The Beautiful and Damned tells the story of Anthony Patch, a 1910s socialite and presumptive heir to a tycoon's fortune, his relationship with his wife, Gloria, his service in the army, and his alcoholism.
Toward the end of the novel, Fitzgerald sums up his own plot somewhat himself, even referencing his own first novel, when a financially successful writer friend of Anthony's tells him: “You know these new novels make me tired. My God! Everywhere I go some silly girl asks me if I've read This Side of Paradise. Are our girls really like that? If it's true to life, which I don't believe, the next generation is going to the dogs. I'm sick of all this shoddy realism. I think there's a place for the romanticist in literature.”
The growth of intimacy is like that. First one gives off his best picture, the bright and finished product mended with bluff and falsehood and humor. Then more details are required and one paints a second portrait, and a third—before long the best lines cancel out—and the secret is exposed at last; the planes of the pictures have intermingled and given us away, and though we paint and paint we can no longer sell a picture. We must be satisfied with hoping that such fatuous accounts of ourselves as we make to our wives and children and business associates are accepted as true.