Saturday, June 26, 2010

Book 1

We are open for discussion on Book One! Please join in with any comments, observations, questions, etc. Melissa and Hannah--where are you?

As for me, I'm trying not to be too distracted by Fitzgerald's labored similes. A perfect example comes from the latter half of "A Lady's Legs" in the "Portrait of a Siren" chapter: "Anthony sat upright so suddenly that the pillow he released stood on end like a live thing and dove to the floor." Now, the cause of Anthony's shock is hearing that Maury has met Dick's cousin Gloria Gilbert. So why does Fitzgerald completely take my attention away from that fact to make me stare at a teetering throw pillow?

But on to more substantial matters. . . .

What do you make of the section in "Turbulence" (again from "Portrait of a Siren") when Fitzgerald analyzes Anthony's character? He writes: "It is fair to analyze Anthony as far as he could analyze himself; further than that is, of course, presumption." This intrigues me for two reasons. First, the book certainly does continue to analyze Anthony further than he himself can. If the book is thus continually presumptuous, are we OK with that? Second, I don't think we have yet entirely forgotten that we are reading a novel. Indeed, Fitzgerald's characters are forever discussing literature. No real human named Anthony exists. We are smug in our presumptions, and yet entirely disconnected from real things. We are know-it-alls in an epistemological hoax.

Here's one more motif I'm enjoying: the cyclical nature of fashion. Anthony suggests that a "classic . . . is a successful book that has survived the reaction of the next period or generation. Then it's safe, like a style in architecture or furniture." It seems to me that "Beauty" (or Gloria) is the incarnation (and reincarnation) of this theory. But immediately after Anthony pronounces this luscious aphorism, he and Maury grow bored of the conversation. If eternal truths cannot sustain our interest for more than 30 minutes at a time, how many "classics" do we neglect? Like the names from novels parents use to name their babies--If they're such rich names, why do they keep skipping generations? Why can't we hold tight to beauty? Why can't we allow ourselves to believe in beauty, or truth, or God, or America for any length of time?

These things all run in cycles, which seems to overwhelm and depress Anthony. Why bother to work or believe? "I do nothing," he tells Gloria. And we're watching him do it.

Friday, June 18, 2010

First Discussion: Chapter One

I have to get in a quick post before I leave for the evening. How to begin this discussion? Perhaps I should just note a few things that stood out as I read the first chapter.

Irony (Begins the book--establishes a fundamental theme of reality vs. perception)
Loneliness (Anthony, New York)
An appreciation for beauty (Anthony)
The audacity of well-educated, wealthy youth--and its inevitable (?) fall

As I finished the chapter, I was overwhelmed by sadness. Anthony seems to "have it all," yet even his "reproachless" apartment and well-connected friends cannot fill his aching. And what is in store for "Beauty"?!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Let's try discussing the book a few chapters at a time, in general. For the first "meeting," however, let's just work with chapter 1. The first "meeting" will start Friday evening at 8:30 pm CST with a post from Grace. Please chime in at any point in the next couple of days at or after that time!

Here is a link to the entire text of the novel (you have to cut and paste it into your browser) :