Dec 12

Tender is the Night Book 3

Book 3 seems to focus on two themes above everything else: Decay and Fitzgerald’s belief that there are no second acts in an American life (which isn’t exactly a theme but oh well)

 

Decay: The theme of decay is present throughout the entirety of the novel, but it really wreaks havoc on every major character in the novel by the third book. Dick is the most obvious example, he “had it all” (even though we as readers know that’s never quite through” and then ends up living an anonymous life as a second-tier psychologist and a third-tier man in Geneva, New York. However, while Dick feels the brunt of this decay it affects everyone in the novel. On a basic level Nicole has a happy ending: she separated herself from Dick, feels truly healed, and can start a new life with Tommy. However, Nicole’s morals decayed to some extent over the course of the book (I don’t think I fully believe the claim I’m about to make but the claim holds water to some extent). Nicole began the book as a morally driven character who struggled with her own mental health issues but still wanted to do the right things and make herself and those around her happy(she cared for her children and Dick at a minimum). By the end of the novel Nicole seemed to be entirely focused on her own happiness, and didn’t seem to want to help Dick recover from his alcoholism or deal with his own demons in any significant way. I’d love to talk through this a little more because I honestly don’t know how I feel about Nicole’s actions near the end of the novel

 

No second acts in an American Life: Yet again Dick is the clear supporting example of this claim. He briefly has his time in the sun (which is riddled with many more problems than the public knows) and then retires into shame and anonymity. However, Nicole seems to suggest the opposite. Her life seemed to end up better than it began suggesting that Americans do have second chances. And at the same time her life seems to have three distinct parts (in the sanitarium, with Dick, with Tommy). Certainly something else I’d like to discuss when possible

Dec 04

Tender is the Night book 2

After working so much on the language of Tender is the Night for the last book I tried to focus my reading more on content and themes for this book. I’ve listed out the themes/ recurring ideas that jumped out at me

 

Dick doing exactly the opposite of what those around him recommend/ want: The most obvious example is literally everyone around Dick telling him not to marry Nicole because he wouldn’t be able to separate being a husband and a therapist BUT he does it anyway and then their relationship breaks down partially because he can’t separate being both a husband and a therapist.

I guess Dick is just likes to be his own person (it’s explicitly stated that he doesn’t want to be “owned” by Nicole) but it seems like Dick just wants to do whatever he wants and whatever HE wants is the exact opposite of what people tell him to do

 

colors: The colors I’m struggling the most with are pink and gray. We talked about pink a little bit last time and I had an idea that it may appear with the passing of time but I don’t know how textually supported that is.

Grey is even more unclear to me, it’s definitely worth looking into though since it appears relatively often

 

The structure of the book also gives rise to some interesting thematic questions (maybe focal points is a better word). It’s certainly episodic but it’s episodic in a controlled way, at its heart it’s written in much the same way This Side of Paradise but it seems like the episodes are better defined, I don’t know the public reaction to this book nearly as well as I do as This Side of Paradise but it’d be interesting to see what the public thought.

 

I also have some thoughts about what makes his style so “haunting” and ideas for the presentation that I’d love to flesh out.

 

Nov 28

Tender is the night book one

So, first things first, I’m attempting to cover the entirety of book one of Tender is the Night in one blog post so there’s no way I’ll be able to cover all or even most of the plot. So, I’m gonna stick to thematic elements and try to put this book in context with the rest of Fitzgerald’s novels/ explore themes that are common across all of his novels

 

Youth: Rosemary is clearly the physical embodiment of youth in this novel. Fitzgerald went to painful lengths to make her entire personality some form of innocence. Even when she attempts to lose her virginity (which is generally seen as a coming of age ritual) she does so in the most backwards, ill informed way possible. Fitzgerald sees youth not necessarily as an aversion to everything bad, but youth is not knowing or being able to ignore the world for what it really is. Rosemary clearly fits this stereotype as she makes ill informed decisions like trying to lose her virginity to an older married man and continuing to chase him even after he (rightly) initially rejects her.

 

War: Fitzgerald is clearly obsessed with the war, and its made an appearance in 95% of the works I’ve read this year. Its very heavy handed in this novel as the characters literally visit world war I trenches.

 

Decay: In a very literal sense book one goes from a description of nice pretty people on the beach-to an affair- to an unjust incarceration- to a murder. On its face thats clearly decay

 

Generational dissonance: Dick Diver clearly has his foot in the old world and the new world and it causes him and the people around him both minor and major problems. This seems like the classic “Fitzgerald puts himself in his own book” move as Fitz definitely felt like he had a foot in each world and didn’t fit in. On a similar note, both people (Characters?) have first and last name alliteration which is certainly intentional since it’s Fitzgerald.

