I must give thanks to another blogger for the idea of this post. She commented on my last post about Stephen King, mentioning some of her favorite authors one of which was F. Scott Fitzgerald. That rang a bell in my head for Fitzgerald has links to my hometown Asheville, as do some other famous authors.
I’ve already shared here some information of two of those authors, Thomas Wolfe and William Sydney Porter, who wrote under the pseudonym O. Henry. Wolfe was born here in Asheville, and O. Henry, born in Greensboro, NC, spent time here in the Asheville area for health purposes and had an office downtown, eventually being buried here after dying in New York City. Charles Frazier is another author born in Asheville whose works include Cold Mountain, Thirteen Moons and Nightwoods, all set in the mountains of western North Carolina.
Fitzgerald’s ties to Asheville also relate to health issues. He had been an alcoholic since his college days and was suffering from TB, and felt, as many did, that the clean mountain air would give him an opportunity to regain his writing abilities while getting some much needed rest and respite while recovering from his life style.
But his wife Zelda also had deep problems and demons. From 1930 onward, Zelda was admitted to several psychiatric institutions, eventually being diagnosed with either schizophrenia or bi-polar disorder; it being the dark ages of mental health care, there were differing views on her illness. But be what it may, Fitzgerald spent the summers of ’35 and ’36 living in the famed Grove Park Inn, battling his demons, while Zelda was place in the Highland Mental Hospital, where she stayed off and on for twelve years. And it was there on March 10, 1948, at the age of 47, that she died along with eight other women patients when fire ravaged the hospital. As with all such incidents, there were tales that the patients were drugged-up, locked in their rooms in strait jackets and that the fire was possibly set by a vengeful nurse. None of that was ever proven and nothing remains of the site other than a grassy field and trees.
Zelda outlived her husband by eight years, him having died of a heart attack at the age of 44. Thus the sad story of the golden couple of the so-called “Lost Generation” that lived in the “Roaring Twenties”, creating the “Jazz Age”, adding another piece to the fascinating history of my mountain hometown.