The Beautiful and Damned

F. Scott Fitzgerald has always been one of my favorite authors. His way of making a glitzy and glamorous reality show it’s true colors and his disillusionment with society have always intrigued me, especially with his flowery, ethereal way of describing it all. The Beautiful and the Damned is almost a sort of autobiography of Fitzgerald’s, telling of the rise, slow plateau, and steep into alcoholism of Anthony Patch, along with his wife Gloria. Much of the story mirrors what happened to Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda: after The Great Gatsby gained Scott a massive amount of wealth, they spent it like all flappers would- frivolously and without hesitation. Their partying was short-lived, for Zelda soon developed schizophrenia and Scott developed an alcohol problem. Most of the story focuses on the good times of Anthony and Gloria, even if Anthony was reluctant on meeting her in the first place. They have a strange, modern relationship and live life very spontaneously. Sometimes they don’t seem in love but “knowing they had the best of love, they clung to what remained. Love lingered- by way of long conversations at night into those stark hours when the mind things and sharpens and the borrowings from dreams become the stuff of life, by way of deep intimate kindness they developed toward each other, by way of their laughing at the same absurdities and thinking the same things noble and the same things sad.” Fitzgerald has a way of making the mundane actions of married life a little more describable, and even more desirable. However, their shining happiness is cut short- Gloria tries to run away from home, Anthony is drafted into the war, and you start to wonder if they even like each other at all anymore. Their once infamous, irresistible romance now seems disillusioned- much like the whole universe Fitzgerald creates within his novels. The couple soon runs into financial troubles and Anthony starts drinking at work, getting him into some trouble. During the time of Prohibition, this was especially problematic, even though people seemed to flaunt it all the time. The reader at this point is almost as depressed as the two supposed lovers. But things turn around for them as they win a lawsuit and become millionaires.

The story shows the obsession with materialism, the absence of a deep, romantic love, and a disillusionment with society. The couple is always out spending money and having fun, never worrying about going broke or missing out on the latest party. However, this enjoyment is only on the surface, just like their love seems to be. The reader always seems to be wondering if they really love each other or if it’s all just a passing fancy. Like the book says, “there was nothing, it seemed, that grew stale so soon as pleasure.” And as always, in practically every Fitzgerald novel, their is a disillusionment with society: nothing is really ever all it’s cracked up to be and all things once bright and beautiful will soon dull and fade. While this can be sad to some people, it can also be comforting- beauty and glory will always pass but sometimes lackluster things can be the strongest and last the longest. Maybe Fitzgerald was going somewhere with disillusionment thing and there could be deeper meaning behind it.

The novel’s dialogue structure was easier to follow than previous novels. It was almost like a play, a back-and-forth sort of format where you had to follow who was saying what. This sounds complicated but it made the novel flow much more quickly and changed the pace of certain parts. Overall, it was a beautiful piece of literary work, as should be expected of Fitzgerald, and one I will definitely read again soon.

Cousin Bette

It’s been a while since my last post but I thought I’d pick up where I left off and continue my reviews on books. Over the summer I read Cousin Bette by Honore de Balzac (considering the amount of time it has been since, this review may be a little sparse). This book was published in 1864 and is a part of a larger work that Balzac wrote called The Human Comedy. This particular story has to do with Cousin Bette, an old maid that spins a lie for her family. She tells them that after many years, a man has finally shown interest in her and is now her lover, his name being Wenceslas. Her family is astonished and are unaware of the fact that he is actually just a young artist that Bette supports. He has suicidal tendencies and comes across as very depressed and morose. He eventually meets Hortense, Bette’s cousin, and falls in love with her. Hortense is the daugther of Baron Hulot who is married to Adeline but is in love with Josepha, a singer, but when she rejects him, he sets his sights on Valerie Marneffe, who wants to seduce Crevel but is in love with Henri. When Hortense and Wenceslas wed, Valerie and Bette team up to try and get money from Baron Hulot but things happen and Valerie becomes pregnant, not knowing who the father is. Valerie and Crevel are mysteriously poisoned by a Brazilian toxin and die. Baron Hulot finishes out the story by having affairs with multiple women. His wife Adeline dies and he marries another woman shortly after.

This story reminded me of Twelfth Night or The Importance of Being Earnest in that there are multiple people with complicated love lives. The characters in this story are complex and at times extreme, making them seem real and all the more unreliable in nature. Balzac’s ultimate goal was to portray the human comedy, or more specifically the human condition, or really what it means to be a person. Balzac makes you familiar with Paris and famous figures at the time, as well as ones throughout history, making the reader have to educate themselves every now and then on who exactly he is talking about. Cousin Bette reflects on romance and relationships and explores the side of the human condition that effects all of us so deeply- love.

