Tuesday, July 27, 2010

At Conference!

At RWA! (Or more likely, wandering around Disneyworld...) Back to the regularly scheduled blog next week

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday Funny

Jane Austen's Fight Club, for your amusement--this thing is MADE of awesome...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Heroine of the Weekend

This weekend's Heroine is the prototypical flapper Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, born on this day in 1900, in Montgomery, Alabama! She was a spoiled Southern belle, the youngest of six children of Minnie and Anthony Sayre, members of a prominent Southern family. As a child she was known to be very active and energetic, taking ballet lessons, swimming, spending time outdoors; she was less interested in her school lessons, though she was a popular student at Sidney Lanier High School. She was known as something of a scandal in Montgomery, drinking, smoking, going out with boys, and (gasp!) wearing a one-piece flesh-colored bathing suit. She sought out attention whenever possible, flouting convention, but her family's position kept her from ruin. She had many suitors.

In July 1918 at the local country club where she often went to dance and swim she met 21-year-old First Lieutenant F. Scott Fitzgerald, posted at the army base at Montgomery. They were both infatuated right away, and Zelda would later write, "There seemed to be some heavenly support beneath his shoulder blades that lifted his feet from the ground in ecstatic suspension, as if he secretly enjoyed the ability to fly but was walking as a compromise to convention." He began to visit her almost daily, and redrafted the character of Rosalind in his WIP, This Side of Paradise, to resemble Zelda. But she was more than a mere muse--Scott lifted passages from her diary to use in the novel.

In October he was sent North, expecting to be sent to Europe until the Armistice was signed and he went back to Alabama to be with Zelda. When he was discharged in February 1919 he set out for New York and they wrote every day until he sent her his mother's ring and they became engaged. But the Sayres disapproved of Scott, disliking his heavy drinking and the fact that he was Catholic. Zelda also went on flirting with other men, which caused arguments and a breaking of the engagement. By September 1921 This Side of Paradise was finished and published the next March. Zelda had reconciled with him and agreed to marry him once the book was published; it came out March 26, and Zelda arrived in NYC on March 30. April 3 they were married in a small ceremony at St. Patrick's Cathedral and embarked on a glamorous, artsy life--or so it appeared.

They were famous in New York, both for the success of the book and for their wild, flapper-ish behavior. Zelda jumped in the fountain at Union Square; they were kicked out of hotels for drunkeness; they rode on top of taxis. Dorothy Parker said of them, "They did both look as though they had just stepped out of the sun; their youth was striking. Everyone wanted to meet them." But the drinking fueled not only parties by violent arguments. In October 1921 their only child, Frances "Scottie" Fitzgerald, was born in Scott's hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota. They employed a nurse for the baby as well as housekeepers, cooks, and laundresses. They seldom saw the child or were even at home. The next year Zelda again became pregnant, and possibly had an abortion.

When Scott's next book, The Beautiful and the Damned, was published the New York Tribune asked Zelda to write a cheeky review. Though the review was humorous and quirky, it also revealed her frustration at Scott's "borrowing" of her own words and their marriage: "It seems to me that on one page I recognized a portion of an old diary of mine which mysteriously disappeared shortly after my marriage, and also scraps of letters...which sound to me vaguely familiar. In fact, Mr. Fitzgerald...seems to believe that plagiarism believes at home." The piece led to offers from other magazines, including an article called "Eulogy on the Flapper" in Metropolitan Magazine. But the couple had money troubles as well as health worries, and in 1924 they left for Paris and then the Riviera where Scott worked on The Great Gatsby and Zelda began a wild flirtation with the young French pilot Edouard Jozan. She asked Scott for a divorce, starting even more arguments, though Jozan soon left and later told Zelda's biographer there was never a real affair.

After this rupture they seemed to reconcile, and kept up appearances among their friends with parties and travel. That fall Zelda took an overdose of sleeping pills, though the incident was never spoken of and Scott went back to his books, which he finished in October. They then left for Italy, where Zelda found some solace in painting. Back in Paris, they met Ernest Hemingway, who became good friends with Scott though Zelda found him "phoney as a rubber check." He told everyone she was crazy, but it was through him they met other artists of the Paris set and went on with their racy lives (including an incident where Zelda jumped down a marble staircase when Scott was talking to Isadora Duncan and ignoring her).

