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The Beautiful and Damned (1922)

by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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3,514341,507 (3.72)89
  1. 20
    The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton (TineOliver)
    TineOliver: Both look at love and marriage in the upper classes of New York society (however, at different time periods)
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Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
F. Scott Fitzgerald is an interesting and problematic writer for me. The Great Gatsby (which FSF wanted to call "Under the Red, White and Blue") is a great book, that not only features stellar writing and compelling characters, but that managed to capture the ethos of an entire age. All of the glitz, glamour, and greed of roaring 20s New York is encapsulated in that work, and it's one of my favorites. In contrast, This Side of Paradise was so juvenile in both writing and sentiment that I had to drop it before I was half-way through. The Beautiful and Damned falls in between these two other works, without being remarkably good or remarkably bad. In fact, that's a good way to sum how I felt about The Beautiful and Damned: it was rather unremarkable.

Like This Side of Paradise, the writing here doesn't come off as fully matured. There are nice turns of phrase and descriptions sprinkled (rather conservatively) throughout the work, but oftentimes the writing struck me as something FSF thought was terribly clever, despite not being very substantive. An example is that at various points the book shifts form to that of a closet drama, with all the characters becoming parts in a play. The thing is, though, that FSF doesn't use this shift in form to do anything that he couldn't already do in the style of the rest of the book: FSF's dialogue is already very reminiscent of play dialogue, so making the format more play-like isn't at all memorable. There's a reason why we remember FSF today in connection with his books, and not in connection to his Hollywood writing career.

The subject matter of the book is likewise very immature. The two main characters, Anthony and Gloria, both unlikable for different reasons, putter about New York. They lounge away their days and they party through their nights, with both lamenting their (rather desirable) financial situation but with neither doing anything about it. Eventually something happens that's the equivalent of them not winning the lottery due to their own incompetence, and this turn is interpreted by them both as a tragedy that becomes the main factor driving the plot going forward. Anthony at one point goes to train for deployment in World War I, but the story makes that development all about him and fails to communicate what that experience was actually like. Not much happens in this book, and what does happen doesn't feel symbolic of society in the 20s like the action in The Great Gatsby did. When the book satirizes something, like the dating process in the 20s, it feels more like FSF did it by accident. The end of the story tries to recast this tale as one about the harmful nature of pride and stubbornness, but the problems of Anthony and Gloria are clearly stem from laziness and a mental inability to do anything but lounge and party- the story is more tied to the sins of sloth and avarice, so the ending pretending that it's about something else felt strange. Also abrupt. Finally, toward the end, FSF gives a shout out to his own book This Side of Paradise, an action that always makes me cringe.

It sounds terrible to say, but I think The Beautiful and Damned stands for the proposition that FSF had to go through some real pain and tragedy in order to evolve as a writer, with this work predating that occurrence. Like This Side of Paradise, this book felt immature in writing and subject matter, though not quite to the same degree. Once FSF experienced some actual hardship, I'm betting he was better able to craft an effective text, and because of this I'm adding Tender is the Night to my to-read pile. Unfortunately Fitzgerald's work predating Gatsby has all proven lackluster to me, but I'm hopeful that is last work realizes his potential as a writer- otherwise I'll be forced to consider Gatsby a fluke. ( )
  BayardUS | Dec 10, 2014 |
I kind of hated the characters, which may have been the point, but which makes it difficult to like the book. There were also descriptive passages which I felt outlasted their usefulness, although this is probably true of the great majority of written fiction.

What I liked about this book was how Fitzgerald would pick a psychological pattern and run with it. Many of these patterns were things I had recognized in my own life. There were a reasonable number of times when I would think "a-ha! I knew it would turn out that way!"

For an 88 year old book it has aged well; it's still quite readable and comprehensible. This edition also has sparse endnotes (this is a good thing) which were usually actually relevant. ( )
  Kenoubi | Sep 6, 2014 |
In 1913, a 25-year-old man, Anthony Patch, falls in love with a socialite named Gloria. The pair is ill-suited, neither one practical or hardworking, but their passionate love is based more on momentary infatuation than a long-lasting partnership. What follows is their marriage and then their inevitable disillusionment with each other and their lives. Fitzgerald’s gift for language is clear in every description. His novel paints a poetic picture, even though the characters themselves fill you with disdain.

