Synopses & Reviews
Introduction by Hortense Calisher
Commentary by Edmund Wilson, Henry Seidel Canby, and Arthur Mizener
Fitzgerald’s second novel, a devastating portrait of the excesses of the Jazz Age, is a largely autobiographical depiction of a glamorous, reckless Manhattan couple and their spectacular spiral into tragedy. Published on the heels of This Side of Paradise, the story of the Harvard-educated aesthete Anthony Patch and his willful wife, Gloria, is propelled by Fitzgerald’s intense romantic imagination and demonstrates an increased technical and emotional maturity. The Beautiful and Damned is at once a gripping morality tale, a rueful meditation on love, marriage, and money, and an acute social document. As Hortense Calisher observes in her Introduction, “Though Fitzgerald can entrance with stories so joyfully youthful they appear to be safe—when he cuts himself, you will bleed.”
Includes a Modern Library Reading Group Guide
Fitzgerald's second novel, a devastating portrait of the excesses of the Jazz Age, is a largely autobiographical depiction of a glamorous, reckless Manhattan couple and their spectacular spiral into tragedy and despair.
About the Author
Hortense Calisher (1911–2009) was the author of more than twenty books, including the National Book Award nominees False Entry, Herself, and The Collected Stories of Hortense Calisher.
Reading Group Guide
1. Critics have drawn attention to the books heavily autobiographical element. How does this presumed emotional investment inform the novel, in your opinion? Hortense Calisher suggests in her introduction that when Fitzgerald “cuts himself, you will bleed.” Discuss this remark in light of the novel.
2. The critic Henry Canby said that “from one point of view The Beautiful and Damned is not so much a novel as an irresponsible social document.” What do you think of this statement? Discuss.
3. Do you consider The Beautiful and Damned to be a tragedy? Does it succeed as such? Why or why not? What are the specific weaknesses in Anthony and Gloria that cause their demise? Is their suffering warranted? Is their reaction to their plight realistic, in your opinion?
4. In describing the novel to his publisher, Fitzgerald wrote that Anthony Patch “is one of those many with the tastes and weaknesses of an artist but with no actual creative inspiration.” Do you agree with this assessment? How does this description inform your understanding of the novel? Why might this kind of figure interest Fitzgerald?
5. How does Fitzgerald portray marriage in the novel? What elements make a successful marriage? Which contribute to an unsuccessful marriage? How do Gloria and Anthony emulate and diverge from this model? Which of the two characters, in your opinion, gains more of Fitzgeralds sympathy? Why?
6. How would you characterize the novels specific morality? Calisher mentions a line attributed to Gloria halfway through the novel, “that it is the manner of life seldom to strike but always to wear away.” Discuss this in the novels context. Does Fitzgeralds story have a moral, in your opinion?
7. Fitzgerald was part of a group of writers commonly known and referred to as the “lost generation.” What do you think this means? How does The Beautiful and Damned speak to this, if at all?