As the 1920s progressed, the marriage deteriorated. Scott became more alcoholic and Zelda's behavior more and more erratic. At 27 she turned back to her childhood love of ballet, setting up a grueling daily practice of 8 hours a day which drove her to exhaustion. She was actually offered a place with the San Carlo Opera Ballet in Naples in 1929, but declined. In 1930 she was sent to a sanatorium in France where she was diagnosed in schizophrenic. After a stay at another hospital in Switzerland the Fitzgeralds returned to Alabama where her father was dying. Scott then left for work in Hollywood, and by February 1932 Zelda was again in hospital. While at the Phipps Clinic in Baltimore she felt a surge of creativity and wrote a book, Save Me the Waltz, in 6 weeks. She then sent it to Scott's publisher. When Scott read it he was furious at its obvious depiction of their stormy marriage (which he intended to use himself). It was published in October 1932 in a small printing, but only sold half of even that and was a failure.

From the mid-1930s Zelda spent her life in and out of hospitals, ending up at the Highland Hospital in Asheville, NC in 1936 where she stayed while Scott worked in Hollywood and had an affair with gossip columnist Sheilah Graham. In 1938 Scott and Zelda tried a trip together to Cuba, which was a failure. They never saw each other again until Scott's death in 1940 (she did not attend the funeral, or their daughter's wedding a few years later). She started a new novel, Caesar's Things, which was never finished, and she died in a fire at highland Hospital on March 10, 1948, a sad and terrible end to a life that once seemed to promise so much and came to stand for a whole generation. She was buried with Scott in Rockville, Maryland, under a stone engraved with the last line of The Great Gatsby: "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

Some sources on Zelda's life:

Jackson Bryer, Cathy Barks (eds.), Dear Scott, Dearest Zelda: The Love Letters of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald (2002)
Sally Cline, Zelda Fitzgerald: Her Voice in Paradise (2003)
Nancy Milford, Zelda: A Biography (1970)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What I'm Reading Today

A fascinating inside look at the making of one of my favorite movies...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Big Rock

Yesterday, July 19, marks the anniversary of the discovery of the Rosetta Stone in 1799! (I'm currently reading Discovery at Rosetta by Jonathan Downs). It was a very (maybe the) important discovery in archaeology because it was the first clue to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs, which up until then had been a complete mystery. The Stone is fragment of a Ptolemaic-era stele with an inscription recording a decree made in Memphis in 196 BC which appears in 3 versions--one in hieroglyphs, one in the Egyptian demotic script, and one in ancient Greek. It was displayed in a temple for everyone to see, and later buried and then used as building material in a fort.

It remained there, unnoticed, until Napoleon's campaign to Egypt in 1798, when he was accompanied by a group called the Commision des Sciences et des Arts, 167 scientists and artists who wanted to study ancient Egyptian culture. In July 1799 soldiers were sent to reinforce Fort Julien, a couple miles northeast of the port city Rashid, and while there Lieutenant Pierre-Francois Bouchard spotted a slab with inscriptions on one side and it was sent to the Commision for a look. The three different inscriptions were rightly suspected that it could be versions of the same text. The Stone was seized by the British in 1801 when they defeated what was left of the French forces in Egypt after the departure of Napoleon. It has been displayed at the British Museum since June 1802.

For more info, this is a great site!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Heroine of the Weekend

This weekend we're looking at one of the (many) interesting women of the French Revolutionary period, Charlotte Corday, nicknamed by the writer Alphonse de Lamartine in 1847 "the Angel of Assassination." (I do love the complexities and dramas of this period...). She died July 17, 1793.

Marie-Anne Charlotte de Corday d'Armont was born to a minor aristocratic family in Normandy on July 27, 1768. Her mother died when she was a child and she was sent with her sister to be educated at the Abbaye-aux-Dames in Caen, where she became a reader and a fan of the work of Plutarch, Voltaire, and Rousseau. When she graduated from the convent school in 1791 she went to live with her cousin in Caen. By this time the Terror was in full swing, and news from Paris reached Caen of the horrors going on in the city. Charlotte was a dedicated Girondist who feared a civil war and believed the king should not have been executed (among other things) came to believe that the radical Jacobin Jean-Paul Marat was the main figure responsible for the terrible bloodshed.

On July 9, 1793 she left her home and took a room at the Hotel de Providence in Paris. There she bought a kitchen knife and wrote her "Address to the French People, friends of Law and Peace" to explain her actions. She went to the National Assembly to seek out Marat, but found out there that because of his bad health he no longer attended meetings. So she went on to his house around noon on July 13 with claims to have information of a Girondist uprising in Caen. She was first turned away, but she persisted, and when she returned that evening she was let in. He was in his bath, where he spent most of his time treating a painful skin condition. As he wrote down the names of the "Girondist rebels" Charlotte pulled out her knife and stabbed him in the chest until he was dead. Charlotte was quickly seized.

