The damned and the vain…
I have to admire F.Scott Fitzgerald for a couple of things:
1) For being able to write a book where every character is despicable
2) for shining the spotlight on the very class from which he is from, showing them as nothing more than frivolous and soulless
3) For pointing out that when youth is fading, money is little consolation
Ordinarily I wouldn’t have picked ‘the beautiful and the damned’ off the shelf. Sure the heading is interesting but one quick skim of the blurb is enough to put me off.
It goes: a pretty rich girl partners up with a rich man. By rich, meaning he’s never had to work a day in his life and doesn’t intend to. He plans to be a man of leisure. Partying and decadence are their daily routine until the money starts to dry up and their marriage crumbles along with their youth.
It’s interesting watching their lives implode but what is disturbing is in all this turmoil not a single redeemable feature comes to the fore.
They drown in self-pity, vanity, shallowness and weakness.
They weren’t built to survive hard times only the good times.
While it’s set in the 20’s I can’t help but think how it’s still relevant today. How many young people who get married, often do so with the intention of enjoying the good times but when the tough or bad times arrive they cut and run.
They might not be rich, but somehow they still have the weakness in character and the vanity to go along with it.
There is one point in the book where the vain, silly stupid wife, Gloria, drives herself mad with her obsession with her looks –
“there was nothing she had said she wanted except to be young and beautiful for a long time and to have money”. Pg 244
” oh my pretty face, I don’t want to live without my pretty face! Oh what’s happened?”. Pg 354
Her obsession with beauty is enough to make you feel ill, but times haven’t changed much have they?
Perhaps the biggest coupe de grace is that both Gloria and Anthony nearly drive themselves mad in the battle for his $10million inheritance, but it’s only when he actually wins that Anthony goes clinically insane.
An ironic touch by Fitzgerald. If there is one thing he is good at, it is in peeling back the layers or lack of in characters and showing what they are really made of.
In this case they are made of nothing more than flour and egg, dashed away when the rains arrive.
When u read a book like this it makes u look at your own life to take your own measure. And I’m pleased to say the only egg and flour you’ll find on me is if I’ve been baking
Next one – slaughterhouse five by Kurt Vonnegut