This Side of Paradise, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Part XXXIII
Every day on Daily Readers' Book Club we offer an article length section of a book until that book is done. We are currently reading F. Scott Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise. This book will have 106 parts.
June came and the days grew so hot and lazy that they could not worry even about exams, but spent dreamy evenings on the court of Cottage, talking of long subjects until the sweep of country toward Stony Brook became a blue haze and the lilacs were white around tennis-courts, and words gave way to silent cigarettes.... Then down deserted Prospect and along McCosh with song everywhere around them, up to the hot joviality of Nassau Street.
Tom D'Invilliers and Amory walked late in those days. A gambling fever swept through the sophomore class and they bent over the bones till three o'clock many a sultry night. After one session they came out of Sloane's room to find the dew fallen and the stars old in the sky.
"Let's borrow bicycles and take a ride," Amory suggested.
"All right. I'm not a bit tired and this is almost the last night of the year, really, because the prom stuff starts Monday."
They found two unlocked bicycles in Holder Court and rode out about half-past three along the Lawrenceville Road.
"What are you going to do this summer, Amory?"
"Don't ask me--same old things, I suppose. A month or two in Lake Geneva--I'm counting on you to be there in July, you know--then there'll be Minneapolis, and that means hundreds of summer hops, parlor-snaking, getting bored--But oh, Tom," he added suddenly, "hasn't this year been slick!"
"No," declared Tom emphatically, a new Tom, clothed by Brooks, shod by Franks, "I've won this game, but I feel as if I never want to play another. You're all right--you're a rubber ball, and somehow it suits you, but I'm sick of adapting myself to the local snobbishness of this corner of the world. I want to go where people aren't barred because of the color of their neckties and the roll of their coats."
"You can't, Tom," argued Amory, as they rolled along through the scattering night; "wherever you go now you'll always unconsciously apply these standards of 'having it' or 'lacking it.' For better or worse we've stamped you; you're a Princeton type!"
"Well, then," complained Tom, his cracked voice rising plaintively, "why do I have to come back at all? I've learned all that Princeton has to offer. Two years more of mere pedantry and lying around a club aren't going to help. They're just going to disorganize me, conventionalize me completely. Even now I'm so spineless that I wonder how I get away with it."
"Oh, but you're missing the real point, Tom," Amory interrupted. "You've just had your eyes opened to the snobbishness of the world in a rather abrupt manner. Princeton invariably gives the thoughtful man a social sense."
"You consider you taught me that, don't you?" he asked quizzically, eying Amory in the half dark.
Amory laughed quietly.
"Sometimes," he said slowly, "I think you're my bad angel. I might have been a pretty fair poet."
"Come on, that's rather hard. You chose to come to an Eastern college. Either your eyes were opened to the mean scrambling quality of people, or you'd have gone through blind, and you'd hate to have done that--been like Marty Kaye."
"Yes," he agreed, "you're right. I wouldn't have liked it. Still, it's hard to be made a cynic at twenty."
"I was born one," Amory murmured. "I'm a cynical idealist." He paused and wondered if that meant anything.
They reached the sleeping school of Lawrenceville, and turned to ride back.
"It's good, this ride, isn't it?" Tom said presently.
"Yes; it's a good finish, it's knock-out; everything's good to-night. Oh, for a hot, languorous summer and Isabelle!"
"Oh, you and your Isabelle! I'll bet she's a simple one... let's say some poetry."
So Amory declaimed "The Ode to a Nightingale" to the bushes they passed.
"I'll never be a poet," said Amory as he finished. "I'm not enough of a sensualist really; there are only a few obvious things that I notice as primarily beautiful: women, spring evenings, music at night, the sea; I don't catch the subtle things like 'silver-snarling trumpets.' I may turn out an intellectual, but I'll never write anything but mediocre poetry."
They rode into Princeton as the sun was making colored maps of the sky behind the graduate school, and hurried to the refreshment of a shower that would have to serve in place of sleep. By noon the bright-costumed alumni crowded the streets with their bands and choruses, and in the tents there was great reunion under the orange-and-black banners that curled and strained in the wind. Amory looked long at one house which bore the legend "Sixty-nine." There a few gray-haired men sat and talked quietly while the classes swept by in panorama of life.
Image courtesy of Peter Alfred Hess.