A BOOK : The Beautiful and Dammed by F. Scott Fitzgerald

B L O G M A S   D A Y   6

The Beautiful and Damned
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Published 1922 The Beautiful and Damned is the story of Anthony Patch and his wife, Gloria. Harvard-educated and an aspiring aesthete, Patch is waiting for his inheritance upon his grandfather’s death. His reckless marriage to Gloria is fueled by alcohol and destroyed by greed. The Patches race through a series of alcohol-induced fiascoes – first in hilarity, then in despair. The Beautiful and Damned, a devastating portrait of the nouveaux riches, New York nightlife, a reckless ambition, an squandered talent, was published in 1922 on the heels of Fitzgerald’s first novel, This Side of Paradise. It signaled his maturity as a storyteller and confirmed his enormous talent as a novelist

Image and summary from Goodreads.com

 

If I am going to be perfectly honest, the reason why I started to read The Beautiful and Damned was because of Taylor Swift. In my head she had quoted this book by Fitzgerald on her instagram or somewhere, and I was curious about it. It turns out she did NOT quote The Beautiful and Damned, and instead quoted This Side of Paradise. Even though I got the wrong book, at first I found myself really enjoying this classic. I think it’s left over from high school, but in my mind it always seems like classics will always be more challenging than they actually are. Yes, they require more brain power than other books sometimes, but before I start reading something I make it out to be the biggest challenge EVER.

Classics musings aside, let’s move on to the book:

Honestly, my experience of reading The Beautiful and Damned feels split into two. At first I really fell into the book and found myself enjoying it. And then, well. It started to loose me.

It starts off with characters that I really didn’t like acting (or not acting) in ways that drove me nuts. It’s like a train wreck and you can’t stop watching. What isn’t a train wreck though, is the writing. It’s easy to sink into and there are several lines that are so quotable. I am going to share a few of my favorites at the end.

The thing with this Fitzgerald novel, is it keeps going. And going. And going. We follow Anthony and Gloria from when they are about 25 and 22 (I THINK. I can’t find their ages now) until they are about 32 and 29, and in this time you’re pretty much witnessing the slow and painful downfall of two people.

I started off thinking this is a more of a coming of age for those that are trying to answer that “what do I do after graduation?” question, and it kind of is, but in the sense where the main characters don’t ever even remotely “come of age.” It is more of a cautionary tale:

Work. Don’t drink too much. Listen to your friends’ advice especially when they are all saying the same thing.

The title of this book is REALLY accurate. Ha!

You should read The Beautiful and Damned if you…

…really like character studies.

…want to read about aristocratic beautiful people partying in 1910

…are in a mood for something more depressing

…want to read pretty writing.

Some of my favorite quotes:

It worried him that he was, after all, a facile mediocrity… It seemed a tragedy to want nothing- and yet he wanted something, something.

“So he built hope desperately and tenaciously out of the stuff of his dream, a hope flimsy enough, to be sure, a hope that was cracked and dissipated a dozen times a day, a hope mothered by mockery, but nevertheless, a hope that would be brawn and sinew to his self-respect.”

“What am I going to do?” he began at breakfast. “Here we’ve been married a year and we’ve just worried around without even being efficient people of leisure.”  (this just cracked me up)

“He was wondering at the unreality of his ideas, at the fading radiance of existence, and at the little absorptions that were creeping avidly into his life, like rats into a ruined house.”

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Review: Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

HELLO!

I hope everyone has had and is still having a fantastic series of celebrations. Minus New Years being in just a few short days, things are finally starting to slow down in my neck of the woods and it feels like I am finally getting back on my feet. As a result, I am getting more of a chance to read more which is great. I am currently reading Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson. I am about halfway through it and so far I can say it is fantastic. I love the world Brandon created and I love the narrator’s lack of ability to create metaphors. More on that in a future post though.

Today I wanted to share with you one of the books I already own and FINALLY finished reading: Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton.

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The reason why I picked up this book was because I heard Bennett Madison, author of September Girls, mention how he liked Edith Wharton during one of his Q and As. I don’t remember if it was a specific book by her, or if it was all of her books, but while I was browsing in a bookstore one day I thought of that, so I bought this one because I was curious since that had stuck in my memory and I was curious.

And boy! I am glad I did.

