Monday, January 28, 2008


The Beautiful and the Damned, F Scott Fitzgerald, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1922, 449 pp

This is an incredibly depressing book which I read at this point because it was a reading group pick. Anthony Patch lost his mother at five and his father at 11. He is heir to a fortune made by his grandfather, Adam Patch, in the robber baron days, but that old man has become a humorless reformer of vice.

Anthony is highly intelligent, graduated from Harvard at 19, but he is socially inept, with only two friends, one of whom is a writer. He lives in New York City alone in an apartment, cultivating irony and existing on his allowance.

Gloria is the only child of a dreamy mother, who calls herself a Bilphist (a quasi-religious philosophy made up by Fitzgerald) and a self-made, well-to-do father. They are from Missouri but live in New York. Gloria is the most beautiful girl in town and lives to party and be admired by men.

She and Anthony fall in love, marry and begin a life of travel (only in the US because WWI is raging in Europe), decadence and parties. They are waiting for Grandfather Patch to die so Anthony can come into his inheritance. It is all downhill from there because neither of these people have any semblance of a sense of self nor do they have any goals or purpose for life.

The writing is good; I have to admit that. I suppose one could say that the personality study is deep and thoughtful. Fitzgerald added to the literature of the lost generation. Today we have Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. But do we really care? I grew to hate Anthony and Gloria by the utterly degraded end of this sordid tale.

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