I enjoyed the counter-raid so thoroughly

p. 7:

I enjoyed the counter-raid so thoroughly that I came back restless.

Nick nonchalantly mentions that he was a soldier in the Great War – which was only called World War I later, when the world realized there was a World War II. Half a sentence, that’s all that we hear about his participation in the largest armed conflict mankind had ever seen. And then he spouts this offhand line about his time in Europe and the dislocation he felt on returning home.

This is one of the few lines I enjoy fully only for knowing something about Fitzgerald’s life. It was one of his great puerile regrets that he never fought in the war. I forget why this undesired fortune befell him – maybe it was just timing, he was still in basic training, or possibly he developed some medical condition that kept him stateside. But he was always envious of men who went to war and were therefore more manly, more worldly. So while it’s possible that this sentence is a fine encapsulation of gently repressed post-traumatic stress, authentically felt by actual veterans of the time – it’s more likely that it’s a romantic projection of how Fitzgerald imagines he would have felt had he actually gone to hell and come back a better man for it.

If not for the biographical enjoyment, I would have picked “the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men.” Beautiful.

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