I will read things considered classics, but usually I struggle through them because the language and pacing is a lot different than what I am used to. I was blown away by how readable Ethan Frome was for me and I ended up immensely enjoying it.

First off. I had this sense of dread the entire time reading the novel. It is told in a similar manner as The Great Gatsby where the story largely revolved around a different character instead of the narrator. The narrator meets Ethan after the events in this story takes place, is curious about him and then shares with us Ethan’s devastating past. We know whatever is going to happen in this book is terrible and sad, because we see Ethan in present day and he is crippled, looks extremely depressed and lonely. As I was reading more and more about Ethan’s story I kept cringing because he was pretty much playing with fire. I think wanting to see how everything was going to come crashing down was what drove me to keep reading this. That among other things. 🙂

One of the other reasons why I ended up loving this short little book (it’s only about 140 pages) was how tragic it ended up being. All of the characters that are part of Ethan’s story are stuck in these terrible positions that they partly brought onto themselves through rash decisions, but were partly just the hand they were dealt in life. While there were times where I was not even sure if I liked the characters I still felt bad for all of them. And speaking of the characters, I love them more because I did not like all of them. They were so layered and trying to understand them and their motivations made them so much more interesting.

So would I reread this book again? I don’t know. I feel like now that I have read this though this is one of those books where you might just start to crave during the middle of a cold, harsh, depressing January (if you live in the Midwest at least). Regardless if I will reread it, I am incredibly happy that I read Ethan Frome so thank you PT friend for making me so focused on goals, thank you Bennett for mentioning Edith Wharton, and thank you bookstore for existing so I can happen upon this book.

I would recommend this for anyone who likes heart wrenching tragic stories, those that read The Great Gatsby and liked it, and for anyone who wants to write. Wharton excels so much at characterization, setting, and beautiful writing, which is why this would be a great tool for anyone who writes and wants to read novels that are written extremely well.

Fun fact: Edith Wharton is the first woman who won the Pulitzer Prize! She also designed her own house, which is pretty neat.

Add this book to your to-read shelf on Goodreads.com! (If you want. I don’t mean to sound so demanding 🙂 ).

 

2/95 books to read
This is part of my reading pursuits I mentioned in this blog post.

Review: Tarzan of the Apes

Tarzan of the Apes
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Published 1912
My edition:
2006 Barnes and Noble Classics

Photo from Goodreads.com

So this is Tarzan!  I haven’t actually seen the Disney Tarzan or George of the Jungle, so I can’t tell you how accurate it is.  In fact, I don’t even know if Jane and Tarzan end up in the movie or not (I do in the book though, now!!).  The story is basically the same though (from what I know):  Boy grows up in a jungle!

That’s what the book is pretty much about, Tarzan being raised by apes and slowly learning to be a human.  I really liked reading this because I could mark Tarzan’s learning to be a man process.  “Tarzan learned the use of his thumbs!”  “Tarzan figured out how to use a door!”  A lot of my enjoyment of the book came from his development.

Other joys came from how surprisingly sad this story becomes.  The ending is a little heartbreaking,  but I liked it because Tarzan didn’t have everything he wants in the end.  One of my qualms is how Tarzan pretty much becomes PERFECT.  He’s got the looks, the ability to kill a lion, money, the smarts, “high class blood”… the list goes on!  And alright, he doesn’t have too many people in this world, but he has that ability to create his own family.  Maybe I’m being a little harsh on him.  But anyway, the point is there IS some balance.

What’s kind of neat is you can totally tell this book is written in the early 1900s.  Tarzan’s jungle is set in Africa, and Edgar’s own ignorance of the African people shows through.  Pretty much the black Africans are viewed as an entirely different race of people– barbaric and foolish as opposed to whites.  That part is not neat.  What is neat is how this book adds to history– it’s a testament to some of the streams of thinking in early 1900s.  While it by no means sums up that entire time period, it does add a little paint to the picture.  Also, the whole idea of being born with a higher class blood was prominent in this book, which is a concept that is not considered main stream today (at least as far as I know!).  Tarzan was able to be so great because he was a higher make of human due to his bloodline.

While there were quite a few ideas that made me go “seriously?” (see above) there were a few other things that I liked and got me thinking.  Like the differences between what separates man and “animal”.  Edgar Rice Burroughs says it’s reason, and there are quite a few examples he gives.

