Breaking news: F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote things other than “The Great Gatsby.” I know. You’re all shocked. But in reality, while “Gatsby” is his most popular book (due in large part to the fact it’s rather short and more accessible than his other works), it is by no means the most beautiful of his bibliography.
“The Beautiful and Damned” is Fitzgerald’s second novel, bookended by “This Side of Paradise” and “Gatsby,” and chronicles the story of Anthony Patch, a socialite in the 1910s, as he navigates becoming an heir to a fortune, his relationship with his wife, Gloria, his service in the army, and his alcoholism. Many believe “The Beautiful and Damned” to be based on Fitzgerald’s relationship with his own wife, Zelda.
Despite its often bleak outlook and troubled characters, “The Beautiful and Damned” is full of beautifully resonating quotes about life, love and perspective.
“Things are sweeter when they’re lost. I know—because once I wanted something and got it. It was the only thing I ever wanted badly, Dot, and when I got it it turned to dust in my hand.”
“She was dazzling—alight; it was agony to comprehend her beauty in a glance.”
“I shall go on shining as a brilliantly meaningless figure in a meaningless world.”
“It seemed that the only lover she had ever wanted was a lover in a dream.”
“Life is so damned hard… so damned hard, so damned hard,” he repeated aimlessly. “It just hurts people and hurts people, until finally it hurts them so that they can’t be hurt ever any more. That’s the last and worst thing it does.”
“Listlessly, Anthony dropped into a chair, his mind tired—tired with nothing, tired with everything, tired with the world’s weight he had never chosen to bear.”
“He says unloved women have no biographies—they have histories.”
—Gloria Gilbert Patch
“She was incomprehensible, for, in her, soul and spirit were one—the beauty of her body was the essence of her soul. She was that unity sought for by philosophers through many centuries. In this outdoor waiting room of winds and stars she had been sitting for a hundred years, at peace in the contemplation of herself.”
“And that taught me you can’t have anything, you can’t have anything at all. Because desire just cheats you. It’s like a sunbeam skipping here and there about a room. It stops and gilds some inconsequential object, and we poor fools try to grasp it—but when we do the sunbeam moves on to something else, and you’ve got the inconsequential part, but the glitter that made you want it is gone.”
“How I feel is that if I wanted anything I’d take it. That’s what I’ve always thought all my life. But it happens that I want you, and so I just haven’t room for any other desires.”
“She was beautiful—but especially she was without mercy.”
“I had traded the fight against love for the fight against loneliness, the fight against life for the fight against death.”
“Happiness, remarked Maury Noble one day, is only the first hour after the alleviation of some especially intense misery.”
“Life plays the same lovely and agonizing joke on all of us.”
“There was a kindliness about intoxication—there was that indescribable gloss and glamour it gave, like the memories of ephemeral and faded evenings.”
“Wine gave a sort of gallantry to their own failure.”
“The fire blazing in her dark and injured heart seemed to glow around her like a flame.”
“‘There’s only one lesson to be learned from life, anyway,’” interrupted Gloria, not in contradiction but in a sort of melancholy agreement.
“’What’s that?’” demanded Maury sharply.
“’That there’s no lesson to be learned from life.’”
“There’s no beauty without poignancy and there’s no poignancy without the feeling that it’s going, men, names, books, houses—bound for dust—mortal—”
“She was a sun, radiant, growing, gathering light and storing it—then after an eternity pouring it forth in a glance, the fragment of a sentence, to that part of him that cherished all beauty and all illusion.”
“The growth of intimacy is like that. First one gives off his best picture, the bight and finished product mended with bluff and falsehood and humor. Then more details are required and one paints a second portrait, and a third—before long the best lines cancel out—and the secret is exposed at last; the panes of the pictures have intermingled and given us away, and though we paint and paint we can no longer sell a picture.”
“The soft rush of taxis by him, and laughter, laughters hoarse as a crow’s, incessant and loud, with the rumble of the subways underneath—and over all, the revolutions of light, the growings and recedings of light—light dividing like pearls—forming and reforming in glittering bars and circles and monstrous grotesque figures cut amazingly on the sky.”
“Incessantly she puzzled him: one hour so intimate and charming, striving desperately toward an unguessed, transcendent union; the next, silent and cold, apparently unmoved by any consideration of their love or anything he could say.”
“There was nothing, it seemed, that grew stale so soon as pleasure.”
“Routine comes down like twilight on a harsh landscape, softening it until it is tolerable.”
“Life rose around my island like a sea, and presently I was swimming.”
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