“Things are sweeter when they're lost. I know—because once I wanted something and got it. It was the only thing I ever wanted badly, Dot. And when I got it it turned to dust in my hands."

"I've often thought that if I hadn't got what I wanted things might have been different with me. I might have found something in my mind and enjoyed putting it in circulation. I might have been content with the work of it, and had some sweet vanity out of the success."

The progression of their marriage is all too familiar. They’re delighted with each new thing they discover about each other. Every new behavior is endearing instead of infuriating, but soon the delightful revelations turn to irritating quirks and then to soul-crushing habits. As you learn who your spouse truly is, flaws and all, it can be incredibly painful to come to terms with the marriage if you’ve chosen badly.

“It was, at first, a keen disappointment; later, it was one of the times when she controlled her temper."
Their downfall is so tragic because it’s so inevitable, yet it still comes as a surprise to them. They are trapped in a state of arrested development, perpetual partiers who are shocked when they begin to grow older and realize the life they love requires money that they don’t have.

Anthony is a pitiful character. He expects his family to give him money and has never had to work for a living. Because of this he has a view of self-importance but a lack of self-respect. As the story progresses he loses himself more and more in drink. Gloria reminded me of Estella from Great Expectations. She’s so admired that most men bore her. She flits from one to another with no real attachment. It’s not until she’s unhappily married for years that she begins to grow up. Her downfall feels all the more tragic because she doesn’t really become aware of what she values and desires until she is saddle with an alcoholic husband and those dreams are even farther out of reach.

BOTTOM LINE: For me it’s Fitzgerald’s writing and not his characters or plot that make him great. Tender is the Night is still my favorite of his books, but this one captures that unique moment in time when an entire generation glittered with hope before reality set in. That oft repeated pattern still rings true today when bright-eyed millennials realize the party finally has to stop.

“In a panic of despair and terror Anthony was brought back to America, wedded to a vague melancholy that was to stay beside him through the rest of his life.”

"A classic," suggested Anthony, "is a successful book that has survived the reaction of the next period or generation.”

“Surely the freshness of her cheeks was a gossamer projection from a land of delicate and undiscovered shades; her hand gleaming on the stained table-cloth was a shell from some far and wildly virginal sea…." ( )
  bookworm12 | Aug 13, 2014 |
This was an intriguing read, but overall a very uneven novel; the three books feel very different in tone and theme, almost as if Fitzgerald were juggling so many issues without the ability to bring them fully into a narrative cohesion. There's a lot going on here: evocations of Freud and how the modern complexes are at variance with classical philosophy and aesthetic values; a fascinating portrayal of love and pain in Anthony and Gloria's relationship which plays out Fitzgerald's preoccupation with Hegel and Freud both; there is even some interesting dialogue that is very unique for blending different genres (e.g. screenplay, interior monologues, Greek tragedy, etc.).

What is perhaps most compelling in the novel is Fitzgerald's very overt pacifism, as well as his condemnation of the bourgeois class and the values associated with capital, money, and status -- values that run counter to art. Indeed, there is a nice tension between Anthony and his writer friend, Dick, about different kinds of art, how an artist can be bought and sold, how art can be catered to fit the needs of the masses and turn a profit instead of for the sake of art in and of itself. But all of these aspects, while compelling and beautifully drawn out, fail to speak to one another in a nice dialogue; the result is a very fragmented and scattered novel where many of the main characters aren't fleshed out enough, forcing the reader to view them as "types" and nothing more.