 

The writing is equally fitzgerald-esque as the themes and there are some passages I’d really like to dig into

Nov 16

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “May Day”

I think part of the reason that I like Fitzgerald’s short stories so much is because Fitzgerald has the uncanny ability to fit an entire novel’s worth of charm into a short story. I honestly believe that Fitzgerald doesn’t actually know how to write short-stories so he writes a novel and then edits it down into its key points (I don’t actually believe this but it’s a really nice thought). Anyways, onto the short stories.

 

Benjamin Button does a beautiful job of taking Fitzgerald’s favorite theme of decay, and running it through the ringer of double vision about 800 times. Somebody is born with their whole life simultaneously behind and ahead of them… They die young and naive but are born past their prime… This short story also does an amazing job playing with the theme of class (yay tales of the jazz age) in weird ways. Even if you’re aging backwards you can be accepted if you have money. All in all this is a fascinatingly weird story and I love it.

 

May Day was equally interesting to me. First off the episodic storytelling worked to Fitzgerald’s advantage in this piece which is nice to see, also his themes were in full effect. The effects of alcohol on the characters were extremely apparent and it reminds me a lot of his later thoughts on alcohol in the Crack-Up. This piece also really highlights the themes of violence and decay which is part of what makes me think that Fitzgerald approaches writing short stories with a novel writing mindset. On a completely unrelated note I love the opening paragraph of this piece.

 

Nov 08

“The Camel’s Back” and “A Diamond as Big as The Ritz”

Both of these short stories were really amusing, they had a new sort of Fitzgeraldian charm. From a style standpoint they had all of the metaphor and perfect word choice one would expect from one of his works. The only notable change I noticed in Fitzgerald’s style was that the most stunning paragraphs of the piece were at the beginning rather than the end of each work. Content wise both pieces had a lot to do with class, and Fitzgerald seems to be more conscious of his class discussions than he normally is. Parry saying the cab driver would be beaten to death if he was discovered was especially heavy-handed. Additionally, having Fitzgerald remark about the “excitement of being poor” took me back a little bit. Obviously in context that quotation made more sense and I think Fitzgerald was remarking at the stupidity of that thought but it was interesting none the less. All in all both of these pieces were really amusing, but I don’t really see a super super deep meaning to either of them outside of the face value: don’t make bad decisions, and money is temporary(?)

Nov 02

Tarquin

This was a really fun short story to read, especially after reading a little bit more of the background. Apparently, Soft-shoes was William Shakespeare. This is a thoroughly Fitzgerald move especially considering when Fitzgerald wrote the piece. This piece was written during Fitzgerald’s “poetry phase” at Princeton, making the prose really fun to read (but sometimes a little hard to follow” I liked the piece overall, and there were a few specific parts of the short story that were especially fun to read. I loved this quote in particular “He thought of the pole in the corner and quailed in his belly, but the utter despair of the two men dulled their astuteness”  This was the first time in the piece that Fitzgerald’s signature style really appeared. I also loved the quote “There was a rat considered my ear with the air of a gourmet,” he continued, dusting his hands on his breeches. “I told him in the rat’s peculiar idiom that I was deadly poison, so he took himself off.” The style seems half-Shakespeare, half-Fitzgerald (although I’m certainly not as aware of Shakespeare’s style as I am of Fitzgerald’s style.) I’m sure Fitzgerald would cringe at the thought of not having perfectly emulated Shakespeare’s style, but I honestly find it endearing. On the flip side, I didn’t love the opening paragraph or two, I can see what Fitzgerald was trying to do but it seemed a little contrived and wasn’t super easy to read. Regardless, I’m certainly excited to see what the rest of these short stories have to offer.

Oct 17

This Side of Paradise “Interlude-Young Irony”

