First published in 1922, The Beautiful and the Damned followed Fitzgerald's impeccable debut, This Side of Paradise, thus securing his place in the tradition of great American novelists. Embellished with the author's lyrical prose, here is the story of Harvard-educated, aspiring aeshete Anthony Patch and his beautiful wife, Gloria. As they await the inheritance of his grandfather's fortune, their reckless marriage sways under the influence of alcohol and avarice. A devastating look at the nouveaux riches and New York nightlife, as well as the ruinous effects wild ambiion, The Beautiful and the Damned achieved stature as one of Fitzgerzld's most accomplished novels. Its distinction as a classic endures to this day.
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Customer Rating: Summary: Wonderful; Make sure you're up for it. Comment: The Beautiful and Damned is Fitzgerald's longest work and certainly his most criticized. As with 1) This Side of Paradise and 2) Tender is the Night, this novel has a sort of wandering plot that mirrors its main characters' uncertainties. Much of the novel is a life on hold -- waiting for the war to end and for a rich grandfather to die, all while friends variously succeed through work and 'move on' with their lives. All told a magnificent portrait of wealth and beauty and sloth.
The prose is brilliant; some of the best lyricism Fitzgerald has ever written. His metaphors still glow today. As a bonus, there are a few extended, rattle-the-cage, blow-your-mind speeches ('specially one by Maury in 'Symposium') that create those rare moments of literary rapture and practically scream to be read aloud.
If you tend to read quickly, 'skimming' through lyricism to follow speech and plot developments, this may not be the novel for you. The beauty if not hidden between the lines, as in Joyce or Nabokov, but nonetheless it *is* wrapped up in extended metaphors and omniscience that paint pictures of youth and folly. You'll want to read every word, and pause to imagine and reflect. If you're up for it, there is hardly a better choice than The Beautiful And Damned.
An aside: in life, Fitzgerald had a weakness for popular opinion (lacking, somehow, real self-confidence). Often he would view himself based on the quality of his latest work's reception. As The Beautiful and Damned was considered something of a muddle, Fitzgerald often spoke about its poor, rushed quality and his desire for some sort of redo (which turned into The Great Gatsby, which was *also* received poorly!, considering its reputation today). This is an astounding novel, and if you like Fitzgerald *please* don't let the quirks of self-deprecation keep you from this novel. Customer Rating: Summary: "I don't care about truth; I only want happiness !" Comment: At first it is hard not to fall in love with Gloria Gilbert who, like all the self-besotted children of the heady and hedonistic Jazz Age, is so riotously frivolous, so disingenously self-centred. You excuse the fatuous languidness of her husband Anthony Patch as the transitory aimlessness of youth. But you know that these two have it coming when Gloria - in what FSF calls her "Nietszchean moment" - declares "I don't care about truth; I only want happiness!" While the rest of the Ivy League brahmins live out their dreams as writers and movie-makers, Gloria and Anthony squander their money and beauty on endless parties and clubs. At the end they are the flotsam of the Jazz Age. This tale strains at tragic grandeur without quite achieving it, chiefly because its two main protagonists remain essentially unlikeable, without any redeeming attribute that would stir our sympathy. The prose drips with lyricism, but it is without grace, poise and maturity. FSF was only 26 when it was first published, and this book displays a raw diamond that would attain polish a little later. Customer Rating: Summary: Beautifully Written about Depressing Story of the B & D'd  Comment: Fitzgerald's farce or satire on upper crust New Yorkers can only be described as being realty becoming greater than fiction. Proclaiming the story "was all true", Fitzgerald intimated that this book was something akin to a kiss-and-tell novel about what had happened within America's richest crowd during the time of World War I.
"Anthony, Maury, and Dick sent in their applications for officers' training-camps and the two latter went about feeling strangely exalted and reproachless; they chattered to each other, like college boys, of war's being the one excuse for, and justification of, the aristocrat, and conjured up an impossible caste of officers, to be composed, it appeared, chiefly of the more attractive alumni of three or four eastern colleges."
Princetonian Fitzgerald created a Harvard protagonist Anthony Patch whose birth right is basically his only strong characteristic - at least so at the end of the novel. During his venerable youth, he locks eyes onto friend Rick's cousin, beautiful Gloria, whose unique spirit and vivaciousness make the self-described bachelor become betrothed.