Inventing English

My recent passion has been the psychology of language, or how it has come about. I find this so interesting and if I wasn’t pursuing history and Spanish in college, I’d probably do something on language studies, and mostly how they effect physical and social aspects of life, as well as a broad range of others. What I’m talking about is philology, or love of language. It is completely fascinating to me that a person can be born and grow up speaking a different language than a person one hundred miles away. It’s baffling to me that people can think in other languages, or even dream. The concept of language itself is mindboggling. Today, I’m focusing on a book by Seth Lerer called Inventing English, a book that covers the development of my native language from its beginnings to its ever changing ‘end’. I say ‘end’ because English is always changing. It all began in the Indo-European areas of lower Europe and east central Asia, where civilized life originated from. The influence of these languages led to Germanic cognates in central Europe. Language was very important during this time because it determined your origin, class, and level of education. Runes were used excessively in the area now known as the United Kingdom but it gave way to the basic letters we use today. An example from the book on the basic foundation of English was “Oc was heom naht parof, for hi weron al forcurs oed and forsworen and forloren” meaning, “but it mattered nothing to them, for they were all already cursed, and perjured, and lost.” What amazes me is how someone centuries ago could understand the first quote and that we could not today. Later on, the influence of the French language entered into English, giving us new words and pronunciations. The Great Vowel Shift of the 15th century was procured through the interaction of different dialects, resulting in a systematic change of an entire sound system. Later on, during the time of the Enlightenment, English became more expanded: the largest influx of new words came in 1625, with a total of at least 6000 new words being added that year to the vocabulary of millions. Language continued to be an important part of people’s lives, with dictionaries being made to clear the confusion of multiple pronunciations and spellings. Dialects and native origins also played a bigger role; when colonists came over to America, they picked up native words (for example, I live in Iowa, which is a native American word, and there is evidence of their influence everywhere, from the Wapsipinicon River to Sioux City). Dialects became a part of literature, especially that of Mark Twain, who used the dialect of Africans to enrich his novels and give them character. Margaret Mitchell did the same with her Civil War era novel, Gone With the Wind. As the years went by and technology advanced, especially with the introduction of the telephone, and most recently, texting, language has become a bit more difficult. The author brings about the point that war can change languages and pop culture or slang  has a big influence on what we say. In regards to texting, which can be fairly vague, different arguments can be brought up: one can say that sending little written messages can keep us in contact with each other, but others say that it makes us isolated and afraid of confrontation. Overall, the complexity and structure of any language is always changing: what we say today could be said differently by our grandchildren. This book was tremendously interesting and really helped fuel my passion for learning about language.

This is Not Goodbye

If you  read the title and are now disappointed, I’m sorry (I think). This blog has all along been a year-long project for my AP Language and Composition class where we had to blog three times a week, just about every week, 300 words minimum. If you think I posted that frequently just because I felt like it, you’re a crazy person. When we started blogging it seemed like it was going to be really hard to come up with something to say about books every week. However, I managed my time accordingly and got it done. I really actually have enjoyed blogging a lot more than I thought I would, and that’s why I say this isn’t goodbye. There are two ways that this blog could go, and over time I will probably determine (along with your opinion, dear reader) which way I would like it to go.

Option 1: I think I have written about this before but I would like to change the title of my blog from ‘Always Reading’ to ‘Always’ and then have different categories like ‘Always Reading’ to write about books, ‘Always Watching’ to write about movies, or ‘Always Living’ to write about life. This would make the topics on my blog broader and more open to a wider audience of readers, which sounds pretty exciting. It would give me the chance to blog more frequently and be a little more active in the blogging world. Who knows where that might take me? I just wouldn’t want to commit to this and then find that I have nothing to say.

Option 2: I would keep the blog just as it is and just write about books whenever I finish them. I don’t have a lot going on this summer so I would really like to do as much reading as possible. There are a large number of book blogs out there but what makes them great is that they are all so different.  This, however, would make my posting schedule really infrequent as certain books take a longer time than others (and watching Hulu can become pretty addicting).

These are the options that I am torn between. I will be posting soon about a book I just read called Inventing English by Seth Lerer. After that we will see where blogging takes me. Feel free to comment below on what you think I should do. After all you are the people that read my blog, and you should probably have some say on what you read.

