quarta-feira, 18 de dezembro de 2013
THE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED by F. Scott Fitzgerald
It would not be easy to find a more thoroughly depressing book than this new novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The Beautiful and Damned." Not because there is something of tragedy in it-tragedy may be and often is fine and inspiring-but because its slow-moving narrative is the record of lives utterly worthless utterly futile. Not one of the book's many characters, important of unimportant, ever rises to the level of ordinary decent humanity. Not one of them shows a spark of loyalty, of honor, of devotion, of generosity, of real friendship or of real affection. Anthony Patch, most important of them all, lacks even physical courage. His one admirable quality is that of "understanding too well to blame," and the reader more than suspects that this refraining from blame is due more to his general laziness, his general inertia, than to anything else. The book traces, at very great length, with much repetition of a not particularly profound subtle psychological analysis and numerous dissertations, the course of his mental, moral and physical disintegration. In the beginning he is merely an idle, extravagant young man, a mental prig and snob, vain of what he regards as his "sophistication," seeing himself as one who "was aware that there could be no honor and yet had honor, who knew the sophistry of courage and yet was brave," realizing clearly and completely "that there was nothing to waste, because all efforts and attainments were equally valueless." His grandfather was a multimillionaire, and he was waiting for his grandfather to die. Such was Anthony Patch at 25, his age when the book begins, when it ends, some six years later, he has become a whining, whisky-soaked semi-imbecile.
Gloria, the heroine, is beauty-physical beauty-incarnate. Her creed is enjoyment. Completely selfish, she declares: "If I wanted anything, I'd take it... I can't be bothered resisting things I want." Toward the close of the book she wants innumerable cocktails. And she does not resist her desire. She believes implicitly in her beauty and its power; she could endure her husband's degradation; but when she realized that her loveliness had begun to wane, she really suffered. From the time she was 16 she had been admired and embraced by men. Retaining her "technical purity," she offered her lips, not to one or two, but to scores. This she regarded as being brave and independent. Yet she had grace to recognize something at least of her cheapness, the appeal to her of "bright colors and gaudy vulgarity." Without fineness, fastidiousness or good taste, she yet possessed some small amount of endurance, and of courage. She did not, like Anthony, whine as soon as things began to go against them.
About these two-and naturally enough, since people, like water, seek their own level-move a number of other small-souled individuals. The women most closely associated with Gloria are even cheaper than she is, and though the men who are Anthony's "friends" never quite fall into the abyss of physical degradation which engulfs him, it would be difficult to find anything to say in their favor. The book covers the war years, and Anthony is sent to Camp Hooker, where he occupies himself by getting drunk and picking up a mistress. Patriotism being in Mr. Fitzgerald's view, mere foolishness and hysteria, it is not surprising that he should depict the men Anthony meets in camp as another worthless lot. He is not ill-treated; officers and men are not cruel, but merely stupid and contemptible.
Most of the scenes are laid either in New York or in the gray house, not far from the Post Road. Anthony and Gloria rented a few months after their marriage. There they entertained acquaintances at week-end parties, with the help of their Japanese servant, Tana; "then the room seemed full of men and smoke. There was Tana in his white coat reeling about supported by Maury... It appeared that everything in the room was staggering in grotesque fourth-dimensional gyrations through intersecting planes of hazy blue." Gloria did have one brief but violent reaction of disgust, but it was quickly over and "parties" of this kind were numerous, both in the country and in the New York apartment, where "there was the odor of tobacco always-both of them smoked incessantly... Added to this was the wretched aura of stale wine, with its inevitable suggestion of beauty gone foul and revelry remembered in disgust... There had been many parties-people broke things; people became sick in Gloria's bathroom; people spilled wine; people made unbelievable messes of the kitchenette." There is a great deal of this sort of thing, though neither Anthony nor Gloria confined their drinking bouts to their own apartment, or to those of their friends.
So far as its style is concerned, much of the novel is well written, and Anthony's gradual loss of his mental curiosity, his gradual degeneration into "a bleak and sordid wreck" is convincingly depicted, though to the reader he never seems one-third as intelligent as the author apparently thinks him. The long conversations between Anthony and his two friends, Maury Noble and Dick Caramel, are often merely tedious and pretentious, in spite of the fact that now and then one of them does make a remark which is fairly clever. The general atmosphere of the book is an atmosphere of futility, waste and the avoidance of effort, into which the fumes of whisky penetrate more and more, until at last it fairly reeks with them. The novel is full of that kind of pseudo-realism which results from shutting one's eyes to all that is good in human nature, and looking only upon that which is small and mean-a view quite as false as its extreme opposite, which, reversing the process, results in what we have learned to classify as "glad" books. It is to be hoped that Mr. Fitzgerald, who possesses a genuine, undeniable talent, will some day acquire a less one-sided understanding.
Posted by Francisco Augusto Vaz Brasil at 22:16