“Being in love with you,” Zelda tells F. Scott, “is like being love with one’s own past.” It is near the book’s end, he is drunk and pummelled, and she is rubbing his belly.
Age is the central issue for both Zelda and F. Scott. Not many people get to be young as hard as they did, or have to suffer the aftermath of youth quite so painfully. In a way, it’s like they’re doing it so we don’t have to—adventurously, experimentally, like the Curies handled radium. And they acquit themselves poorly as characters in novels, because the very explosiveness that makes them transfixing also makes them remote.
Besides, they’re too doomed to envy, too insufferable to love. So what they inspire instead is a sort of defensive sidestep, a desire to affirm the value in all the mundane, grownup things that the rest of us get instead of incandescent youth: responsibility, personal growth, caring about other people, feeling rueful self-awareness.
Rather than capturing F. Scott and Zelda’s power, Fowler, Robuck, and Spargo bear us sensibly into adulthood.
—"Saving Zelda,“ by Molly Fischer