Agatha Christie

Everyone loves a good mystery and Agatha Christie knows that. Agatha Christie was a British author who penned numerous books, one of the most well-known being The Murder on the Orient Express. She had a pretty interesting life and she actually disappeared shortly after her first husband asked for a divorce. To this day, no one knows what happened in the ten days that she was missing. She remarried later and was very happy. Her intuitive mind really heped when it came to constructing her novels. Her favorite character that she uses in a number of books is Hercule Poirot, a Belgian detective who parallels Nancy Drew in the way he is used over and over again. The people in her books are also very elegant and refined. The way her characters interact with each other is with subdued formality. I say subdued because they are still conversational. She talks in a high-class sort of fashion and even implements some French often throughout the text. Her mysteries are often very twisted and leave the reader guessing through the entire novel, you really don’t know who the killer is until the end of the book, and it is always a shocking revelation. Most readers enjoy her books and they are obviously still read today; on my copy of The Patriotic Murders, it says over 500 million copies of her books have been sold. This shows that she is still relevant and important in society today. In popular culture, Christie has been depicted on television, showing that her legacy lives on. For example, on a Doctor Who episode called ‘The Unicorn and the Wasp,’ Christie’s disappearance is a result of an encounter with an alien called a vespiform. In the end of the episode, the Doctor shows Donna an Agatha Christie book that had been published in the year 5,000,000,000. Even though the show is fictional, it goes to show that Christie is relevant in all genres and society in general. Agatha Christie’s books are cherished and adored by fans and it undoubtedly will be the same for years to come.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

It’s time I talk about one of my favorite authors, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Most of America knows him because they thought seeing Great Gatsby in theaters would make them seem like they actually knew something, when in reality they probably had no idea what was going on because they didn’t read the book (and it’s a short book, so read it). All the books I have read by F. Scott Fitzgerald have been beyond superb, they are one of the only books I’ve managed to get lost in and want to dissect more. The ones I still have yet to read are The Beautiful and the Damned and The Last Tycoon, but I heard that the latter was unfinished. Fitzgerald’s books are timeless, especially considering the era in which they take place, the roaring 20s. This was a time of changing morals, the feud between modernism and fundamentalism, and just full-on rebellion. Flappers were testing morality and set traditional standards with their loose ways in dress and lifestyle. Men and flappers alike spent their time in speakeasies, drinking prohibited liquor and doing heaven knows what. This is exactly what Fitzgerald writes about, the changing form of society and the people shaping it, as well as the dillusionment of American life. Fitzgerald was part of a group of literary figures at the time called ‘The Lost Generation’, writers who talked about their disenchantment with society and the Jazz Age. He also used personal experiences like his relationship with his wife, Zelda, who can be seen paralleled in Tender is the Night. What I especially love about Fitzgerald is his way of writing. He writes simply, in a complex way. The sentences in general are easy to understand but put into context with the paragraph and then with the book overall, it can be easy to skim over important parts by thinking they are simple. F. Scott Fitzgerald shows the romantic, rebellious, and somewhat regretful side of American society during the roaring 20s. He is hands-down one of my favorite authors and his books are ones that I really cherish and plan to reread again someday.


Some people like rereading their favorite books over and over again, maybe just to remember it for old times sake, or to get that same feeling they got when they first read it. Whatever the reason, people do reread books. Personally, I don’t enjoy rereading books. I like reading as many as I can to challenge myself so I don’t like taking time to read one again. The only time I would really reread a book is if it is one of my favorites that is a little on the short side or if I read it a while ago and it is being turned into a movie. I like to read them a few weeks before I go see the movie just so the details are fresh in my mind and so I don’t miss out on anything, not that I have any idea on why this would be important. Books are basically made to be reread-that is the overarching goal of the author. Why write a book that someone will only read once? The author wants to tell you a story that you will want to remember and revisit later on. Like I said early, I’m not a big fan of rereading. Even when it comes to movies, I don’t rewatch many unless I have the hankering to. Me and my family really only buy books and movies that we have read or seen before. Maybe that makes us hesitant to try new things or stingy when it comes to giving up our favorites but I’m definitely okay with it. I just want time to read books that I haven’t read yet, as quickly as possible. Over the summer I may do some rereading, but I do want to get some books marked off  my list to at least give me a sense of accomplishment. Do you reread books often?

"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested."

Cats. Cameras. Confusion.

A Blog by Mary Mathis


A Year of Books

A Little Blog of Books

Book reviews and other literary-related musings

Engineering an Education

An in-depth Look at Education

Not Taken, Not Available

I got 99 problems, but a dick ain't one.

Kennedy Cougar Chat

from the desk of Principal Jason Kline

Shut Up Dad

I'm doing comics

YA Crush

Pass a note to your favorite YA book

The Book Stop

I think, therefore I read.

Write me a book, John!

All things books, all the time

Fashion Feen

beauty and style tips & tricks

Art History & the Art of History

"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested."

Love Me at 17

"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment" Ralph Waldo Emerson


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 111 other followers