This Side of Paradise, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Part LXXXII

F. Scott Fitzgerald

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.

"Is that double entente?"

"Don't slow me up!  Now there's a few of 'em that seem to have some cultural background, some intelligence and a good deal of literary felicity but they just simply won't write honestly; they'd all claim there was no public for good stuff.  Then why the devil is it that Wells, Conrad, Galsworthy, Shaw, Bennett, and the rest depend on America for over half their sales?"

"How does little Tommy like the poets?"

Tom was overcome.  He dropped his arms until they swung loosely beside the chair and emitted faint grunts.

"I'm writing a satire on 'em now, calling it 'Boston Bards and Hearst Reviewers.'"

"Let's hear it," said Amory eagerly.

"I've only got the last few lines done."

"That's very modern.  Let's hear 'em, if they're funny."

Tom produced a folded paper from his pocket and read aloud, pausing at intervals so that Amory could see that it was free verse:

"So
Walter Arensberg,
Alfred Kreymborg,
Carl Sandburg,
Louis Untermeyer,
Eunice Tietjens,
Clara Shanafelt,
James Oppenheim,
Maxwell Bodenheim,
Richard Glaenzer,
Scharmel Iris,
Conrad Aiken,
I place your names here
So that you may live
If only as names,
Sinuous, mauve-colored names,
In the Juvenalia
Of my collected editions."

Amory roared.

"You win the iron pansy.  I'll buy you a meal on the arrogance of the last two lines."

Amory did not entirely agree with Tom's sweeping damnation of American novelists and poets.  He enjoyed both Vachel Lindsay and Booth Tarkington, and admired the conscientious, if slender, artistry of Edgar Lee Masters.

"What I hate is this idiotic drivel about 'I am God--I am man--I ride the winds--I look through the smoke--I am the life sense.'"

"It's ghastly!"

"And I wish American novelists would give up trying to make business romantically interesting.  Nobody wants to read about it, unless it's crooked business.  If it was an entertaining subject they'd buy the life of James J.  Hill and not one of these long office tragedies that harp along on the significance of smoke--"

"And gloom," said Tom.  "That's another favorite, though I'll admit the Russians have the monopoly.  Our specialty is stories about little girls who break their spines and get adopted by grouchy old men because they smile so much.  You'd think we were a race of cheerful cripples and that the common end of the Russian peasant was suicide--"

"Six o'clock," said Amory, glancing at his wrist-watch.  "I'll buy you a grea' big dinner on the strength of the Juvenalia of your collected editions."

*****

LOOKING BACKWARD

July sweltered out with a last hot week, and Amory in another surge of unrest realized that it was just five months since he and Rosalind had met.  Yet it was already hard for him to visualize the heart-whole boy who had stepped off the transport, passionately desiring the adventure of life.  One night while the heat, overpowering and enervating, poured into the windows of his room he struggled for several hours in a vague effort to immortalize the poignancy of that time.

The February streets, wind-washed by night, blow full of strange
half-intermittent damps, bearing on wasted walks in shining sight
wet snow plashed into gleams under the lamps, like golden oil
from some divine machine, in an hour of thaw and stars.

Strange damps--full of the eyes of many men, crowded with life
borne in upon a lull....  Oh, I was young, for I could turn
again to you, most finite and most beautiful, and taste the stuff
of half-remembered dreams, sweet and new on your mouth.

... There was a tanging in the midnight air--silence was dead and
sound not yet awoken--Life cracked like ice!--one brilliant note
and there, radiant and pale, you stood... and spring had broken.
(The icicles were short upon the roofs and the changeling city
swooned.)

Our thoughts were frosty mist along the eaves; our two ghosts
kissed, high on the long, mazed wires--eerie half-laughter echoes
here and leaves only a fatuous sigh for young desires; regret has
followed after things she loved, leaving the great husk.

*****

ANOTHER ENDING

In mid-August came a letter from Monsignor Darcy, who had evidently just stumbled on his address:

MY DEAR BOY:--

Your last letter was quite enough to make me worry about you.  It was not a bit like yourself.  Reading between the lines I should imagine that your engagement to this girl is making you rather unhappy, and I see you have lost all the feeling of romance that you had before the war.  You make a great mistake if you think you can be romantic without religion.  Sometimes I think that with both of us the secret of success, when we find it, is the mystical element in us: something flows into us that enlarges our personalities, and when it ebbs out our personalities shrink; I should call your last two letters rather shrivelled.  Beware of losing yourself in the personality of another being, man or woman.

Image courtesy of Peter Alfred Hess.

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