on April 10, 2004
"It is seven thirty on an August evening. The windows in the living room of the gray house are wide open patiently exchanging the tainted inner atmosphere of liquor and smoke for the fresh drowsiness of the late hot dusk. There are dying flower scents upon the air, so thin, so fragile, as to hint already of as summer laid away in time."
This is the story of a young couple Anthony and Gloria Patch living out their days to the hilt in New York City as they await the death of Anthony's grandfather, Adam Patch from whom they expect to inherit his massive fortune.
Gloria is a spoilt child from Kansas City turned into a sophisticated and most beautiful woman. Gloria does not intend to lift a finger to do any domestic work in the home, no matter how slight; while Anthony who considers himself an aesthete, finds it quite hard to get his act together and instead of buckling down to some work, prefers instead to hang with his wife and their friends on nightly binges. They drink and eat in the classiest restaurants and hotels, rent the most expensive apartments, travel out to the West in the spring time driving plush cars, wearing top-of-the-line clothing and just generally living it up high on the hog, as they wait.
Meet Maury Noble who is Anthony best friend who spends his time between New York and Philadelphia; Richard Caramel who has just completed a writing a book and looking for new ideas for a second one. Joseph Bloeckman from Munich who started out small in America and is now a big shot in Show Biz. Also the quiet Jewess Rachael Barnes and Muriel Kane who is young, flirtatious and sometimes a bit too talkative and Tana the Japanese housekeeper of the Patches.
We are shown the Patches at their very best as the novel starts, with the world at their feet and loaded with cash with which they make very expensive choices. But, as we get further in, we see things begin to change gradually and we realize that those very choices will be their very downfall. It was quite a good read but it could be very heartbreaking at times as we put ourselves into the shoes of the main characters. All lovers of F. Scott Fitzgerald should read this book if you haven't done so already, and those of you who like reading about the ultra rich in the Roaring Twenties this one is for you. It is the kind of book that you feel you will want to read again. It is that good and I shall miss it. Heather Marshall 10/04/04
on February 22, 2003
The genius of F.Scott Fitzgerald shines brilliantly in this vastly underappreciated classic novel of moral depravity. The pervasive themes of Fitzgerald include moral corruption, profligate behavior, agnosticism, selfishness, narcissism, egocentrism, and of course, a sick obsession with money and alcohol. These themes permeate all too well throughout the beautifully written The Beautiful and Damned(pardon the pun).
Released in 1922, 2 years subsequent to the seminal This Side of Paradise and 3 years prior to the magnum opus The Great Gatsby, incomprehensibly, The Beautiful and Damned was not well received critically nor financially. As a result, history has erroneously filed it under the dubious sophomore jinx category. Strange it may seem, I vehemently disagree. As you read this book, you witness first-hand the maturation of an amazing writer. No American writer of the 20th Century can compare to the profound power and unwavering genius that is F.Scott Fitzgerald. If you enjoyed The Great Gatsby, you will no doubt enjoy this work - an equally beautifully writen and tragic tale of aspiring morally depraved young Americans in pursuit of The American Dream.
"Remarkable that a person can comprehend so little and yet live in such a complex civilization."
on June 26, 2002
In this novel, F. Scott Fitzgerald is extremely cruel with his characters and society. A young couple of the generation that came of age just before the First World War, were both born in extremely rich families and were educated for the vainest of all lives, high life and no work. They only knew the value of money for what its possession could provide them with : luxury, parties, alcohol, shows, etc. But they did not know at all what working to earn it could mean. Fitzgerald explores in the tiniest details the descent to hell for these two young people and what they considered as their final salvation (the inheritance from the grandfather was finally given back to them by courts). But they have been dragged so low in their vain attempt at surviving without doing anything while waiting for the court decision, that they are plain misfits in society. They have a lot of money and can be wooed and courted by other members of the aristocratic class, but they are despised and they despise all the others. No moral or even social salvation, just a golden version of hell on earth. This novel is a masterpiece in explaining and showing how the education of a young man or a young girl is entirely responsible for the personalities and behaviors these young people will develop later on in life. Hence it is a deep book on education, the education of the children of the rich. They have to conquer their inheritance through their own achievements and efforts or work. This book by Fitzgerald is definitely the best I have read, so far, because it shows these simple truths in the cruellest and most unadorned painting...
on June 20, 2001
If, like me, you are driven by an inscrutable urge to pigeonhole artists by categorizing them into genres and stylistic schools, then Fitzgerald can prove frustrating because he's something of a literary anomaly. Modern in his attitude toward the frank depiction of that which Victorian novelists considered unsuitable for representation, yet somewhat old-fashioned in the elegant rhythms of his prose (as opposed to the clipped, laconic style of a Hemingway), he seems to have one foot in the nineteenth century and one foot in the twentieth.
More than anything else, though, Fitzgerald is first and foremost a Naturalist in the mode of Frank Norris or Theodore Dreiser. He is a writer who obviously learned much from both of his predecessors and yet far surpassed them as a stylist and craftsman. _The Beautiful and Damned_ is, without question, Fitzgerald's most Naturalistic work.
One of the major thematic concerns of Naturalists like the Frenchman Emile Zola and his American disciples (Dreiser, Norris, and other minor writers like Stephen French Whitman) revolved around the subject of the individual's rapid decline: moral, physical, spiritual. In these novels, the protagonist, goaded by a combination of circumstances, falls into an inescapable pattern of self-destructive habits, and this eventually leads to utter ruin. Zola's _Nana_, Norris's _McTeague_, and Dreiser's _Sister Carrie_ are all examples of this type of novel. A variety of environmental and genetic factors are the villains hovering in the background of these novels, but the most powerful and destructive of them, alchohol, usually stands in the foreground.