Also, how much of who you are is due to your environment or your genetic make up?  And a big one, what’s the difference between killing and murder?

There was one passage that I first marked because I like the last half of the last line, but it kind of shows you a little bit of the type of person Tarzan is and a little bit of that idea between killing versus murder.  Here it is:

“The face above [Jane] was one of extraordinary beauty.  A perfect type of the strongly masculine, unmarred by dissipation, or brutal or degrading passions.  For, though Tarzan of the Apes was a killer of men and of beasts, he killed as the hunter kills, dispassionately, except on those rare occasions when he had killed for hate–though not the brooding, malevolent hate which marks the features of its own with hideous lines.  When Tarzan killed he more often smiled than scowled, and smiles are the foundation of beauty.” (168)

Isn’t that neat?  Smiles are the foundation of beauty!  Woohoo 🙂

So anyway, this marks the third book I’ve read for the Off the Shelf challenge!  (You can see my posting about the challenge HERE).  I’m super glad that I’m finally reading these books I own and especially a lot of the older literature I have.  It’s nice to be pushing myself to be reading things that challenge me.

Some business:  I’ll be in TEXAS for a week with my sister, so I’m not sure yet what this will mean for this website this coming week (I’m not even sure if I’m bringing my computer yet).  Maybe I’ll just have to turn this into a Texas travel blog for the week 🙂  Or maybe I’ll be taking a little break.  Either way!  Read great things!

 

Review: The Scarlet Pimpernel

The Scarlet Pimpernel
Baroness Orczy

first published 1905
this edition published Aug 1995
by Barnes and Noble Classics
Classic

In the year 1792, Sir Percy and Lady Marguerite Blakeney are the darlings of British society—he is known as one of the wealthiest men in England and a dimwit;she is French, a stunning former actress, and “the cleverest woman in Europe”—and they find themselves at the center of a deadly political intrigue. The Reign of Terror controls France, and every day aristocrats in Paris fall victim to Madame la Guillotine. Only one man can rescue them—the Scarlet Pimpernel—a master of disguises who leaves a calling card bearing only a signature red flower. As the fascinating connection between the Blakeneys and this mysterious hero is revealed, they are forced to choose between love and loyalty in order to avoid the French agent Chauvelin, who relentlessly hunts the Scarlet Pimpernel.

Photo from here, Summary from Goodreads.com

Classics are always a challenge for me regardless of how good they are.  For me I have to push through the first 60 or so pages until I unlock the key to that book and then I’m able to read the rest of it with ease.  This is one of the reasons why I LOVE the “Off The Shelf” challenge; it’s pushing me to read books I own but keep throwing aside because of that initial 60 page challenge.  Thanks to that (and my New Years Resolution) I FINALLY read The Scarlet Pimpernel.  It was great.

1.  What I really liked about it was it was pure story.  There wasn’t a 20 page dialogue about why this political group stinks.  It was just action after action with some historical class issues thrown in the mix.  Okay, a lot of historical class issues since the book has a lot to do with aristocrats getting their heads chopped off.  Our madame guillotine makes an appearence.

2.  Along with the action there is mystery to it!  Who is the Scarlet Pimpernel?!?!?!?!?!  Trust no one!  I had a ton of fun guessing who it is, and when you do find out you’re all “OH OH OH!!!”

3.  And with all good stories there’s passion and romance and l-o-v-e!  It doesn’t get so excessive, but it is cute.

4.  The overall plot is really neat.  According to Goodreads this paved the way for Zorro and “the masked avenger” archetype.  There definitely is a lot of adventure in this book (you could even call it swash-buckling!).

5.  I looovvveedd getting to know these characters.  The main ones really grew close to my heart.  It was neat learning more about them and watching them grow.  Oh, and Sir Percy totally makes me want to start driving my horse and carriage around at night (if I had one that is…)

Ultimate Review: I was impressed and pleased.  I feel like this novel is soooo underrated.  I only heard about this book because my sister bought it for me, and I feel like so many people are missing out!
How many days it took me to get past chapter 1: 20.  I technically started it near the beginning of the month, but didn’t buckle down to read it until the end.  Oops!