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This Side of Paradise F Scott Fitzgerald's romantic and witty first novel was written when the author was only twenty three years old This semi autobiographical story of the handsome indulged and idealistic Princeton student Amory Blaine received critical raves and catapulted Fitzgerald to instant fame Now readers can enjoy the newly edited authorized version of this early classic of the Jazz Age based on Fitzgerald's original manuscript In this definitive text This Side of Paradise captures the rhythms and romance of Fitzgerald's youth and offers a poignant portrait of the Lost Generation

10 thoughts on “This Side of Paradise

  1. says:

    “Very few things matter and nothing matters very much” F Scott Fitzgerald This Side of ParadiseReading The Great Gatsby was an important experience for me coming as it did at a time when my love for reading was threatening to lapse Having loved books from a very young age high school English proved a bucket of cold water for my ardor It wasn’t that I struggled Quite the opposite as I did extremely well with very little effort the obverse being true in physics Rather it was a matter of taking something fun and making it into a chore Instead of being a leisurely activity reading became something I had to do within a given timeframe More than that the sensation of being forced to get something out of a book – to find the themes the symbols the meaning in the text as though it were as objective an exercise as a “find the hidden objects” game in Highlights magazine – took away all the joy F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby kept alive that flicker of love – just barely – long enough to get me into early adulthood when I could once again read for the pleasure of reading Why The Great Gatsby? Of all the assigned reading I’ve ever done I found it the most accessible the smoothest and the most entertaining Unlike The Catcher in the Rye’s Holden Caulfield who baffled me then and now I understood Jay Gatsby’s desire to impress a girl After all I was in high school and fruitless attempts to impress others took up most of my day Sure I was forced to write an essay on the symbolism but that was easy because the symbols were all right there like shells on the beach at low tide easy to find and pick up But it wasn’t just the simplicity it was the beauty When Nick Carraway imagined the brooding Gatsby pondering the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock I could imagine it too as clearly as anything in the world This is all a rather long way of saying that I was bound to be disappointed when I circled back from Gatsby to Fitzgerald’s first novel the somewhat weird mildly annoying ultimately worthwhile This Side of Paradise This Side of Paradise tells the story of Amory Blaine a young boy who comes from a family with money and a good name We meet Amory in preparatory school follow him to Princeton and eventually leave Amory adrift and searching During this interim Amory falls in and out of love avoids combat in World War I and carries on a series of dialogues – both internal and external – that has come to encapsulate a generation even though it really only applies to a narrow cohort of white privileged upper class Ivy leaguers with names like AmoryFitzgerald’s novel is semiautobiographical weaving events and locations – St Paul Minnesota Princeton a lousy heart breaking breakup – into his fictionalized tale If Amory is meant to be a stand in for Fitzgerald it is a relatively scathing self portrait Amory is a mostly unlikeable protagonist self absorbed overly confident thin skinned aimless and lazy Unlike the straightforward Gatsby This Side of Paradise is constructed of three separate acts two “books” separated by an “interlude” The first book titled “The Romantic Egotist” covers Amory’s matriculation It is written in the third person from Amory’s point of view Most of the time is spent at Princeton where Amory is convinced that he has a bright future – and is equally convinced that he shouldn’t have to work for it I found the first book to be a bit of a chore as Amory is a striking exhibit of undeserved privilege He is fickle and prickly and generally unpleasant to spend time with The peripheral characters including Monsignor Darcy with whom he exchanges letters and Thomas Park D’Invilliers a student and would be poet are thinly drawn at best Certainly none of Fitzgerald’s supporting cast leaves an impression as vivid as Tom Buchanan with his “cruel body” clad in “effeminate” riding clothes Since I clearly cannot get off the subject of Gatsby I will note that the fictional D’Invilliers gave Gatsby its famous epigraph “Then wear the gold hat if that will move her”The “interlude” portion of the novel dividing books one and two briskly covers Amory’s participation in World War I where he served as an instructor No further information is given regarding his military stint Thus unlike other postwar novels – such as The Sun Also Rises – the shadow of the war does not loom overlarge To that end it’s worth noting that Fitzgerald himself – unlike Hemingway – never went overseas The second book titled “The Education of a Personage” begins with a chapter written as a play with stage directions and dialogue No reason is given for this temporary shift in narrative style but it works despite desperately calling attention to itself Here we learn about Amory’s courtship and love affair with a debutante named Rosalind standing in for Zelda Sayre The ebb and flow of this relationship delineated by conversation comes close to making Amory into a relatable half sympathetic human being and salvaging him a bit from the first bookFor long stretches I felt captive to Amory’s pompous proclamations His long monologues can get a bit frustrating Every once in a while though Fitzgerald slipped in a little grace note Near the end of the novel for example Amory is shuffling down the road when a man in a limo offers him a ride Amory then subjects the man to a tiresome disquisition on his economic theories As the ride ends it turns out that Amory went to Princeton with the man’s son who is now deadI sent my son to PrincetonPerhaps you knew him His name was Jesse Ferrenby He was killed last year in France”“I knew him very well In fact he was one of my particular friends”“He was – a – quite a fine boy We were very close”Amory began to perceive a resemblance between the father and the dead son and he told himself that there had been all along a sense of familiarity Jesse Ferrenby the man who in college had borne off the crown that he had aspired to It was all so far away What little boys they had been working for blue ribbonsThe big man held out his hand Amory saw that the fact that he had known Jesse than outweighed any disfavor he had created by his opinions What ghosts were people with which to workMostly though Amory is detestable For instance I detest poor people” thought Amory suddenly “I hate them for being poor Poverty may have been beautiful once but it’s rotten now It’s the ugliest thing in the world It’s essentially cleaner to be corrupt and rich than it is to be innocent and poor”To me This Side of Paradise is a rough first effort by an extremely talented author There is some experimentation at work as Fitzgerald transitions from third person narrative to a play while also including letters poetry and verse You will have to decide for yourself whether you are dazzled or distracted by this shifting structure Note this “experimentation” might simply have been Fitzgerald stitching things together since This Side of Paradise began life as a different unpublished work My paperback copy is less than three hundred pages long Nevertheless This Side of Paradise felt meandering and baggy and choppily episodic There were portions where my eyes just glazed over But just as often I was transported by Fitzgerald’s lyrical beautiful prose his ability to describe a place by putting you right there At first Amory noticed only the wealth of sunshine creeping across the long green swards dancing on the leaded windowpanes and swimming around the tops of the spires and towers and battlemented wallsThe Roaring Twenties live on in American imagination at least as calculated by the number of Roaring Twenties parties I’ve attended in my life This Side of Paradise fuels that flame In retrospect it has been credited – according to Professor Sharon Carson who wrote the introduction to my copy – with establishing “the image of seemingly carefree party mad young men and women out to create a new morality for a new postwar America” In reality This Side of Paradise tells the story of only a thin tranche of America’s population Those who were moneyed Those who were white Those who were living fast and high during Coolidge’s laissez faire administration unknowingly rushing towards their economic doom Lost – or rather ignored completely – is any hint of a world beyond the elite There are no minorities There are no wage earners There is no indication that anyone from this time period got through life without an emotionally jarring relationship with a flapper Because of the confluence of author setting and historical moment This Side of Paradise will live forever As for me I started to forget about it right away