Monday, March 15, 2010

Well, I'm sure death will settle the issue to everyone's satisfaction.

Current book: Tender Is the Night
Pages read: 10-61

Ok. I'm mostly better, and I worked out this morning and so was able to read on the elliptical. I have a headache now and may have pushed it too hard, but these are the sacrifices I make for you, dear readers.

Fitzgerald is not annoying me as much as usual. Yet. He probably will eventually, since this book is, in fact, about the vagaries and pettiness of the rich, just like the rest of them have been. It's not that I don't respect his message - which is actually quite complex, balancing, as it does, the idea that the rich are distracted and shallow and concerned only with themselves against the fact that society has created their state of being and they're still people with important and universal emotional experiences - it's just that it's always the same. You pick up a Fitzgerald book and he introduces some people and you go, "Oh, look. The dissipated rich. We will now watch the tragic romantic downfall of any number from one to four of them, ruminate on the alienating nature of modern life, and then someone will probably die."

We are introduced, this time around, to our dissipated rich at a hotel in the south of France. The main character, Rosemary Hoyt, is an up-and-coming American starlet who is visiting the Continent with her mother and recovering from a bout of pneumonia, contracted while diving in and out of the water during repeated takes on a film set. At the hotel, she meets various other guests from both England and America and takes an immediate liking to the married but charming Dick Diver. He and his friends are established in the area, and come every summer to the hotel and its environs. Since they recognize her as a famous actress, even though she's only recently been bestowed with that fame, she's taken into their fold. Nicole, Dick's wife, is aware of her infatuation with Dick and is clearly annoyed by her presence, but has the good graces not to acknowledge the problem. Dick obviously feels some mutual attraction, but tries not to act on it.

Though they've only known the Divers for two days or so, Rosemary and her mother are invited to dinner at their house. At the party, Dick offers to take Rosemary to Paris when the Divers leave for the season in a few days. Rosemary's mother, it seems, has already been consulted and given her approval, and Rosemary, of course, is delighted. There's subtext at the dinner party, too, that strange and possibly lascivious things go on behind closed doors at the Diver house, and that neither Nicole nor Dick is really happy with the marriage. On the way home from the party, two of the male guests, Tommy Barban and Albert McKisco, get in a fight about whether or not the Divers should be an object of scandal. Barban defends them so mightily that he insults McKisco's wife for gossiping about them, and McKisco, as a result, challenges him to a duel. (Seriously, McKisco? You are such an idiot. There is little that I find more asinine than duelling with pistols. Walk away from each other, turn around, and then fire guns directly at one another. Best case scenario, you both miss and look like morons. Worst, you kill each other over something completely stupid. It's not often that I point to the current era and go, "Way to not be idiots!" but, really, good job on the rejection of dueling.) Anyway, they duel and miss each other, anticlimactically, and Rosemary resolves to go off to Paris with the Divers.

This summary is making it seem as though Rosemary is a woman of the world who's going after Dick, but she's got a pretty innocent air, actually, and seems to rely on her mother for advice and protection. Of course, it's her mother who's told her, now, to go ahead and embroil herself in an affair with a married man, if she's attracted to him, citing the fact that she's a successful actress, and therefore financially independent, like a man, so she doesn't need to worry about her virtue or the consequences of adultery, also like a man. I'm thinking she might want to worry about morality. Or at the very least getting her heart broken. Call me old-fashioned.

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