One brilliantly written chapter toward the end of book two, the longest one which takes place in the middle of the night and begins with Gloria's perspective and meanders through much of the philosophical and aesthetic debates above is Fitzgerald at his finest in this novel, I though, and the section might well stand on its own to illustrate his central concerns in the text and in his work more generally. ( )
  proustitute | Jul 17, 2014 |
This was an intriguing read, but overall a very uneven novel; the three books feel very different in tone and theme, almost as if Fitzgerald were juggling so many issues without the ability to bring them fully into a narrative cohesion. There's a lot going on here: evocations of Freud and how the modern complexes are at variance with classical philosophy and aesthetic values; a fascinating portrayal of love and pain in Anthony and Gloria's relationship which plays out Fitzgerald's preoccupation with Hegel and Freud both; there is even some interesting dialogue that is very unique for blending different genres (e.g. screenplay, interior monologues, Greek tragedy, etc.).

What is perhaps most compelling in the novel is Fitzgerald's very overt pacifism, as well as his condemnation of the bourgeois class and the values associated with capital, money, and status -- values that run counter to art. Indeed, there is a nice tension between Anthony and his writer friend, Dick, about different kinds of art, how an artist can be bought and sold, how art can be catered to fit the needs of the masses and turn a profit instead of for the sake of art in and of itself. But all of these aspects, while compelling and beautifully drawn out, fail to speak to one another in a nice dialogue; the result is a very fragmented and scattered novel where many of the main characters aren't fleshed out enough, forcing the reader to view them as "types" and nothing more.

One brilliantly written chapter toward the end of book two, the longest one which takes place in the middle of the night and begins with Gloria's perspective and meanders through much of the philosophical and aesthetic debates above is Fitzgerald at his finest in this novel, I though, and the section might well stand on its own to illustrate his central concerns in the text and in his work more generally. ( )
  proustitute | Jul 17, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
". . . its slow-moving narrative is the record of lives utterly worthless utterly futile. . . . It is to be hoped that Mr. Fitzgerald, who possesses a genuine, undeniable talent, will some day acquire a less one-sided understanding."
 

» Add other authors (28 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
F. Scott Fitzgeraldprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Engel, Mary BessCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Leyendecker, J. C.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
The victors belong to the spoils.
-Anthony Patch
Dedication
To Shane Leslie, George Jean Nathan, and Maxwell Perkins
in appreciation of much literary help and encouragement
First words
In 1913, when Anthony Patch was twenty-five, two years were already gone since irony, the Holy Ghost of this later day, had, theoretically at least, descended upon him.
Quotations
The notion of sitting down and conjuring up, not only words in which to clothe thoughts but thoughts worthy of being clothed...
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0684801558, Paperback)

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 is destroyed by greed. The Patches race through a series of alcohol-induced fiascoes -- first in hilarity, and then in despair. The Beautiful and Damned, a devastating portrait of the nouveaux riches, New York night life, reckless ambition, and squandered talent, was published in 1922 on the heels of Fitzgerald's first novel. It signaled his maturity as a storyteller and, more important, as a novelist.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:28:30 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

The Beautiful and Damned, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriateAll editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.In 1921 F. Scott Fitzgerald was twenty-five and heralded as the most promising writer of his generation, owing to the success of his first novel This Side of Paradise. Recently married to the girl of his dreams, the former Zelda Sayre, Fitzgerald built upon his sudden prosperity with The Beautiful and the Damned, a cautionary tale of reckless ambition and squandered talent set amid the glitter of Jazz Age New York. The novel chronicles the relationship of Anthony Patch, a Harvard-educated, aspiring writer, and his beautiful young wife, Gloria. While they wait for Anthony's grandfather to die and pass his millions on to them, the young couple enjoys an endless string of parties, traveling, and extravagance. Beginning with the pop and fizz of life itself, The Beautiful and the Damned quickly evolves into a scathing chronicle of a dying marriage and a hedonistic society in which beauty is all too fleeting.A fierce parable about the illusory quality of dreams, the intractable nature of reality, and the ruin wrought by time, The Beautiful and the Damned eerily anticipates the dissipation and decline that would come to the Fitzgeralds themselves before the decade had run its course.Pagan Harleman studied literature at Columbia College, then traveled extensively in the Middle East and West Africa before receiving an MFA from New York University's graduate film program. While at NYU she made several award-winning shorts and received the Dean's Fellowship, the Steven Tisch Fellowship, and a Director's Craft Award.… (more)

    » see all 13 descriptions

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Editions: 0141187816, 0141195002

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