So this book was a bad decision. I’ve had nothing but love for F. Scott Fitzgerald ever since reading The Great Gatsby in high school. After reading This Side of Paradise, that love has all but dried up. Yes, I’m as fickle as Amory Blaine’s lovers, I’m bored with Fitzgerald and we need to go on a little break. Or maybe I need to reread The Great Gatsby to get the bitter taste of disappointment out of my mouth. Fitzgerald’s redeeming factor is always his quality of writing, he knows how to make words work on a piece of paper, but if you don’t have a story to match, should you really put them down to begin with?
Unfortunately, This Side of Paradise was, for lack of a better term, boring. I read this book one week ago, ONE WEEK, and I had forgotten that I had read it until I saw it sitting on my chair. If this has been required reading in high school, I would have been pissed. I’m a lady of action, and unfortunately, that’s what was missing in this book. Instead we have our protagonist, Amory, go on holiday with his mother, fall in love, go to college, fall in love again, lose his fortune due to bad investments, blah blah blah kill me already.
I spent the whole novel waiting for something interesting to happen and when it didn’t I just wanted my time back.
I think the purpose of this novel was to evoke thought. Amory goes from being a boy who is completely self-satisfied and confident to the point of hubris to a depressed scoundrel who has fallen far from his perch of loftiness. It’s a book about setting aside ego, and the dangers of youth. However, Fitzgerald forgot to make this tale an interesting one. Instead we have a protagonist whose development is shaped by people and circumstances outside of his own control. Amory hardly ever does anything, he just lets things happen to him. As I read in the introduction to the novel, Amory is a thinly veiled version of Fitzgerald himself. It’s my hope that Fitzgerald wasn’t such a slave to the forces around him, I hope that in writing the character of Amory Blaine he was able to locate and correct his tendency to wallow. It’s better to be like Gatsby, a man who hoped and failed triumphantly, than like Amory, who never really tried at all.
Any redemptive factors of this book are lost on me, because I don’t read books to philosophize, I read them to escape. I think it’s fine for an author to want to provoke thought in the reader, but you can still do so while having the characters DO SOMETHING. Seriously Amory, go out there, get a girl preggers. And don’t feel such INSANE guilt when you do finally do something interesting, that you feel the presence of the Devil. You can not just throw in the Devil as a character when NOTHING ELSE INTERESTING HAS HAPPENED IN THE BOOK. It’s like throwing in a little scrap of interesting story and then boom, nothing again. Because guilt. I’d rather have nothing, at least then I wouldn’t be so disappointed when the start of something interesting ends up being nothing. Barf, barf, barf, NO THANK YOU NO.