It's no secret that this past summer was rife with Jazz Age nostalgia. There were books (The Paris Wife), movies (Midnight in Paris), fashion (feathered headbands, slip dresses), and booze (moonshine and St. Germain). If you lived in New York, you could attend the Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governor's Island, and currently, ride in a vintage subway car courtesy of HBO's Prohibition-era Boardwalk Empire.
After what Zadie Smith has recently called our "whole, unlovely decade," it makes sense that we'd long for the Jazz Age, or rather, the things we've come to associate with the Jazz Age. More than moonshine and absinthe, feathers and beads, with any nostalgia comes the implicit sentiment that "life was better then, people were better." To a society that endured [and continues to endure] terrorism, cataclysmic weather and economic meltdowns, the denizens of the 20s represent a reckless naivete, a boozy, continental joyousness. Zelda and Scott, Hadley and Ernest, symbolize a perfect mingling of innocence and excess. On one hand, we covet their culture--the painting, sculpture, writing, music. On the other, we receive some level of pleasure from the schadenfreude history affords us, knowing that by 1929 the party will come to an end. We understand that ex-pat Paris is where the 20s will flee to breathe their last, before finally surrendering to hardship, then war. It's an endlessly fascinating piece of history and tragically relatable.
If you're interested in exploring the Jazz Age for yourself, I humbly recommend two books in two different veins. The first is Nancy Milford's incredible biography of Zelda Fitzgerald, Zelda, which examines both Fitzgeralds through the lens of their marriage. Zelda is deeply moving and utterly transporting, far and away one of the best biographies I've ever read. The second book is lighter fare but just as personal: the forthcoming The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt, lovingly constructed with gorgeous 20s ephemera. Both books are the bee's knees, the cat's meow.
As always, happy reading!