Babylon Revisited by F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1931
The magic trick:
Writing really good sentences that beautifully encapsulate the essential sadness within the story
Talk about stating the obvious, right? This story is good because Fitzgerald wrote good sentences? Well, yes. That’s what he does. Fitzgerald always had a knack for breaking into his stories’ narrative to drop absurdly wise and poetic bits of knowledge that serve as sort of Cliff’s Notes summaries to his main themes.
In “Babylon Revisited,” he actually is far less verbose than in much of his earlier work, but he still is capable of the occasional jaw-dropper. It’s funny because a writer is usually taught to show and not tell. I’m praising Fitzgerald’s ability to do the exact opposite. He shows and tells. And that’s quite a trick on Fitzgerald’s part.
All the catering to vice and waste was on an utterly childish scale, and he suddenly realized the meaning of the word “dissipate” – to dissipate into thin air; to make nothing of something. In the little hours of the night every move from place to place was an enormous human jump, an increase of paying for the privilege of slower and slower motion.