First, I will apologize for the lateness of this post. Life conspired against my having access to a computer today until this late time.
I read Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald this week. I originally intended to read The Great Gatsby, since that is coming out later this month as a movie. I’ve never read the book and tend to want to do that prior to seeing the movie (if it’s a classic novel). However! The library did not have a copy of the Great Gatsby, but did have Tender is the Night. I figured, I’d never read Fitzgerald at all, so Tender is the Night would work.
This last week has also been consumed by the drama of my thumb. For a bit there, we thought I might have to go to an ortho doctor, as I was having issues regaining feeling in my thumb. However, we determined (my urgent care doctor and myself, after this past week, I feel we may be on the way to a wonderful friendship) that would have been overkill. My thumb apparently is traumatized. Which makes sense, since _I_ am traumatized. So this past week has been a 1 and a half hand week. I am like the amazing claw hand when it comes to opening doors, carrying things, brushing my teeth…all of those things you do with a dominant hand. I have also learned the art of signing my name with the pen held between the tip of my thumb and my forefinger. Now, finally, tomorrow, I get the stitches out. And it’s time. The itching is driving me MAD. And now that I’ve sufficiently bored you with my thumb, I’ll continue onto talking about Tender is the Night.
Robb Forman Dew, Paula Fox, Donald Harington, Susan Minot, Elizabeth Spencer and Scott Turow all listed Tender is the Night in their personal top ten books.
I can see why. This is a really accessible book. The descriptions of things Fitzgerald gives in a book written in the 20s, ring true of things today.
“After lunch they were both overwhelmed by the sudden flatness that comes over American travellers in quiet foreign places. No stimuli worked upon them, no voices called them from without, no fragments of their own thoughts came suddenly from the minds of others, and missing the clamor of Empire they felt that life was not continuing here”
I grew up hearing that sentiment said about Americans abroad. Like 60 to 70 years after Fitzgerald wrote them down.
He paints characters and their neuroses with vivid colors, only smudging them when it’s necessary to show how one person’s mental illness will smudge with another’s, until it’s unknown where one stops and the other begins.
Fitzgerald starts the book introducing us to the main characters, Dr. Dick Diver and his wife, Nicole Diver, through the eyes of an 18 year old ingenue, who is one of the American’s described above. She falls in love with Dr. Diver. Through her eyes we see him and his wife. Fitzgerald hints at the reality of what Rosemary is seeing, but we see mainly what the Divers present to the outside world.
The narrative then continues with Dick, going back into the past to where he met Nicole. He was a psychologist and she was a patient at a mental hospital in Zurich. She develops a “thing” for him upon meeting him. Her doctors, his friends, believe it good for her so encourage it. Then he is to let her down, and instead marries her. Nicole is very wealthy, but Dick resolves to live mainly on his own money for his own pleasures, using hers for mutual things.
The description in The Top Ten book state “In this tragic tale of romance and character, her lush lifestyle soon begins to destroy Diver, as alcohol, infidelities, and mental illness claim his hopes”. I have to strongly disagree. If Fitzgerald meant it to be a comment as to wealth causing even the best men to dissolve into sinful iniquities, he did a lousy job. Diver is majorly flawed to begin with. His need to be worshiped is evident from the beginning time Rosemary sees him, and back when he decides that he’s all for having a romance, a life with Nicole. A girl, who was _sort_ of his patient (in the fact that contact with him was deemed therapeutically good, but not so good that she needed to marry him to keep it). He’s scornful of her sister, Baby, who talks to him about “buying” a doctor to marry Nicole. It’s this need to be worshiped that ultimately destroys Diver.
And the line with “infidelities, alcohol and mental illness claim his hopes” make it sound as if it is _Nicole_ who is the adulterer and the alcoholic. She isn’t.
I do think Fitzgerald was writing about how sometimes when we love someone with a mental illness, we almost take on their mental illness. We absorb it into ourselves. It becomes a point where it causes more disruption to us at all times than it does to them at the random times of attacks. Fitzgerald described this brilliantly. And if that was what does Diver in, it is, but it’s not her “lush lifestyle”.
In fact, that description is actually beginning to piss me off more and more as I think about it. I don’t feel I’ve ever gotten this errrrgghhh over a description in The Top Ten.
Hm. Maybe I should psychoanalyze this reaction. I’ll get back to you in two weeks if it is of any import.
Have a great weekend! Maybe we’ll find out next week that it’s secretly been November and December the last 2 months and it’s Christmas time all over. The weather certainly thinks so.