This year marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the Jazz Age, as well as the marriage of two of the most iconic figures of the Roaring Twenties – Alabama native Zelda Sayre and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
In celebration of the Fitzgeralds, NewSouth Books has released, “All of the Belles,” the first-ever collection of Fitzgerald’s short stories based on Zelda’s hometown of Montgomery.
“Fitzgerald wrote only three stories specifically about Montgomery,” said Kirk Curnutt, author of the introduction to the volume, executive director of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Society and managing editor of the Fitzgerald Review. “They’ve been reproduced in a lot of books before, collected in a lot of anthologies with many of his other over-160 short stories … but they’ve never been presented together as a trilogy.”
The stories, based on the life of Zelda, feature three women that rebel against the expectations of Southern women as they embrace the newfound freedoms of the 1920s.
“The first one is a pure-out comedy,” Curnutt said. “A comedy of manners, between the North and the South, where a Southern belle goes to Minnesota and realizes that people are kind of cold and uncaring and unloving, and flees back down to the South.”
“The second is more class-conscious,” he said. This story mimics Fitzgerald’s own life. Originally from St. Paul, Minnesota, Fitzgerald was stationed at Camp Sheridan while in training for World War I. While in Montgomery, he met Zelda at a country club dance in 1918 and finally convinced her to marry him in 1920, following the publication of his first story.
“The final story, printed in 1929, is a nostalgic look back at Montgomery, the city he called Tarleton,” Curnutt said. “One of Fitzgerald’s biggest themes is lost youth, which is certainly the power of that story.”
The stories, which span nearly a decade, show Fitzgerald’s evolving perceptions of Montgomery.
“I’ve found a lot that people, even in Alabama, don’t know these stories, and they’re just great stories,” he said. “I think that when people think of Fitzgerald, their mind goes to ‘The Great Gatsby,’ but these deserve to be read and appreciated for their own qualities … which is one of the things that the Fitzgerald Society has tried to do for 30 years now, to really remind people that he wrote a lot of other interesting stuff, among them short stories.”
Curnutt, who is a professor and the English chair at Troy University, further brings Fitzgerald’s writings to life for his students by visiting sites from the stories.
“When I moved to Montgomery in 1993 to teach at Troy, I realized I was teaching literally just down the hill from Zelda’s old neighborhood,” he said. “It really made me go and study more about their relationship here.”
For his students, it is a powerful experience to physically see “literary fiction removed from the reality of history, with Pleasant Avenue juxtaposed by the reality of history with the National Museum for Peace and Justice.”
“All of the Belles” is available through NewSouth Books and at retailers nationwide.
“We designed this as a gift book,” Curnutt said, “It has great love stories, and is beautifully written and entertaining … everything we value about Fitzgerald is in the stories.”
To learn more about the lives of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, visit the Encyclopedia of Alabama and the Fitzgerald Museum, which is the only museum dedicated to the lives and legacies of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.
For more information about Fitzgerald’s writing, visit the F. Scott Fitzgerald Society, founded in 1992 to promote appreciation of the novels and stories of Fitzgerald.