This highly original reading of Fitzgerald’s book is in my opinion valid and important. (Readers should understand that most of the idiosyncratic and irregular aspects of my presentation are deliberate).
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You don’t know about me unless you just read a book by the name of This Side of Paradise that I wrote. There is things that I stretched, but I told the truth, mainly. People badmouth my book some, but at this point it wouldn’t be realistic to have a guy like Amory Blaine writing a smooth book. That comes later. And anyway, I probably let some things slip out that a smoother writer would have covered up, so you get that.
I’m a naturalist like Dreiser and all those guys. I show my characters with all their flaws, non-judgmentally. If they seem precious and fake that’s because I show the gritty reality of their lives, pretense, even though maybe they don’t look so appealing that way. I just tell the truth, and I even show you the half-baked novelist himself (me) right there in the middle of his half-baked novel.
Sometimes I wonder where my friend Edmund got the nerve to say all those things, given that he can barely write his way out of a paper bag, if that. But then, I have a lot more nerve than he does, which is why I wrote a novel that people will still be reading a century from now, and he didn’t.
Also, my book is a morality play, with a Virgin Mary (Clara) and two succubi (Axia and Elaine), and if you read the book carefully you will understand how women and the devil lead us into sin. “I know myself, but that is all”. Ha.
Amory Blaine is F. Scott Fitzgerald, more or less. Blaine tells us various things he has noticed about the Midwest, Princeton University, the WWI generation, women, etc., and some of these things are very interesting, but the book is mostly about him. He learns a lot about himself from the women he tries to love, and these women also tell him what it’s like to be at the receiving end of fetishism.
A stranger in the world, Amory must manipulate and dominate his way through life, but doing so makes real human contact almost impossible. His aristocratic egotism, analytic reflex, misogyny, asceticism / Puritanism, and decadent disdain for the world of his time separate him from the rest of humankind, making a life dedicated to the Church seem tempting. But the vocation he ends up choosing is writing, not the priesthood.
As a writer he needs experience, and for a committed romantic like Amory (despite his Puritanism), experience means love. But even love does not save him, and at the end of his book he is in utter confusion, overcome by cynicism, misogyny, resentment, and a vaguely progressive nihilism, with has no other choice than to become a writer, which is what he had always wanted to do.