How to Write Heartbreaking Sentences à la Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald

Zelda Fitzgerald
Zelda Fitzgerald
Zelda Fitzgerald
Zelda Fitzgerald

Be in love, be deeply in love, lose the one you love, then put words together in a necklace of sorrow and irretrievability.

Zelda wrote two great sentences, the first on alcoholism which she shared with her husband and the second on her love for him.  Asked why she drank, she responded: “Because the world is chaos, and when I drink I’m chaotic.”  In a letter to her husband while in hospital fighting for her sanity, she wrote: “I love you anyway—even if there isn’t any me or any love or even any life.”

Zelda detested her husband’s friend Ernest Hemingway but she adhered to his code in A Moveable Feast: “Write one true sentence… Write the truest sentence you know.”  The truest sentence she knew was her love for F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Hemingway himself once overcame his rivalry with Fitzgerald long enough to describe his talent accurately: “his talent was as natural as the pattern that was made by the dust on a butterfly’s wings. At one time he understood it no more than the butterfly did and he did not know when it was brushed or marred.”  In Hemingway’s mind what marred Fitzgerald’s talent was his relationship with Zelda.

In Tender Is The Night Fitzgerald writes a sentence about a teenaged girl which seems like a memory of Zelda in the first flush of their early days: “Her body hovered delicately on the last edge of childhood—she was almost eighteen, nearly complete, but the dew was still on her.”  Later in life, in his notebooks, Fitzgerald composed two heartbreaking lines about his wife: “I left my capacity for hoping on the little roads that led to Zelda’s sanitarium.” And: “The voices fainter and fainter—How is Zelda, how is Zelda—tell us—how is Zelda.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald is one of the great sentence makers of the 20th century. His sentences fuse poetry, mood and telling detail as with Nick Carraway’s observation of his friend Gatsby: “In his blue gardens men and women came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.”

The last sentence of The Great Gatsby seems a fitting summing up of Scott and Zelda’s life together. The words were cut into their gravestone: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

– By J.S. Porter

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