It seems to me like Fitzgerald has really come into his own in the second half of this novel. Maybe it’s because Amory is no longer talking about himself and is just being himself or maybe it’s because Fitzgerald has idealized several female characters which makes this section of the book seem “romantic” but certainly unrealistic at best and dangerous at worst. Regardless of why I liked this reading more than the prior one there are about a million little things I noticed and loved in these chapters. First, near the end of chapter III Amory is pondering on a subject and mentioned that he wanted to “come up with a metaphor” to help explain it. Knowing Fitzgerald’s fascination with metaphors there’s no doubt that this was an intentional nod to himself. Additionally it was kind of nice that these chapters read like a romance novels. Like I mentioned before I personally find Amory most intolerable when he’s talking about himself so seeing someone else wax lyrical about how great and interesting he is is slightly better. All of that being said it’s a little bit impossible to actually hate Amory. Like Nick in the Great Gatsby (or Gatsby now that I think of it. He makes tons of wrong decisions and seems to have the foresight to see things going terribly wrong in the future but doesn’t do anything to change it. On an entirely separate note I’m not entirely sure I still believe what I said earlier, “Fitzgerald just uses characters to advance the plot/ highlight certain aspects of the protagonist that he wants to highlight” Maybe it’s just the  impenetrably thick fog of romanticism but both of these women seem to have a little bit more breadth of character or at least breadth of purpose in the novel, definitely something to ponder.

Oct 09

This Side of Paradise “The Romantic Egotist”

This half of the book has a lot to unpack and in the interest of time both for the reader and for myself I’m going to keep my ideas brief whenever possible and this blogpost is going to be less than organized.

 

My initial reactions to “The Romantic Egotist” are mixed. Do I enjoy it, absolutely. is it Fitzgerald’s best work, certainly not. Fitzgerald in his infancy is a lot like a sports star in his old age, always showing “flashes” of greatness but lacking the fundamental aspects of a master at their craft. Fitzgerald’s distinctive style is certainly present in this novel but Fitzgerald is by no means the only “author” of this book. Hemingway’s terse and minimalist style is absolutely apparent and it’s clear where Fitzgerald lacks either the confidence or the willpower to bring his connective, seemingly omniscient style into play. Additionally these characters seems a tad less developed than one might expect. I’m inclined to believe that Fitzgerald simply wasn’t a skilled enough writer to develop his characters the way that one would expect of him… Perhaps the opposite is true, maybe Fitzgerald knew exactly what he was doing with his characters. Instead of developing them as true people he developed them as the protagonist or narrator of his story would have needed them. some of them Foils, others to advance the plot, others to produce moments of clarity, others solely as antagonists. On a completely different note Amory infuriates me to no end. I can’t quite put my finger on what makes me so mad at him but it does. His classism is persistent but for whatever reason I can look past it. His racism and antisemitism is par for the time period (and I suppose his classism is as well, maybe?). I think it’s his “posing” that frustrates me. Unfortunately it’s something that most if not everybody does to some degree in their lifetime. We all paint ourselves in some way or try to be perceived by others as this or that but it seems to be the very basis of Amory’s personality. On yet another completely different note there are a million little things about this book that I adore and hopefully I’ll be able to outline them in a follow up post

Oct 05

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Sep 11

Reading #8 “The Crack-Up”

I expected quite a lot from this reading (considering this is the centerpiece of this particular collection of work) and I was not disappointed in the slightest. To address the obvious, there’s no doubt in my mind that much of what Fitzgerald described was clinical depression. His examples of retreating into himself and not loving the things or people that he used to are textbook. However, through the lens of this depression a lot of important things are revealed about Fitzgerald’s character. Most notably, he feels he doesn’t have a true identity; he lives his life through others which may have helped foster the “imposter syndrome” mentioned in the previous post. Second, he had high hopes for his life some of which he managed to fulfill and others he did not. His football career and experience as a soldier were not what he had hoped them to be and it’s clear that on some level he never recovered from those defeats. Additionally, he was unable to pursue the public “committee life” that he wanted in college. While Fitzgerald believes he overcame this defeat by becoming a writer I’m not entirely convinced. Right off the bat, it’s the first event he mentions when he starts lamenting his failures and shortcomings. Perhaps he was trying to use it as kind of an anti-thesis to prove that he could heal from defeats but he still doesn’t seem quite over it. This seems especially plausible given the fact that he self-admittedly clung to and stole bits and pieces of those around him to form his own spirit. He wanted to be a leader of men and in his mind tuberculosis denied him that opportunity.

 

Final thoughts:

Why were his favorite people doctors, girls before 13, boys after 8, and old men? The only common theme I can find is that they all tend to be straight to the point or blunt in some way. Was that his way of shielding himself from the world around him and having to go through the motions of society?

 

There’s a very clear continuation of the universalism trend Mrs. McCarthy mentioned in the comment on the previous post and a decent explanation for why he exhibits it. Fitzgerald feels caught between the entire world, caught between the rich and the poor (distrusting the rich and detesting the poor), caught between the fame of a movie star and the power of a politician (authors have a little of both as well as immortality and independence.) Perhaps he projects his life onto the every man because he feels like everyone can relate to him to some extent or perhaps by being an everyman he’s finally able to categorize himself.

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