Monday, January 26, 2009

Book report: The Beautiful and the Damned

I'll preface this by saying that Fitzgerald's best work was The Great Gatsby. All his works tend to have overlapping themes: his generation were "egoists", a self-absorbed group of materialists who care nothing for the well being of others. It tends to permeate his work and make him a one trick pony. He said it best in Gatsby, but that doesn't mean that his other work should be discarded entirely.

That said, this is the book that I should have read immediately after graduating from college. If you are reading this and just graduated from college: read this book. It isn't Fitzgerald's best work, but we've been over that.

Once, long ago, I was unemployed and struggled to find work. I could not even land an interview. I was utterly alone in my quest to attain employment. Consequently, I drank way too much. Fortune smiled on me, and I came into some money, which helped finance my exodus from the land of despair and chronic underemployment. I went somewhere better. Thus for me personally, my life mirrored the life of the characters in this book in some ways. The main character in this book, Anthony Patch, is a young Harvard grad from a well respected and pecuniary family. He doesn't work because there is "nothing worth doing". He tries his hand at writing but is a failure at all creative pursuits, as is his wife. Eventually his money dries up and he searches desperately and unsuccessfully for work while descending into an alcoholic miasma.
So much did my life at one point mirror this book that it was a difficult read. Am I the only one? No, I am not. This is a common occurance. Brian Cook eloquently writes on this

"The thing I was, and the things I thought I would be, had broken. I think this is a common thing these days. I think everyone gets through college with the idea they will be a special snowflake, and then they find themselves in a strange city or, worse, a city abandoned by the people they knew before. They work a job at which they are not a special snowflake. It's boring. It is not at all what anyone envisions themselves doing. If you're not a lawyer or engineer, it probably pays poorly.

And the adult world encroaches and says "this is life, get used to it."

And you write twenty pages of the Great American Novel before getting used to it."

This too was my life. So I guess when trying to write that "Great American Novel", it is probably a good idea to read Fitzgerald and learn a few things. First, that he was talented and erudite, and had little to say but said it over and over again until he finally got it right. Second, that he too tried to write that Great American Novel of dejection, and even he wasn't all that successful. And finally, that you are not alone little snowflake.

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