Tuesday, 30 August 2011
THE BEAUTIFUL AND THE DAMNED by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Set in New York in the early years of the twentieth century, it tells the story of Anthony Patch, a young man living a life of elegance on his trust fund as he waits for his wealthy grandfather to die. He falls madly in love with a noted beauty of the day, Gloria Gilbert, marries her, and they begin to live a life of endless parties and pleasure trips. Anthony continually attempts half-heartedly to find some kind of employment, but keeps being put off by the amount of work that is apparently involved in actually working.
The couple are cut out of the grandfather's will, spend their money unwisely, and eventually end up in ever smaller and less salubrious accommodation and society. Anthony becomes an alcoholic, while Gloria becomes pathetically fixated on her appearance.
Honestly, I don't read twentieth century fiction for a moral lesson! How irritating. We get it. Living like there's no tomorrow often has a consequence tomorrow.
The book is apparently based on F. Scott Fitzgerald's own unhappy marriage, and this is painfully evident. The novel absolutely drips with painful retrospection, with an attempt to dissect everything from the beginning in order to understand what went so horribly wrong. It is like having a drink with a friend after a messy break-up. As a side point, let me just ask: how much do you love yourself when you call a thinly veiled autobiography THE BEAUTIFUL AND THE DAMNED. Honestly, get over it.
I have been inspired recently by the following: "When life gives you lemons - say fuck it and bail.” Wise words, though they do come from the movie FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL. The early nihilistic partying in this novel reminded me of this fine lesson, and I was sorry Fitzgerald felt he had to make everyone pay so direly for having a little fun.