Sunday, August 25, 2013

Book Review: Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

If you know anything about Fitzgerald, you know that he and his wife had quite the tumultuous relationship, and that Zelda struggled with mental illness. In a way, Tender is the Night is essentially a very sad sort of ode to their relationship. But it is also inherently fiction - and therein, I think, lies the problem with this novel.

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As per the usual, Fitzgerald proves that he is a capable writer in terms of phrasing and description. Unfortunately, it seems to me that he spend so much time laboring over those things that he forgot that a novel was actually supposed to have a plot. Because of this, what would otherwise have been a beautiful and enjoyable story becomes a dull, rambling, and even forced, read.

Now, I understand that Tender is the Night is *supposed* to be about shallow, wealthy people. But unfortunately, without the first person narrative that we are given in Gatsby, there is literally no depth - at all - to any character in this novel. Combine that with the fact that Night is chock full of contrived scenes (most of which add nothing at all to the plot) and jumps from one thing to another without any obvious direction, and you have an overall insubstantial and problematic novel. 1.5/5 stars.




"...to be included in Dick Diver's world for a while was a remarkable experience: people believed he made special reservations about them, recognizing the proud uniqueness of their destinies, buried under the compromises of how many years. He won everyone quickly with an exquisite consideration and a politeness that moved so fast and intuitively that it could be examined only in its effect. Then, without caution, lest the first bloom of the relation wither, he opened the gate to his amusing world. So long as they subscribed to it completely, their happiness was his preoccupation, but at the first flicker of doubt as to its all-inclusiveness he evaporated before their eyes, leaving little communicable memory of what he had said or done."

"'New friends...can often have a better time together than old friends.'"

"'When you're older you know what people who love suffer. The agony. It's better to be cold and young than to love. It's happened to me before but never like this - so accidental - just when everything was going well.'"

"'The strongest guard is placed at the gateway to nothing...Maybe because the condition of emptiness is too shameful to be divulged.'"

"'Trouble is when you're sober you don't want to see anybody, and when you're tight nobody wants to see you.'"

"...he realized that this impulse was a loss of control - what would become of Rosemary's urge toward him if, for even a moment, he relaxed. He saw, not without panic, that the affair was sliding to rest; it could not stand still, it must go on or go back; for the first time it occurred to him that Rosemary had her hand on the lever more authoritatively than he."

"There is something awe-inspiring in one who has lost all inhibitions, who will do anything. Of course we make him pay afterward for his moment of superiority, his moment of impressiveness."

"...he used to think that he wanted to be good, he wanted to be kind, he wanted to be brave and wise, but it was all pretty difficult. He wanted to be loved, too, if he could fit it in."

"'...people living alone get used to loneliness.'"

"Receding from a grief, it seems necessary to retrace the same steps that brought us there."

"Sometimes it is harder to deprive oneself of a pain than of a pleasure and the memory so possessed him that for a moment there was nothing to do but to pretend."

"...he had for many years pretended to a rigid domesticity from which he was drifting away, and this pretense became more arduous in this effortless immobility, in which he was inevitably subjected to microscopic examination. When Dick could no longer play what he wanted to play on the piano, it was an indication that life was being refined down to a point. He stayed in the big room a long time listening to the buzz of the electric clock, listening to time."

"'Good manners are an admission that everybody is so tender that they have to be handled with gloves. Now, human respect - you don't call a man a coward or a liar lightly, but if you spend your life sparing people's feelings and feeding their vanity, you get so you can't distinguish what SHOULD be respected in them.'"

"Many times he had tried unsuccessfully to let go his hold on her. They had many fine times together, fine talks between the loves of the white nights, but always when he turned away from her into himself he left her holding Nothing in her hands and staring at it, calling it many names, but knowing it was only the hope that he would come back soon."

"The frontiers that artists must explore were not for her, ever. She was fine-spun, inbred - eventually she might find rest in some quiet mysticism. Exploration was for those with a measure of peasant blood, those with big thighs and thick ankles who could take punishment as they took bread and salt, on every inch of flesh and spirit."

"'Think how you love me...I don't ask you to love me always like this, but I ask you to remember. Somewhere inside me there'll always be the person I am to-night.'"

"It is not necessarily poverty of spirit that makes a woman surround herself with life - it can be a superabundance of interest, and, except during her flashes of illness, Nicole was capable of being curator of it all."

"Attractive women of nineteen and of twenty-nine are alike in their breezy confidence; on the contrary, the exigent womb of the twenties does not pull the outside world centripetally around itself. The former are ages of insolence, comparable the one to a young cadet, the other to a fighter strutting after combat.
But whereas a girl of nineteen draws her confidence from a surfeit of attention, a woman of twenty-nine is nourished on subtler stuff. Desirous, she chooses her aperitifs wisely, or, content, she enjoys the caviare of potential power. Happily she does not seem, in either case, to anticipate the subsequent years when her insight will often be blurred by panic, by the fear of stopping or the fear of going on. But on the landings of nineteen or twenty-nine she is pretty sure that there are no bears in the hall." Pin It

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