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.

Rating: 3/5

12 comments:

mel u said...

I admire you for finishing this novel-I might have stopped about 1/3 of the way through but then again it is not that long and I do like to finish a novel-

Kristi said...

I'm sorry this one didn't work out for you. I haven't read it, but I can see how the poems would get tiresome. The ending would bug me too. I don't really like when authors push their points of view so obviously. I hope your next book is more enjoyable.

Amanda said...

I've been unable to get through Gatsby, so the idea of the rest of these Fitzgerald books really scare me! I'm determined to conquer that fear this year though. I want to read at least ONE of his books!

Erin said...

I, too, really enjoyed Gatsby. I haven't read This Side of Paradise, but I had similar feelings toward Tender is the Night. It's not full of poems, but it didn't have the same shiny appeal of Gatsby. (The poems would drive me crazy! I got so tired of them in Alice in Wonderland, even if they were supposed to be nonsensical and entertaining!)

Avid Reader said...

I loved Gatsby too and was disappointed in this one. It felt very immature compared to his later work. I feel like he just wasn't sure how to separate himself from his main character yet. Wonderful review!

Padfoot and Prongs - Good Books Inc. said...

Hey... so glad to have found your site!! Love to see more classic reviewers out there! Looking forward to following you!

Also, this is one of the few Fitzgeralds I haven't read and it might have to stay that way. If you haven't gotten to 'Tender is the Night' I HIGHLY recommend it.

Sam said...

I don't think this one will be for me - I find it quite off-putting when literary techniques change in the middle of a book. I do want to read "Gatsby" though.

Marisa said...

Love reading your reviews! Despite your misgivings about This Side of Paradise, you did arouse my curiosity (which is what a successful review does, right?). I think I'm going to have to check this one out and I've been wanting to read Tender is the Night as well.

Brenna said...

I have still only read The Great Gatsby. I should really explore more Fitzgerald. Thanks for bringing this one to my attention.

Shelley said...

I also loved The Great Gatsby, but when I read this one I felt like I had a bit of whiplash! Not at all what I expected. You could see Fitzgerald's genius, but it was like he hadn't quite got control of it yet. Like a superhero just trying to figure out his powers.

Misha said...

The Great Gatsby is one of my favourite books too. I am sorry to see that This Side of Paradise didn't live up to expectations. I might someday at least try reading it.
Btw, I love your blog's name ! :)

Darlyn said...

Hi there! I can't believe we have the same name!LOL. Well, I have to admit I never read The Great Gatsby but I plan to read it someday =)

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