions that didn’t conform to the paternalistic ideal.”

The backlash against this image is understandable given that popular opinion of Zelda was initially driven by Ernest Hemingway’s notoriously caustic descriptions in A Moveable Feast, published posthumously in 1964, in which he dismissed her as insane and blamed Scott’s growing dependence on drink on his wife…

(Sarah Churchwell, author of Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and The Invention of the Great Gatsby):

“It’s important to say that they always loved each other and wouldn’t have appreciated people taking sides… Fitzgerald wrote a few years before he died that it was a ‘moral imperative’ that their friends understood they were a couple, a unit and would stay that way, even if her illness meant they couldn’t live together.”…”.

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