I like books set during The Jazz Age.  All that reckless bravado and extravagant excess. One of my favorites is by that hard-drinking high-living writer with the stormy personal life. A charter member of the 1920’s “Lost Generation”, F. Scott Fitzgerald burned the candle at both ends with his flapper muse, Zelda, at his side. Poetic fire.

great gatsby cover designs

In between parties, he sobered up enough to write his masterpiece, The Great Gatsby. It’s a haunting story of a millionaire’s attempt to rekindle a past love with a society belle.

Here’s Hollywood’s latest interpretation~

Save Me The Waltz by Zelda Fitzgerald

They say life informs fiction.  Zelda Fitzgerald was a talented writer and completed this semi-autobiographical novel while hospitalized for schizophrenia. Originally printed on cheap paper with a cover of green linen, there was no suggestion of the romantic glitter of life with Fitzgerald. A collection of their private letters is telling.  The inscription on the Fitzgeralds’ shared tombstone reads: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”


The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

Ex-pats drink their way across post-war Europe.  Hard-boiled Jake, impulsive Lady Ashley, drunkards and hangers-on, matador and bull, danger and heartbreak.

All familiar Jazz-Age-territory stuff.  But if you want to look past the obvious, look here.

One of Wharton’s last books, she wrote Twilight Sleep in the late 1920s when more than a few people probably thought she was already dead. It’s about the Jazz-age New York society when the Four Hundred were being cast aside by a new generation. Wharton was 60 when she wrote this, but she understands and conveys the ideas and ways of a much younger generation. It’s a Fitzgerald novel written by someone who strolled arm-in-arm with Henry James.

In the 1920s people sat on flagpoles, danced the Charleston, and read a new novel called The Great Gatsby.  Fitzgerald called it a time when “the parties were bigger, the pace was faster, the buildings were higher, the morals looser.”  Life was lived with a vengeance. But writer Willa Cather, who grew up in a less frantic America, said that for her, the world broke in two and became an uglier place.

Wilder music, faster cars, shorter skirts.

Bobbed hair and bathtub gin.

Each generation seems born to shock the previous one.

What novel brings you the keenest sense of social history?

What era is your favorite?



Meet you here next Sunday. 

Toni 8/4/13


  1. Cheaper by the Dozen and Belles on Their Toes by Frank Gilbreth and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey is the biography of the authors’ family from around the early 1900’s through the 20’s. The Publisher’s Note” “No growing pains have ever been more hilarious than those suffered loudly by the riotous Gilbreth clan. First, there are a dozen red-haired, freckle-faced kids to contend with. Then there’s Dad, a famous efficiency expert who believes a family can be run just like a factory. And there’s Mother, his partner in everything except discipline. How they all survive such escapades as forgetting Frank, Jr., in a roadside restaurant or going on a first date with Dad in the backseat or having their tonsils removed en masse will keep you in stitches. You can be sure they’re not only cheaper, they’re funnier by the dozen.” But it isn’t just funny, it’s full of models for what a loving husband and wife look and act like, how to run a big household, how to hold loved ones close and safe. I read and re-read these books from about the age of 10 until I went to college. It probably has influenced who I am and how I am more than any other book. The power of this Big Family book shows up in a vignette I wrote about how I lured Jack in. I’ll try to figure out how to footnote it here.


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