Wednesday, March 5, 2008
This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I enjoyed the Great Gatsby as much as the next gal, and I find Fitzgerald's personal life, especially his marraige to Zelda, particularly fascinating. This Side of Paradise, however, was thorougly disappointing from start to finish. First of all, the book is rather disjointed as it was written over a long period of time. The first half of the book, "The Romantic Egotist" was written in a hurry on its own before Fitzgerald went to war. He seemed to think he would not survive WWI and wanted to leave his mark before he went. The book was rejected and Fitzgerald lived, never actually leaving his training base in Alabama as the war ended before he was shipped over seas. The rest of the book was written after his return. It's a jumble of prose, letters, and then play format... but I didn't want to read stage directions, I wanted to continue reading a normal novel.
The main character, Amory Blaine, is a narcisistic little prep school punk that is forever posing and rubbing his sophistication in the faces of his peers, none of which particularly seem to care for him. This may be in part because of his histrionic mother dragging him around the country in his early years before her nervous breakdown, which lead Blaine to have to live with family for several years before being sent of to St. Regis prep school. From there, he goes on to college, continues his snobbery, goes to war, continues his snobbery, becomes engaged to a debutante, continues his snobbery, is rejected and becomes miserable when he realizes he is ultimately alone... you get the picture.
What I did enjoy about the novel was that it was autobiographical fiction, and I was able to find quite a few parallels to the author's life. Fitzgerald wrote,“I don't want to talk about myself because I'll admit I did that somewhat in this book. In fact, to write it took three months; to conceive it -- three minutes; to collect the data in it -- all my life." Here are a few of the parallels:
-Both went to Princeton and struggled academically. Both flunked out their Junior year and had to repeat it.
-Both spent part of their early childhood years in Minnesota, Blaine in Minneapolois and Fitzgerald in St. Paul.
-Both wrote for Princeton's Triangle Club, a musical theater group.
-Both were failed football stars and didn't last long on Princeton's team.
-Both were under the tutelage of Catholic priests and struggled with "uncrystallized" faith.
-Both worked in advertising though their passion was writing so that they could make enough income to win over significant others who were use to rather extravagent lifestyles.
-and so on and so forth.
I don't recommend this book. If a young man can see the devil after the first 100 pages of being obnoxious to the reader and still not change his ways after having his wits scared out of him, I don't want to have to read about him being obnoxious anymore.