Tuesday, April 28, 2009

This Side of Paradise

I finished up my latest audio book on the drive in to work this morning. My last trip to the library resulted in a quick grab and go as I just didn't have much time to devote to browsing the shelves of audio books. I had read The Great Gatsby in High School, just as so many of us did and recall that being better than I had expected it to be. For some reason, then as well as now, the period of the 1910's - 1920's in America has never been very interesting to me, excepting perhaps World War One itself. So I grabbed This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I hoped it would give me perspective on what I remembered of his work before.

I always like to do a little research on books I read as well as their authors, particularly the classics. The first thing I discovered was that F. Scott Fitzgerald's full name is Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald and in fact, he was a distant relative of the author of the poem that became America's national anthem. Maybe that's well known but that particular piece of knowledge had somehow escaped me all these years. This book itself, was Fitzgerald's first published novel, and in fact, became a best seller and put him on the map. It is largely biographical. The story goes that he began writing the novel in Army training camp during WWI, but afterwards had to beg his lady friend, Zelda to come back to him. She agreed only on the condition that he finish the novel, publish it and become successful. This he did and the rest is history.

The novel itself is a coming of age novel wherein the protagonist, Amory Blaine never really does come of age. He is a child of privilege and thus has a condescending attitude toward most others, particularly women. He suffers from low self esteem but covers it up with glibness and sometimes arrogance but depite all of that, he is still a likeable character. He is very introspective and Fitzgerald spends a lot of time having Amory try to meld together the idealistic concepts of a Princeton student with the realities of early 20th century American life. Amory has several girlfriends during the course of the novel and it is through these foils that we see what makes Amory tick and how he grows. The story is written in several different forms, through prose, poetry, letters, and stage direction. That can be somewhat confusing when done in the audio format but I don't suspect it would be a problem in normal book form.

In many ways this could be considered a romantic tragedy. There are numerous similarities with the characterizations and style of The Great Gatsby and most people agree the later work is superior. It has been so long between experiencing the two novels that I can't say which I prefer. Both are classics and worthy novels to read. While I would choose neither to take with me to a deserted island, I am glad I read (listened to) this one.

Of course this means another trip to the library as soon as I can get there. Not a bad thing to look forward to :)

For those of you who follow this blog to find out what is happening with Sweden's world domination in my computer game, Empire: Total War, suffice it to say that I over-reached a bit. I was so smitten with conquering the rest of Europe that those pesky Frenchmen rebelled to such an extent that they rose again in the middle of my empire! Yes, the French Revolution happened all over again. And then parts of Germany did the same thing! My armies were spread so thin that it took me a couple of years (game time) to supress them again and it's costing me huge coin to keep them subdued. Did this sort of thing happen to Alexander?

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Top 10 Books in no particular order (Well Known Authors)

  • "The Stand" by Stephen King
  • "Kane and Able" by Jeffrey Archer
  • "The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara
  • "The Dark Elf Trilogy" by RA Salvatore
  • "Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss
  • "River God" by Wilbur Smith
  • "Mortalis" by RA Salvatore
  • "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card
  • "Centennial" by James A Michener
  • "The Repairman Jack" series by F. Paul Wilson

Top Books/ Series in no particular order (Lesser Known Authors)

  • "The Sculpter" by Gregory Funaro
  • "Power Down" by Ben Coes
  • "Revolution at Sea Saga" by James L. Nelson
  • "Black Rain" by Graham Brown
  • "Top Producer" by Norb Vonnegut
  • "Prairie" by Anna Lee Waldo
  • "The Wild Blue" by W. Boyne & S Thompson
  • "Unsolicited" series by Julie Kaewert
  • "Freedom" by William Safire