It’s time to dig a little deeper.
You know there are classics. You’ve been bludgeoned over the head with them since grade school. You’ve frantically read Sparknotes summaries on them, nodded your head in recognition of their names in conversations, and even tried to integrate clever references to them in your life (e.g. “She is the Moby Dick of my exes, man.”).
And that’s awesome. It’s necessary, even. I mean, there’s a REASON why they’re popular.
But today in the library as I was grabbing my 7th book, I made the decision to brush past The Great Gatsby and go for something a little dustier called, This Side Of Paradise.
Beyond the classic.
Writers have a habit of (you guessed it) writing. A lot. It absolutely CONSUMES their lives. All they DO is write. They fail and fail and work at coffee shops and cut their heart out for others only to get hurt again or go to war or struggle through another bottle of booze until they’re dead. Always toiling for the correct words, always noticing everything around them. And the true writers at heart will produce an epic amount of work.
F. Scott, we’ll call him Fitz, is no different.
In his lifetime he produced an amazing array of work. He published 4 novels in his lifetime, a handful of short story collections, and over 164 short stories in magazines (sort of like this one here! Wow!). And one of those novels kickstarted his career, and also his marriage to Zelda Sayer. His novels are so incredibly immersive and literally take you to a different time period. He captures the lost aesthetic of a century ago with beautiful, consistently intricate language.
Plus, who isn’t a fan of the Roaring Twenties?
You’ve heard of The Great Gatsby. If you somehow missed a huge part of your high school’s curriculum or the desperately over produced movie that came out in 2013, then go fucking read that book right now.
But there’s always more to a writer’s life than his most famous book. The aforementioned book that kickstarted career/marriage to Zelda? That was This Side of Paradise.
Take a trip back in time
to Princeton in 1920 and follow the story of Amory Blaine as he fumbles his way into adulthood. Fitz provides you with all the necessary building blocks of Amory’s childhood to create a rich, albeit messy, painting of Amory as he becomes a man.
Alright, I’ll admit it,
I haven’t finished the book yet. I guess I’m not really doing a book review here. I’m more so telling you to go read a book. A different book. There’s so much to read out there!
Exploring the canonized writers beyond their most famous works is a truly rewarding experience. They’re “canon” for a reason. They’ve got talent. They’ll knock you off your feet. They’ll remind you to start writing again. They’ll hurt you, they’ll make you love, they’ll make you cry, they’ll –
Well, you get the idea.
So my friends, I shall leave you with perhaps what is my favorite quote at the moment, from the first chapter of This Side of Paradise, in hopes that you will travel far and get to reading.
“I am feeling very old today, Amory,” she would sigh, her face a rare cameo of pathos, her voice exquisitely modulated, her hands as facile as Bernhardt’s. “My nerves are on edge- on edge. We must leave this terrifying place tomorrow and go searching for sunshine.”