_The Beautiful and Damned_ is probably, next to Jack London's _John Barleycorn_, the most emotionally powerful chronicle of alcoholic ruin in all of American literature. It shows us, in merciless detail, the real havoc that alcohol brings to its victims as well as those around them. We watch the protagonist, after a night of carousal, waking up late in a weekday morning on his own floor with his furniture ruined and trash spread everywhere by his "friends." We watch his wife, Gloria, as she looks with terror at the signs of age creeping over her once-beautiful face. We watch the protagonist make a drunken fool of himself in a public place and suffer the humiliation of having his teeth knocked out.
The novel chronicles the gradual downfall of a spoiled Eastern-establishment rich kid (Anthony Patch) who hangs with the smart set: Dick Caramel, the novelist, and Maury Noble, the brilliant cynic; both of whom are vividly rendered by Fitzgerald. Dick begins his career as a champion of an effete aestheticiscm only to sacrifice his ideals for commerical success later on. Maury professes nihilism and claims that there is nothing worth doing, only to become a successful businessman by middle age. Anthony, who has neither self-discipline nor real creative talent, continually postpones his grand entrance into the world as either a writer or statesman. He bides his time, not working but doing a lot of drinking and partying, courtesy of his grandfather's allowance. He marries the beautiful, high-maintenance Gloria (Dick's cousin), and for a while this fills the void. But the years go by, Anthony keeps drinking, getting softer and ruining his health, never working, waiting for his grandfather to die so that he can get the inheritance and be set for the rest of his life.
Things take a turn for the worse, however, when grandfather dies and Anthony gets a most rude awakening. I won't tell you the ending; read it for yourself.
This IS a powerful and disturbing portrait of the destructive effects of alcohol, yet at the same time it is no simplistic temperance-tract. The strange (and perhaps frustrating) ending complicates the reader's reaction to the whole of Anthony's life up to that point.
A great reading experience--fiction of real substance, yet at the same time a compulsive page-turner that is an effortless read. Other novels in the same vein: Jack London's _Martin Eden_, Frank Norris' _Vandover and the Brute_, Arthur Machen's _The Hill of Dreams_, and Stephen French Whitman's _Predestined_.
on October 12, 1998
Fittingly, this was the last of Fitzgerald's novels that I read. And I apparently saved the best for last. In this enrapturing portrayl of young lovers who are attracted by their differences in the beggining yet destroyed by their similarities in the end (the need of wealth). I find this perhaps one of Fitzgerald's finest literary achievements. He has it all working for him in this novel, his character development is excellent, I feel as though I could recognize Anthony or Gloria on the street if they were to saunter my way. Fitzgerald truly breaks his own mold on this terrific literary achievement. He not only tells a wonderful story of two young lovers but he also parallels it with a very strong supporting cast of characters to Anthony and Gloria. Much can be understood of the lead characters by reading into the supporting characters, focus on Anthhony's grandfather for example. The rosy picture which is so commonly printed by the media of the rich has never been so wonderfully redone with vibrant color as Fitzgerald waves his "paint brush" through all the old misconceptions of the rich and into something truly brilliant: Real life. Fitzgerald was indeed touched with brilliance, and never has it ever been more evident than in his wonderful novel :The Beautiful and Damned." An absolute must read.
on November 2, 1998
By no means his best novel (as others here suggest) but highly underrated. Often one hears of Great Gatsby as his best, Tender is the Night as his labored over lost classic, This Side of Paradise as his promising and famous debut, and The Love of the Last Tycoon as the classic that never was, but Beautiful and Damned is never mentioned. In my opinion this is the book that best describes the hedonistic society I have read of called the Roaring Twenties. As the reader watches all the characters lose their dreams and fall into a depraved, hollow existent based on alcohol I am reminded too fondly of my college years.
If you are a Fitzgerald fan read this one after This Side of Paradise. If you are someone with a passing interest in the Twenties read this. If you are someone with just a passing interest in Fitzgerald then read this one last, after any of the other Fitzgerald novels.
on July 1, 1999
Hmmm, just finished The Beautiful and the Damned and was sad to do so. It is the last of His novels for me - until I reread them ofcourse. Yes, F. Scott did it again in this novel - he wowed me - I am utterly amazed at Fitzgeralds use of language!Every other line is brilliant, or near enough. I feel silly "reviewing" this novel - it suffices to say that this is yet another fantastic story wrapped up in a glorious package of ingenious prose and crystalline images - topped off with the big velvet bow that are Anthony Patch and Gloria Gilbert. Glorious!
on December 2, 1997
We're coming into an age referred to by many as the "Cocktail Nation," and our youth is experimenting with swing dancing, swing music, making bathtub absinthe, and trying to recreate the air of my most favorite decade of all times: the roaring '20s.
"The Beautiful and Damned," is by far the best work by the man who almost single-handedly created the image of the flapper. F. Scott Fitzgerald was as much the voice of his generation as we claim modern alternative musicians are the voice of ours.
on February 21, 2002
This is my second reading of Fitzgerald, and I was just as captured by this story as "The Great Gatsby". Anthony and Gloria Patch portray a story of unexpected love, excess, lust, and the many facets of marriage. Fitzgerald's description is immaculate, something many authors have sought to recreate but rarely match. The supporting cast of characters in this novel possess as much livelihood as do the Patches. An honest story, and well worth your time, especially Fitzgerald fans.
on September 23, 1999
I believe this to be Fitzgerald's second best novel, behind "The Great Gatsby" It took me just a few days to read because it was so captivating. For anyone who romanticizes about a fairy-tale relationship, the one between Anthony and Gloria was just that, in the beginning. Although they waste a good portion of their youth waiting for Anthony's grandfather's fortune, it's still a very romantic book. This was thoroughly entertaining.