The book follows the couple for a period of just less than a decade, during which time they fall into numerous elations, and depressions. This see-saw bipolar personality/lifestyle depiction is all-too-common in Fitzgerald's novels. Such was well accentuated in Fitzgerald's doctor and patient relationship in "Tender is the Night" as the patient is ultimately cured and the doctor falls into a deep feeling of desultory depression -- dipsomania. Another of Fitzgerald's common themes is of men chasing after beautiful women who make the boys feel blushing discomfiture. Well depicted here with Gloria as well as in "This Side of Paradise" and its Amory Blaine who constantly trips in his whirlwind attempts to conquer beautiful Rosalind (whose personality and looks mirror those of Gloria).
As the book progresses, you see the self esteem of Anthony deflate, while his wife amazingly awaits him to recover, by miracle or otherwise, and be the man she grew to love at the tender age of 22. Like "Tender is the Night", alcohol interferes with the person and with his relationships -- Anthony becomes a drunken "bore."
There are points of this book you have to think - is this a hypothetical autobiography. Had "Tender is the Night" bombed instead of won critical acclaim, would not Fitzgerald have fallen into the liquor bottle like Anthony? I am sure he wondered as such.
But, as sad as the book can be, Fitzgerald had times of folly and humor. Even a self-deprecating humor. He writes, in one discourse where the people talk disapprovingly about the new novels: "You know these new novels make me tired. My God! Everywhere I go some silly girl asks me if I've read `This Side of Paradise.' Are our girls really like that?"
Amazingly well written, and even more astonishing in that Fitzgerald was 25 years old when he wrote this novel, this book deserves its acclaim and infamy. Customer Rating: Summary: Silent Screams of Change Comment: "It is the manner of life seldom to strike but always to wear away." In The Beautiful and Damned, the author, F. Scott Fitzgerald creates a compelling struggle between life and his two dynamic characters Anthony and Gloria. Fitzgerald inserts his own questions of life and relationships in the offhand statements of his characters, usually too well placed to even be noticed by the reader. And such is the manner of The Beautiful and Damned, to strike at the soul and mind and to wear away our own definitions and conceptions through silent screams of indecision, fear and regret.
Fitzgerald uses his understanding of literature and the power of words to convey two stories: one on the surface, and one, hidden below all plot lines, running deep within each character and within all people who have ever dared to live. He uses color and imagery to clue his readers to this underlying message. Also, Fitzgerald writes in a "play-like" manner, with certain character dialogues, a sense of staging, narration and even in some parts of the book even special "play-like" formatting. This method creates an image of the surface plot, the plot the reader can tangibly grasp: the raised print on the page, the crisp sheets, the grammar and the structure of the story. These elements leave behind all that the reader feels and understands on a deeper level inside the mind, making each reader digest all this information alone, because it is not just bluntly stated by Fitzgerald on paper. This story allows the reader to just read a story, or to jump into the structure of the mind and soul, freeing locked feelings and questions. Fitzgerald's power is to massage his words giving each phrase the power to strike the reader and let them see themselves for the first time.
Customer Rating: Summary: "They were in love with the generalities." Comment: I recently went to see Gatz, the wonderful adaptation of Gatsby by the Elevator Repair Service, and it inspired me to go back to Fitzgerald's body of work. I had read all the major the major works except for The Beautiful and Damned, and I decided to remedy that gap.
The Beautiful and Damned is an interesting book-- I probably liked it the least of all the Fitzgerald works, but I like his work enough that this is far from a bad thing. I could have lived without the overly obvious moralizing genaralities, but Fitzgerald himself recognized that this book had been written in too much of a hurry.
The major strength of the novel is, of course, the characters. We have all known versions of Gloria and Anthony Patch. We went to college with them. They were the social butterflies who seemed to have no worries, no weaknesses, and no real cares. We all assume that somewhere along the way they had to have stopped partying and found something to do-- you cannot imagine these people at 30. The Beautiful and Damned is something about what happens when the butterflies of the world keep going well past the point of excusable youthful mistakes.
People who already enjoy Fitzgerald should give The Beautiful and the Damned a read. It is certainly no Great Gatsby, but still contains much of the style and talent that made Fitzgerald so justly famous. Pay particular attention to the language and the turn of the phrase-- even in his lesser works, Fitzgerald is unparalleled at his particular kind of style.