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Tender is the Night

The other day, I was really in the mood to read a book by the Lost Generation. So I went out to the nearest bookstore (which happens to be 15 mins away cause bookstores are slowly disappearing) and picked up Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemmingway (I am now currently reading). My interest in the Lost Generation may or may not have been caused by watching Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris; watching these beloved literary figures come to life on screen sparked my curiosity in their work. I watched the film after reading The Great Gatsby (post) by Fitzgerald and A Farewell To Arms by Hemmingway. These authors had just witnessed the Great War, and according to my American History textbook from last year, "believed that contemporary America no longer provided individual with routes to personal fulfillment." They were really upset with the way things were going.

This parallels America today. We just left Iraq, and we are leaving Afghanistan by 2014 (hopefully). While my generation may not realize we're at the end of two seemingly endless wars, we can see that many adults (and young adults) are disillusioned with politics; American approval of Congress fell to a the record-low of 10% in August (source). Voters are upset with the handling of the economy (although its slowly turning around) and the state of foreign affairs (Benghazi, Iran, China, etc). But what is there to do? I guess in reading the Lost Generation's novels, I was searching for some answers. How did they cope with complete disappointment in their government? How did they prepare for what they believed was a very bleak future? Fitzgerald's answer? Write. And so he did...

Tender is the Night is a masterpiece. The writing style is simple, yet elegant; for example, "He saw Rosemary for the first time that morning. They exchanged glances, trying to recognize the emotions of the day before. For a moment each seemed unreal to the other-then the slow warm hum of love began again." (84) The novel took Fitzgerald nine years to finish, and many aspects of the novel are based on his own life (most notably his wife's mental illness and his apparent alcoholism). Published in 1934, at the height of the Great Depression, it was criticized for portraying such a frivolous lifestyle of the Roaring 20s when so many people were living in despair. As the book I read during Hurricane Sandy, Tender is the Night's story - of the tragic romance between Dick Diver and Rosemary, Dick's demise, and Nicole's mental illness - was gripping and kept me reading until the very end. It is well-deserving of its spot on Modern Library's Choices. When you have the chance, pick up Fitzgerald's timeless novel (and maybe watch Midnight in Paris while you're at it). Rating: ★★★★★

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