First published in 1922 and said to be a largely autobiographical look at the author's own marriage, The Beautiful and Damned was an intriguing mix of the expected and the unexpected. It seemed to drag a bit in the middle, but was otherwise a captivating read.
I expected (and received):
- New York, alcohol, and parties
- All the fashion, glitz, and glam that goes along with the Gilded Age
- Poetic Prose
- A somewhat depressing, hopeless outlook
I didn't expect (but enjoyed):
- A different writing style than Gatsby - a bit more straightforward
- Many film and literature references
- The intricately complex and precise portrayal of mental/emotional dysfunctions
- The shocking number of similarities between that age & the current age.
|F.Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald|
(did you see them portrayed in Midnight in Paris?)
One of the things I loved most about this book was how the era was portrayed. Reading about the first quarter of the century through the eyes of the authors who lived it just can't be beat. It's a better learning experience than any history lesson. There is a similarity to the experiences, (a flavor, a vibe, a sort of stunned observance of the massive changes happening in America,) that seems to place me directly into the time period as if a movie is happening around me. From Willa Cather's O Pioneers! to Edna Ferber's So Big, and then to F.Scott Fitzgerald's The Beautiful and Damned - the stories stick with me, the characters are as real as life, and they make me hungry for more.
If you have a passing fancy for the era, or any interest at all in Zelda's life, I recommend this book. It wasn't a very happy book, but it was a fascinating character study and peek into the culture of the times. It kept me reading and interested, and I have a feeling that it will stick with me for a while. Between Prohibition, the entrepreneurial spirit, the contrast between rural and urban areas, and the cocky American pride in the face of the First World War, I can't seem to get enough of the literature of the day. Do you have any suggestions of other authors/titles I should try?