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This Side of Paradise

Sarah makes an unsophisticated remark and the faces simper in delight- "How innocent the poor child is!" They're warming themselves at her virtue. But Sarah sees the simper and never makes that remark again. Only she feels a little colder after that.-This Side of Paradise

I have a mad fascination with this book, even though it's not particularly relevant or well-written. Yay?

Amory's conversation with himself is one of my favorite passages in any book. So I post it here:

He walked over to Fifth Avenue, dodging the blind, black menace of umbrellas, and standing in front of Delmonico's hailed an auto-bus. Buttoning his coat closely around him he climbed to the roof, where he rode in solitary state through the thin, persistent rain, stung into alertness by the cool moisture perpetually reborn on his cheek. Somewhere in his mind a conversation began, rather resumed its place in his attention. It was composed not of two voices, but of one, which acted alike as questioner and answerer:

Question. Well- what's the situation?

Answer. That I have about twenty-four dollars to my name.

Q. You have the Lake Geneva estate.

A. But I intend to keep it.

Q. Can you live?

A. I can't imagine not being able to. People make money in books and I've found that I can always do the things that people do in books. Really they are the only things I can do.

Q. Be definite.

A. I don't know what I'll do- nor have I much curiosity. To-morrow I'm going to leave New York for good. It's a bad town unless you're on top of it.

Q. Do you want a lot of money?

A. No. I am merely afraid of being poor.

Q. Very afraid?

A. Just passively afraid.

Q. Where are you drifting?

A. Don't ask me!

Q. Don't you care?

A. Rather. I don't want to commit moral suicide.

Q. Have you no interests left?

A. None. I've no more virtue to lose. Just as a cooling pot gives off heat, so all through youth and adolescence we give off calories of virtue. That's what's called ingenuousness.

Q. An interesting idea.

A. That's why a "good man going wrong" attracts people. They stand around and literally warm themselves at the calories of virtue he gives off. Sarah makes an unsophisticated remark and the faces simper in delight- "How innocent the poor child is!" They're warming themselves at her virtue. But Sarah sees the simper and never makes that remark again. Only she feels a little colder after that.

Q. All your calories gone?

A. All of them. I'm beginning to warm myself at other people's virtue.

Q. Are you corrupt?

A. I think so. I'm not sure. I'm not sure about good and evil at all any more.

Q. Is that a bad sign in itself?

A. Not necessarily.

Q. What would be the test of corruption?

A. Becoming really insincere- calling myself "not such a bad fellow," thinking I regretted my lost youth when I only envy the delights of losing it. Youth is like having a big plate of candy. Sentimentalists think they want to be in the pure, simple state they were in before they ate the candy. They don't. They just want the fun of eating it all over again. The matron doesn't want to repeat her girlhood- she wants to repeat her honeymoon. I don't want to repeat my innocence. I want the pleasure of losing it again.

Q.Where are you drifting?

This dialogue merged grotesquely into his mind's most familiar state- a grotesque blending of desires, worries, exterior impressions and physical reactions.

Now for other favorite quotes:

He had realized that his best interests were bound up with those of a certain variant, changing person, whose label in order that his ppast might always be identidied with him, was Amory Blaine. Amory marked himself a fortunate youth, who was capable of infinite expansion for good or evil. He did not consider himself a "strong char'c'c'ter," but relied on his facility (learn things sorta quick) and his superior mentality (read a lotta deep books). He was proud of the fact that he could never become a mechanical or scientific genius. From no other heights was he debarred.

"I'm not sentimental- I'm as romantic as you are, The idea, you know, is that the sentimental person thinks things will last- the romantic person has a desperate confidence that they won't.

"I am selfish," he thought. "This is not a quality that will change when I 'see human suffering' or 'lose my parents' or 'help others'. This selfishness is not only part of me. It is the most living part. It is by somehow transcending rather than by avoidning that selfishness that I can bring poise and balance into my life. There is no virtue of unselfishness that I cannot use. I can make sacrifices, be charitable, give to a friend, endure for a friend, lay down my life for a friend- all because those things may be the best possible expression for myself; yet I have not one drop of the milk of human kindness."

"Well, I simply state that I'm a product of a versatile mind in a restless generation- with every reason to throw my mind and pen in with the radicals. Even if, deep in my heart, I thought we were all blind atoms in a world as limited as a stroke of a pendulum, I and my sort would struggle against the tradition...One thing I know. If living isn't a seeking for the grail it may be a damned amusing game."

"I know myself," he cried. "But that is all."

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