Ever have that feeling like you want to re-read a book you’ve read a while ago, because of something that’s going on in your life? That happens to me occasionally, reminding me how much books have influenced my life and continue to sort of guide me along. I’ve been thinking of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise recently, and I wanted to share my thoughts on it. It’s a coming-of-age story, full of growing pains and full of mistakes, and maybe that’s why I’m remembering it.
This Side of Paradise was Fitzgerald’s first novel, semi-autobiographical, and hugely popular. It turned Fitzgerald into a household name basically overnight. The novel tells the story of Amory Blaine, an indulged, confused, and idealistic Princeton student and the moments in his young life that have shaped his character. Amory isn’t always such a likable character, and his actions are sometimes questionable, but reading this novel is like growing up all over again.
It’s full of powerful concepts that have stuck in my brain in the two years since I read this book. Quotes like:
Don’t let yourself feel worthless: often through life you will really be at your worst when you seem to think best of yourself; and don’t worry about losing your “personality,” as you persist in calling it: at fifteen you had the radiance of early morning, at twenty you will begin to have the melancholy brilliance of the moon, and when you are my age you will give out, as I do, the genial golden warmth of 4 p.m.
If nothing else, This Side of Paradise is about growing up and discovering who you are, and how you want to proceed with who you’re going to turn into later in life. It’s about holding onto youth when you no longer know how to be young, and about making mistakes because of that.
Amory doesn’t really know how to live his life, and even though he’s doing his best, it’s almost as if his personality is constantly frustrating his wishes. Don’t you ever feel like that? Like maybe you’re just holding yourself back from something?
Amory Blaine had to go through a lot just to come to terms with himself, and who he is.
And he could not tell why the struggle was worthwhile, why he had determined to use the utmost himself and his heritage from the personalities he had passed…
He stretched out his arms to the crystalline, radiant sky.
“I know myself,” he cried, “But that is all.”
No wonder Fitzgerald’s fame was made on a book like this.