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100 Greatest Novels: Tender is the Night

200px-TenderIsTheNight_(Novel)_1st_edition_coverTender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Being a fan of Fitzgerald, I was excited about reading this novel for the first time. Tender is the Night was his fourth and final novel, published in 1934.

The story arch of the novel follows his life during the writing. When he first started the novel, before the crash of 1929, the scenes represent the opulence of the 20s. Then the Depression sets in. More importantly, some of the darkest days of Fitzgerald’s life happened in the early 30s. In 1932, Fitzgerald’s wife Zelda was diagnosed and hospitalized with schizophrenia. Sometimes you’ll see Tender described as an autobiographical novel because a character dealing with a mentally ill wife. This leads to some heart-wrenching scenes that I can only guess come right out of Fitzgerald’s life.

The story follows Dick Diver, a genius psychologist, and his wife Nicole as they live a life of luxury in the south of France (amongst other locations). They meet young movie stars, veterans of the war, and the rich while having large parties at their home. The story then goes into flashbacks of how Dick and Nicole met. Finally, we see the slow destruction of Dick with the novel ending on more of a whimper than a bang like The Great Gatsby.

What really impressed me most about this novel was how different points of view and more backstory can give the reader such a different outlook on a character. There’s one character in particular that is seen as such a strong, independent spirit at first but is ultimately found out to be a broken, abused, and mentally ill patient. With the little information I gave you about the novel and Fitzgerald’s backstory, you should be able to guess which character I’m speaking about. That said, it’s still worth the read because Fitzgerald does such a depressingly beautiful job of portraying mental illness from both sides of the coin.

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Up next is a trilogy by James T. Farrell that is grouped together under the name The Studs Lonigan Trilogy. Onwards we go.

 

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100 Greatest Novels: The Great Gatsby, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, & Lolita

I’ve completed three more books in my quest to read the 100 greatest novels of all time. Here’s what I thought:

The Great GatsbyThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

It’s been many years since I’ve last ready Gatsby and I noticed a few different things. First off, this is a really quick read. I don’t know if it was because I just finished Ulysses but I was surprised at the simple language used. The novel took about a day and a half to finish. Secondly, while Gatsby is an interesting character, the book is not really about him. This time I paid much more attention to the narrator, Nick Carroway, his lady friend, Jordan Baker, and Nick’s cousin’s husband, Tom Buchanan. Also, looking at the bigger, historical picture, this book is about the metaphorical death of a decade and of a generation. So there’s that.


A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
by James Joyce

I was glad to be back in the language world of James Joyce. He’s just in a whole different ball game. This book is a loosely autobiographical novel about Stephen Dedalus growing up. The writing style starts childish and slowly grows more mature to represent Stephen becoming the poet he wants to be. Here’s the opening lines:
“Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo…”
And here’s the closing line:
“Welcome, O life, I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.”

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

I don’t know how to describe this book. But I’ll try (and fail). It’s disturbing. It’s sad. It’s hilarious. It’s immoral. It’s beautiful. Let me try again. This book is about a 40s European male who has an attraction for girls between the age of 9-14. He calls them  “nymphets.” He does everything he can to be with one he names Lolita. He gets to be with her. And it becomes a physical and mental hell for both (mostly the former for Lolita and the latter for Humbert). Which leads me back to this: It’s disturbing. It’s sad. It’s hilarious. It’s immoral. It’s beautiful.

 

 

Onwards! I’m currently reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2012 in 100 Greatest Novels, Book Review, Literature

 

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