"The Beautiful and the Damned", by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1)

I started this book by F. Scot Fitzgerald after reading “Tender is the Night” partly as I did not want to lose the author’s style once I had tapped into it. But I am struggling with it (but I was saying this also over “Tender is the Night” in the beginning).

The main character “Anthony” is the bored intellectual of his day. Nothing happens in his life, he moves along it without touching the sides. The little I have read about the “flapper” period shows such a character, the superficiality, the benign empty chatter, the need to not be serious (except for a serious light heartedness).

But since the suggested introduction of the heroine (or should I say anti-heroine) the story suddenly has a life, a purpose… it becomes interesting. Why? Her (Gloria’s) character is just as superficial as Anthony’s. Her talk of her legs, the light-hearted chatter, the superficiality, is suggested. There is a similarity between the modernist man and modernist woman. There is no romance indicated, no sex, no love, a few kisses in the back of a car, the relationship between the sexes is empty-headed, occasionally fueled with helium.

Whatever the reason the book suddenly becomes readable. The woman gives it a new life, which is strange as she has not even enter the dialogue yet, except in the 3rd person narrative. Perhaps the dullness of the book was the boredom (and boring) life style of the man, yet the suggested happy-go-lucky life style of the woman creates a picture of fun (to the reader – a man) and a novelty.

Let’s see how the book (and my interest) develops.

"Tender is the Night" by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I have been reading the book for a couple of weeks, not going at it diligently but when the mood took me. I found it hard going at first, I could not see where it was going, the main story line, like with so many modernist writers it touches upon subjects in a realistic way while the brain still expects a Victorian plot.

But it grew on me, more his style of writing, his use of a sentence, detached from the plot yet a part of it, a double meaning speaking to a past time of the 20s, between the wars. The character Dick, grew into an anti-hero character. His decline from popularity, good job, prospects, money, career, charisma… into a vulgar, argumentative, drunk, abusive, violent, adulterer. He controlled his wife, yet saved her from mental illness….

If we are to believe the end where he says something like “the doctor has cured the patient”. Was he married to her to save her? Was it a plot of his to cure her of herself? He went from mental illness into an independent woman…free to have an affair of her own… so just as morally corrupt as him.

I found the end sad, really sad. He became liberated yet his existence was one of obscurity, failed jobs, failed relationships living in a small town in the US, money troubles, where as Nicole married the lover (who seemed to me also controlling.. “Out of the drying pan into the fire!”). if it was true that he did all this to save her, not love her, but to use her as a patient, maybe an easy option, maybe to hide behind her money… money which paralyzed him, stopped him from striving, creating… and left him impotent; and what eventually led to their marriage failure, breakdown and separation.

Did she love him? Can a mentally ill person really love another as a wife could? Was not her love an illness, an infatuation? She latched on to him and took over the money side of things in a monologue. It was done and dusted in a paragraph. Money took away the strife which created happiness.