Friday, January 14, 2011
Thoughts: This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first novel This Side of Paradise, for me, was a lot like eating stone soup, and asking for another helping and another and another and another… Fitzgerald seemed to have been experimenting with various literary techniques. A couple of chapters were in the form of a play, while another section employed stream of consciousness.
The novel—more like a series of vignettes, really—revolves around Amory Blaine, a vain self-proclaimed genius, and follows him from boyhood, to prep school, to his years in Princeton, and to New York during the 1910s. It chronicles the so-called loves of his life, particularly his short-lived affair with Rosalind.
Fitzgerald inserted A LOT of poems “written” by his characters into the text. The poems were well-written, but by the third half of the novel I couldn’t take it anymore. Jesus H. Christ, I wanted to read about Amory and the next girl who’s going to break his heart. What I didn’t want to read was another poem about summer storms or how much Amory hated Victorians. Seriously, the number of poems in This Side of Paradise made me want to do violent things to my copy of the book.
For the most part, though, I found Amory’s experiences in Princeton entertaining. His studies of Princeton’s caste system and his adventures with his friends somewhat paralleled my own college experiences. My annoyance with the number of poems in the text aside, things were sailing along quite nicely until I got to the final chapter of the book where Fitzgerald transformed Amory into a mere mouth piece for his personal philosophies. Imagine about thirty pages devoted to dialogue about the state of America, the youth, and all of the above combined.
The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite books of all time, so, by default, I had really high expectations for this book which it failed to meet. By the time I got to the third half of the book, I just wanted to get the whole thing over with so I could move on to the next book.