In an odd coincidence, Nancy Milford's 1970 biography of F Scott Fitzgerald's wife ("Zelda") is this month's selection for one of my book clubs and Fitzgerald's classic "The Great Gatsby" is the choice for another club I attend. Reading the two back-to-back was interesting and a bit eerie.
According to Milford, Fitzgerald borrowed heavily from Zelda's letters for his own writing. Knowing this helped make this reading of "Gatsby" a very different experience from my first. I wondered: How many other esteemed authors have had such un-credited assists? And since Milford thoroughly details the often dysfunctional co-dependency of the Fitzgeralds in "Zelda", it didn't take much imagination on my part to detect parallels among the principals in "Gatsby". Novelists frequently use significant pieces of their lives for their fiction. Anyone doubting this should try reading these two books as I did. Much of the secondary biographical information I'd just learned about Scott Fitzgerald from "Zelda" seemed to leap right into parts of "Gatsby".
I enjoyed "The Great Gatsby" far more this second time. Though I'm not sure why, reading "Zelda" just prior must have contributed. What similar experiences have you had when non-fiction and fiction collided?