Living Well is the Best Revenge

Tomkins, Calvin. Living Well is the Best Revenge. New York: Viking Press, 1962.

Reason read: F. Scott Fitzgerald’s birth month is September. Tender is the Night is (sort of) based on real life characters, Sara and Gerald Murphy. Living Well is the Best Revenge was also written about Sara and Gerald Murphy.

What is it about Sara and Gerald Murphy? Was it their personalities that made them so attractive? Or was it just the era they were living in at the time? This was back in the day when people gave houses as wedding gifts and didn’t worry about the red tape and mountains of paperwork that went with it. Maybe it was the people they associated with that made their light glow a little brighter. For Sara and Gerald Murphy could call Cole Porter, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, Igor Stravinsky, John Dos Passos, and, of course, F. Scott Fitzgerald as their friends. Maybe it was their talents. Gerald, encouraged and inspired by Picasso among others, spent nine years as an artist, creating breathtaking paintings. Sadly, he only produced ten works of art and many are either missing or have been destroyed. Together, Sara and Gerald knew how to throw an intimate, yet memorable party. They had personality and flair. Although this is a tiny book, Tomkins gives a succinct portrait of the captivating couple.

Quote I liked to describe Gerald, “Organizer of private gaiety, curator of a richly encrusted happiness” (p 86).

As an aside, I found it interesting to compare Tomkins and Vaill in what details they both considered worthy of inclusion in their books. For example, they both thought the story of Gerald falling through the ice and being made to finish a walk with his father in frozen clothes a telling detail of Gerald’s character.

Author fact: Tomkins has written a bunch of other works but I’m only reading Living Well is the Best Revenge.

Book trivia: Living Well is the Best Revenge is an incredibly short book, less than 150 pages. It is made even shorter by 44 pages of 74 fabulous photographs.

Nancy said: Living Well is the Best Revenge should be read together with Everybody Was So Young and Tender is the Night. They belong together.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the obvious chapter called “Companion Reads” (p 62).



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