Aha Moment: This Side of Paradise

Studio 360
The World

Growing up in Brooklyn, Sandra Sherman’s view of the world was limited. “I was supposed to go to Brooklyn College, if I went to college at all, stay at home, and become a high-school teacher just like my parents,” she remembers. “And I felt very claustrophobic in a sense in that everybody I knew was pushing me to be somebody that I didn’t really feel that I wanted to be.”
Sherman took refuge at a local library. One day she picked up F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel This Side of Paradise, mistaking it for an adventure story. Instead, it’s the story of a privileged young man trying to understand his place in the world. Amory Blaine goes to Princeton, works at the college magazine, plays sports, but “never fully inhabits a persona,” Sherman explains.
That yearning felt familiar: “This book made me realize that there were people who were not complacent. I finally saw that I had to get out of Brooklyn however that was possible and make my life so that I could be like the people in the book.”
Although Sherman has pursued a variety of careers – from law professor to culinary historian – she feels she’s still in search of her true calling. “I’ve always carried the same sort of longing that Amory Blaine had,” she says. “And longing is, in a sense, always perceiving opportunities and then wishing somehow that you can reach them, and not always being able to do that.”
Ed Herbstman and Claire Epstein read passages from the book.

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