Tuesday, May 29, 2012

This Side of Paradise - More Quotes

Gosh, I like Fitzgerald's writing. Here are a few more noteworthy passages that never made it on to last week's post. And you know what's refreshing? His backstories are brief and to-the-point. When a new character is introduced, we get a straightforward paragraph with some facts and flair to get a sense of personality, and that's it. No long and rambling irrelevant explanations about eevvrythiiing to do with said person. This first passage from page 215 should be used as a template for all authors - it's snappy and interesting and a delight to read.

They were formally introduced two days later, and his aunt told him her history. The Ramilly's were two: old Mr Ramilly and his granddaughter, Eleanor. She had lived in France with a restless mother whom Amory imagined to have been very much like his own, on whose death she had gone to Baltimore first to stay with a bachelor uncle, and there she insisted on being a debutante at the age of seventeen. She had a wild winter and arrived in the country in March, having quarreled frantically with all her Baltimore relatives, and shocked them into fiery protest. A rather fast crowd had come out, who drank cocktails in limousines and were promiscuously condescending and patronizing toward older people, and Eleanor with an esprit that hinted strongly of the boulevards, led many innocents still redolent of St Timothy's and Farmington, into paths of Bohemian naughtiness. When the story came to her uncle, a forgetful cavalier of a more hypocritical era, there was a scene, from which Eleanor emerged, subdued but rebellious and indignant, to seek haven with her grandfather who hovered in the country on the near side of senility. That's as far as her story went; she told the rest herself, but that was later. (pg215)

Now he realized the truth; that sacrifice was no purchase of freedom. It was like a great elective office, it was like an inheritance of power - to certain people at certain times an essential luxury, carrying with it not a guarantee but a responsibility, not a security but an infinite risk. It's very momentum might drag him down to ruin - the passing of the emotional wave that made it possible might leave the one who made it high  and dry forever on an island of despair. (pg230)

Q. - What would be the test of corruption?

A. - Becoming really insincere - calling myself 'not such a bad fellow', thinking I regretted my lost youth when I only envy the delights of losing it. Youth is like having a big plate of candy. Sentimentalists think they want to be in the pure, simple state they were in before they ate the candy. They don't. They just want the fun of eating it all over again. The matron doesn't want to repeat her girlhood - she wants to repeat her honeymoon. I don't want to repeat my innocence. I want the pleasure of losing it again. (pg240)


Beth said...

He can convey so much with such conciseness and beauty. What a command of the English language!

laughingwolf said...

bloody brilliant, as the brits would say :)

Alex said...

Oh it's too long since I read any Fitzgerald - definitely one for the tbr pile.

And, you are so right about the question of backstories. There is a real art in getting it just right. As a primary teacher I was often faced with a new character in a child's story who simply appeared out of nowhere with no history at all other than in the child's mind. Telling the reader that history would never have occurred to them. But then you find the other extreme and, as you say, so often it is very extreme. It takes a real writer to know what is and isn't needed and how to tell you that succinctly.

Trish said...

Beth - yes, and he makes it look so easy, doesn't he?

LW - truly.

Alex - I've really only just discovered him now. I read Gatsby back in high school some twenty-five years ago but I didn't know enough to appreciate his writing at the time. I'm so thrilled to be reacquainted with him! I'm listening to it now on audiobook. Yes, I imagine the backstory is tricky to put together. We readers are a fussy bunch, aren't we? We want some, but not too much, inside information. And I think it works best when we are left wanting to know a little bit more.