Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Beautiful and Damned: Classics Club Spin List Selection

I finished my selection - The Beautiful and Damned by F.Scott Fitzgerald - just after midnight on the 31st...squeaking in a final March read and barely accomplishing this goal.  Sometimes I forget how much more I accomplish when I have deadlines.  I should probably give myself more of them.  I'm definitely glad that The Classics Club gave me this one!

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):
  1. New York, alcohol, and parties
  2. All the fashion, glitz, and glam that goes along with the Gilded Age
  3. Poetic Prose
  4. A somewhat depressing, hopeless outlook
I didn't expect (but enjoyed):
  1. A different writing style than Gatsby - a bit more straightforward
  2. Many film and literature references
  3. The intricately complex and precise portrayal of mental/emotional dysfunctions
  4. 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?


  1. This is one of the books I long to read along with Save Me the Waltz by Zelda in a kind of Fitzgerald project which I haven't planned yet.

    I did see them portrayed in Midnight in Paris and loved the moment Zelda is given a Valium. So, so funny! I think both actors did a great job.

    1. I enjoyed them in Midnight in Paris - it made me more curious about Zelda. The Beautiful and Damned definitely filled some of that craving. Save Me the Waltz wasn't even on my radar, so thanks for mentioning it! I've marked it to read on GoodReads.

  2. I've read Gatsby and Tender is the Night and much preferred the latter, because it's also more straight-forward and it's a fascinating look at the decay of a marriage. I hope to read Beautiful & The Damned soon.

    1. From the bits I've heard about Tender is the Night, it sounds like I'll enjoy it. I didn't realize he looked at marriage in that book too - that was one of the things I thought was marvelous about The Beautiful and Damned...Fitzgerald did a wonderful job showing internal motivations and dysfunctions, esp. in marriage.

  3. Have you read Edith Wharton's Age of Innocence? I liked the perspective of the upper class looking at these usurpers coming along and starting to disrupt the social order. A party on a Sunday? The horror!

    1. I did read it...so interesting to see the perspective of society during what turned out to be a pivotal time in American history. The topics themselves may be different but it always seems that the squabbles sound strangely similar to the present day.

  4. I really enjoyed the way you structured this review. Have added The Beautiful and the Damned to my reading list - thanks!

    1. I hope you enjoy it! I found it so interesting how this couple's relationship & struggles were rather timeless...it could have been the 50s or present day. I love that look at the internal, serious stuff.


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