A new edition of Zelda Fitzgerald’s Save Me The Waltz will be published on January 14th by Handheld Press. We spoke with founder Kate Macdonald about the publishing process ahead of her talk at the University of Glasgow on the 23rd of January.
Zelda Fitzgerald is no stranger to being overlooked. Her combined work with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Bits of Paradise (consisting of twenty-three stories written by the couple) would see Zelda’s name erased from many of the titles, and literary agent Harold Ober removed her name from her short story Millionaire’s Girl on publication. Yet, she persisted. Her novel Save Me The Waltz is a masterpiece, documenting a woman’s desire for freedom in her own life set throughout the first half of the twentieth century. Despite recent critical acclaim, the book finds itself in and out of print regularly, and so founder of Handheld Press, Kate Macdonald, knew she had to act. “When I heard her only novel had gone out of print, it was like a call to arms for me, a lightbulb moment. The neglected woman author is probably my most enduring scholarly interest, and I knew the market would respond well to a new edition of this novel.”
Save Me The Waltz follows Alabama Beggs, a woman who ‘wanted her own way about things’ and is determined to follow her own path. After marrying artist David Knight (the book is widely thought to parallel Zelda’s relationship with F. Scott Fitzgerald), Alabama’s life is a whirlwind tour of the Jazz Age, highlighting the grim realities behind a romanticised time. Eventually, Alabama finds purpose in ballet and begins to pursue the art at the age of twenty-seven. “Alabama’s ballet training, as a contrast to David Knight’s artistic life and production, and the immersion into theatrical consumption in New York and Paris in the 1920s, captivated me,” Kate adds, “as well as Zelda’s narrative style, her gift for description and dialogue and the economy of her narrative.” The ballet training scenes are particularly poignant in this age where success is often seen to be synonymous with youthfulness; Fitzgerald paints a painful picture of Alabama being told she is too old to pursue her passion in her twenties, but the strength and determination exhibited in these pages is enough to ignite inspiration in any reader.
Despite Zelda Fitzgerald experiencing a recent increase in popularity (mostly due to her relationship with her husband – highlighted in the recent Amazon Prime show ‘Z: The Beginning of Everything’), her status as a ‘forgotten’ woman writer still stands. “When I present the novel,” Kate notes, “the response has been along the lines of ‘Oh, I didn’t know she wrote’, and ‘I’ve never heard of her: is she related to F. Scott Fitzgerald?’; but I’ve had a good response from bookshop buyers, readers and scholars which has shown that my instincts to republish Save Me The Waltz were right.”
The new Handheld Press edition has an introduction from Erin E Templeton, providing a fascinating account exploring the parallels between Zelda’s struggles to have a life of her own and Alabama’s struggle to be a dancer. It also features a refreshing cover design by Nadja Guggi (who is responsible for the iconic look of the Handheld Press titles).
If you want to hear more from Kate Macdonald about publishing Save Me The Waltz (as well as Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Kingdoms of Elfin) then join us on the 23rd of January, 5 University Gardens at 5:15pm to hear an in-depth account of the publishing process.
You can purchase Save Me The Waltz here and at John Smith’s Bookshop in the Fraser Building from the 14th of January.