To be fair, this really wasn’t Fitzgerald’s fault.
I love The Great Gatsby and I love The Beautiful and the Damned. And, as my dedication to The List proves, I love reading about rich white people and their Rich White People Problems. But everything about this book rubbed me the wrong way, for the following reasons (none of which, as I said, are Fitzgerald’s fault. Well, maybe the last one.):
I first started this as an audiobook, which is a medium that I tried to get into back when I had a forty-minute commute to work. The problem is that it might be time to admit that I’m just bad at audiobooks. When the words aren’t printed on the page in front of me, my mind tends to wander and suddenly I realize that the narrator is still talking and I haven’t been paying attention for the past five minutes and am totally lost. This is a problem, particularly with this book, when you really have to pay attention to every word. But all of that wouldn’t be so bad, except for the fact that…
This particular recorded version sucked. First, I was completely misled about the plot because the synopsis on the audiobook made it sound like Rosemary was the protagonist, so once I got to Book Two and the narrator kept talking about Nicole I didn’t understand what was happening. Also, the particular narrator for this audiobook was awful. His voices were just bad: grating and stupid, and I couldn’t understand why he made all the characters sound so plummy and old. Everyone in this book sounded like they were sixty, which is simply wrong.
After soldiering on to about the 3/4 point, I admitted defeat and found a print copy of the book at the library and started reading where the audiobook had left off. I was spared the annoying narration, and by this point had figured out who the protagonists really were, but I still hated the book. And here’s why:
I don’t care about these characters. Usually I can find some sympathy for Fitzgerald’s fascinating and damaged people, but not here. It was probably a result of my bad experience with the audiobook for the majority of the story, but for whatever reason I could not muster so much as an ounce of sympathy or appreciation for these selfish, stupid, rich jerks who can’t seem to pull their heads out of their asses long enough to realize how thoroughly they’ve fucked up their lives. I found myself wishing that all the characters would get shipped to the Congo so they could learn what real suffering looks like, and then I knew that the book could never be redeemed in my eyes.
I’m sorry, Scott. I think you’re a genius, I really do, but I have never struggled so much to get through the final twenty pages of a book as I did with yours. Maybe I’ll return to this story in twenty years or so, and hopefully then I’ll read this under better circumstances. Again, it’s really not your fault.
Except the misogyny. That is 100% your fault, you smug self-satisfied patronizing jackass. You thought you could stick a line like, “Like most women, she liked to be told how she should feel” into your novel and I’d let that one slide? Think again, buddy.
Verdict: one out of five stars