Friday, May 18, 2012

This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

As a coming-of-age story, this is one of the best. I so thoroughly enjoyed This Side of Paradise it makes me think I need to get busy reading everything else FSF wrote, *especially* since the general gist of reviewers seems to be that this is one of his lesser and more juvenile works. Certainly it has a youthful feel to it but many of protagonist Amory's follies result in insights that are surprisingly mature. I love Fitzgerald's writing and the odd, experimental layout, which is funny coming from me who just finished complaining of another book being 'written' in clippings and excerpts, but oh well. His writing here jumps from short story to prose to poetry to screenplay and back again, which in the context of the characters and their youthful capriciousness works really, really well.  I included some of my favorite quotes -as usual- but have so many more I'll have to put them in another post.

One of the most brilliant first novels in the history of American literature, This Side of Paradise launched F. Scott Fitzgerald's literary career. Published in 1920 when the author was just twenty-three, it is about the education of a youth, and to this universal story Fitzgerald brought the promise of everything that was new in the vigorous, restless America of the years following World War 1. Amory Blaine - egoistic, versatile, callow, and imaginative - inhabits a book that is interwoven with songs, poems, playscripts, questions and answers. His growth from self-absorption to sexual awareness and personhood is described with a continuous improvisatory energy and delight. Far from being distracting, Fitzgerald's formal inventiveness and verve only heighten our sense that the world being described is our own modern world. (back cover)

Amory marked himself a fortunate youth, capable of infinite expansion for good or evil. He did not consider himself a 'strong char 'cter', but relied on his facility (learn things sorta quick) and his superior mentality (read lotta deep books). He was proud of the fact that he could never become a mechanical or scientific genius. From no other heights was he debarred. pg19

Then tragedy's emerald eyes glared suddenly at Amory over the edge of June. On the night after his ride to Lawrenceville a crowd sallied to New York in quest of adventure, and started back to Princeton about twelve o'clock in two machines. It had been a gay party and different stages of sobriety were represented. pg83

Then at six they arrived at the Borges' summer place on Long Island, and Amory rushed upstairs to change into his dinner coat. As he put in his studs he realized that he was enjoying life as he would probably never enjoy it again. Everything was hallowed by the haze of his own youth. He had arrived, abreast of the best in his generation at Princeton. He was in love and his love was returned. Turning on all the lights, he looked at himself in the mirror, trying to find in his own face the qualities that made him see clearer than the great crowd of people, that made him decide firmly, and able to influence and follow his own will. There was little in his life now that he would have changed. . . Oxford might have been a bigger field. pg87

. . . but you're developing. This has given you time to think and you're casting off a lot of your old luggage about success and the superman and all. People like us can't adopt whole theories, as you did. If we can do the next thing, and have an hour a day to think in, we can accomplish marvels, but as far as any high-handed scheme of blind dominance is concerned - we'd just make asses of ourselves. pg100


Sam (Tiny Library) said...

I've only read The Great Gatsby, I really need to read some more Fitzgerald. Added this one to my list!

Cassandra said...

This sounds wonderful! I have never read anything by FSF, but I guess you have just convinced me to start with this instead of the obvious choice, The Great Gatsby.

Trish said...

This does seem to be a good one to start with. I have only a passing familiarity with Gatsby - I started to read it last year but somehow never got very far. It appears I need to go back and give it a more thorough and concerted attempt.