At her trial she insisted she had carried out the murder alone, stating "I killed one man to save one hundred thousand." Four days later she was taken to the guillotine. She was later seen as a great folk heroine, a subject of poems, plays, songs, and paintings (it didn't hurt that she was young and pretty as well as brave!).

A few sources on her life:
Nina Corazzo and Catherine R. Montfort, Charlotte Corday: femme-homme in Literate Women and the French Revolution of 1789 (1994)
Madelyn Gutwirth, The Twilight of the Goddesses: Women and Representation in the French Revolutionary Era (1992)
Lucy Moore, Liberty: The Lives and Times of Six Women in Revolutionary France (2006)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Portrait Friday

Today's portrait--Anne of Cleves, who died on this day in 1557...

I'm slowly digging my way out from under RomCon/vacation stuff, and will be back to regularly scheduled Heroine of the Weekend (and conference info!) tomorrow

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Bastille Day!

Happy Bastille Day, everyone! Here are just a few French things I love:

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

My RomCon Schedule

I'm busily packing for RomCon (leaving Thursday!)--in case you'll be there too, here is my schedule (as far as I know):

2:00 Strip the Heroine Workshop

9:00 Speed Date an Author (hopefully I will have lots of tea at that hour of the morning!)
10:00 Author Avenue
12:00 Book Fair
3:30 Memory Lane

9:00 Speed Date an Author
11:00 Harlequin Open House

If you're there, come say hi! (And Happy birthday to Frida Kahlo, one of my favorite artists...)

Riskies Tuesday

Yep, it's Tuesday so I'm at the Riskies today! Giving away an ARC of my next Laurel McKee book, Duchess of Sin, to one lucky commenter...

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Fourth of July Heroines!

Happy Fourth of July weekend, everyone! It's a busy one here with cookouts and such, so I'm leaving you with a few images of favorite early-American heroines (Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, and Dolley Madison)

And if you're looking for something a bit different to take to the potluck picnic, why not try this Martha Washington Cake (from the Mount Vernon website)??

Take 40 eggs and divide the whites from the yolks and beat them to a froth. Then work 4 pounds of butter to a cream and put the whites of eggs to it a Spoon full at a time till it is well work'd. Then put 4 pounds of sugar finely powdered to it in the same manner then put in the Yolks of eggs and 5 pounds of flour and 5 pounds of fruit. 2 hours will bake it. Add to it half an ounce of mace and nutmeg half a pint of wine and some fresh brandy.

Modern adaptation of recipe:

In making Martha Washington's famed cake, Mount Vernon's curatorial staff followed Mrs. Washington's recipe almost exactly. Where the recipe called for 5 pounds of fruit, without specifying which ones, 2 pounds of raisins, 1 pound of currants, and 2 pounds of apples were used. The wine used was cream sherry. Since no pan large enough was available to hold all the batter, two 14 layers were made and stacked (note: the original was one single tall layer). The layers were baked in a 350 degree oven for 1.5 hours. Should be iced with a very stiff egg-white based icing, flavored with rosewater or orange-flower water.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Portrait Friday, Summer Reading

Since it's been so hot and humid here, and the 4th of July is this weekend (it always feels like the mid-point of summer to me, the downhill slide to autumn, even though here hot summer lasts until October!), I've been thinking a lot about summers when I was a kid. We used to go visit my grandmother in the summer, and she had a lot of land with trees and huge vegetable gardens, so I could wander around outside and play. One of my favorite things was to find a quiet, shady spot where I could read! I lost myself in Anne of Green Gables, Little House on the Prairie, the Nancy Drew books, Betsy-Tacy, I Capture the Castle, Cartland and Heyer romances, anything I could get my hands on. I lived for the weekly trip to the library!

I miss those summers, when there was nothing to do but read and all the time to spend doing that. I still read in the summers of course, all the time! But this summer my reading is mostly research books and I don't have a hammock. I'm off to RomCon next week (if you're there, come and say hi to me!) so I need to choose some books for the car trip. I save romance novels for treats to use in times like that! I grabbed a few off my TBR pile to take, here is what I have so far--Sarah MacLean, Nine Rules to Break; Laura Kinsale, Lessons in French (been meaning to get to this for a while now!); Margaret Mallory's Knight books; Allison Chase, Most Eagerly Yours; Rose Lerner, In For a Penny.

What would you suggest I take on my trip? What are your all-time favorite summer books?

(I also have a little interview up at the Cover Cafe, talking about favorite covers! Come visit me there...)