Saturday, March 8, 2014

"Flappers and Philosophers" by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Wow.  This is my 200th post on this blog!  I feel like I should throw a party or something.  That's pretty groovy.

Anyway, Flappers and Philosophers was Fitzgerald's first short story collection, and from what the foreword of the copy I read said, many of the stories had been published in magazines previously.  Some are better than others, and a couple are superb, but they all have that Fitzgerald flair for jewel-like prose.  Here's a little of what I thought of each story:

"The Offshore Pirate" was amusing at first, a little tense in the middle, and had an ending that I liked first-rate.

"The Ice Palace" was sad, but kind of predictable.

"Head and Shoulders" felt like an O. Henry story, with one of those 'do you get it now?' endings.

"The Cut-Glass Bowl" was depressing and I didn't like it.

"Bernice Bobs Her Hair" kept me equally amused and exasperated, and by the end I liked it a great deal.

"Benediction" confused me a bit -- what was the ending supposed to mean?  If you know, please tell me.

"Dalrymple Goes Wrong" annoyed me at the end, when justice was not served.

"The Four Fists" was nifty and amusing, and had a pretty original idea behind it.

Overall, I really liked this collection, and wouldn't mind owning a copy.  I'm liking Fitzgerald more and more all the time -- I think I liked this better as a whole than both The Great Gatsby and This Side of Paradise.  In fact, I can't wait to read more of his short stories -- probably Tales of the Jazz Age.  It'll be interesting to watch his writing progress, as that was his next collection.

Particularly Good Bits:

When Ardita defied convention -- and of late it had been her chief amusement -- it was from an intense desire to be herself, and she felt that this man, on the contrary, was preoccupied with his own defiance.  (from "The Offshore Pirate")

Yet, like all men who are preoccupied with their own broadness, he was exceptionally narrow.  (from "The Cut-Glass Bowl")

At eighteen our convictions are hills from which we look; at forty-five they are caves in which we hide.  (from "Bernice Bobs Her Hair")

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for occasional mild innuendo and alcohol consumption.

This is my fourth book read and reviewed for The Classics Club and my third for the I Love Library Books Challenge.


  1. I read The Great Gatsby this year and while I enjoyed it more than in high school, I still was a little so-so about it. I found it was difficult to connect to the characters as Fitzgerald did not really make them multi-faceted, but I assumed his treatment of them was to make a point. It's good to know that you liked these short stories better than TGG because I'd like to try him again at some point.

    Congratulations on your 200th post!!! ***** balloons and party streamers! Oh, and clapping ….. ******

    1. I first read Gatsby after I'd finished college, and didn't care for it much either. I reread it last year and, maybe I was just in the right mood for it or something, but I liked it much better. The characters are a bit thin, and the story is slight, but overall it's like a stunning sunset -- transitory, but breathtaking for a few minutes.

      But with both Fitzgerald and Hemingway, it's their writing style I love, not their stories. The way they construct sentences, their observations on life, the way they use words. The stories and characters I don't connect with nearly as much as I do with so many other books. Which is why they'll never be my absolute favorite writers, because characters are very important to me. But I also love their writing too much to quit reading them. Maybe that's why I like their short stories better than their novels?

      And thanks! I was pretty excited when I happened to notice that number. No real idea why, it was just cool.

  2. My Book Club is reading The Great Gatsby for April and I might do some supplemental reading of other Fitzgerald works, starting with "Flappers and Philosophers." Thanks for the review.

    1. I dream of joining or starting a book club some day. They sound like such fun! And a good way to introduce yourself to new books. Gatsby is quite short, so adding in some of his short stories would be very feasible and fun!

  3. I'm planning on finishing up Tales of the Jazz Age sometime soon. Overall, I liked his novels better than his short stories, but his stories had some flashes of brilliance! I haven't read Flappers and Philosophers - that might be next!

    1. I just bought a copy of Tender is the Night at the library's used book sale this weekend, and I'm looking forward to getting to it soonish. But I also have Tales of the Jazz Age borrowed from the library, so will read that first.

  4. A couple weeks ago, I was in our public library, and they had an entire table devoted to a short story display. This was not one they had, though, because if they did, I would have picked it up, as I quite like F. Scott Fitzgerald. I definitely want to see if they have this collection (even if it wasn't on display).

    1. I actually have it in a two-book collection called "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" that has both Flappers and Philosophers and his next short-story collection, Tales of the Jazz Age together in one book. That's what my library had.

  5. So I finished! :-) On the whole, I think I'm glad I read Tales from the Jazz Age first (even though they're all written later) as, by and large, I did like it better--but his prose is still lyrically stunning here and I enjoyed that.

    But here's a quick run-down:

    The Offshore Pirate had some quite humorous bits, but I also found it frustrating. What point have they exactly reached at the end? I mean, has she changed at all? I guess perhaps she has--because she doesn't go off in a huff when she finds out what's happened?

    I really wanted to like The Ice Palace as the premise is a favorite of mine, but the mentor's hypothesis about Swedes was highly irritating. Still, that's a solely personal matter as I have a strong Swedish heritage. ;-)

    Head and Shoulders I actually really liked all the way up to the end. The idea of coming to see our philosophy as actually fitting into and melding with daily life and coming to see the full vitality all around us... So just wondering about the end...does he throw it all out then?

    The Cut-Glass Bowl seemed to be talking about the 'problem' of suffering and pain in the world. The ending was tragic, but also breathtaking in description.

    Bernice Bobs Her Hair -- another question: what exactly has she decided at the end? She's obviously decided they're all cold and heartless, but has she actually become one of them by her ending escapade? Or is it a just retribution on her cousin by someone who refuses to get caught up in the 'modern' charade? Or is it just all humor that I didn't get?

    Benediction I actually really liked. From what I could figure out, her brother views Lois as a sort of angel, going on before him and yet really she's turning apostate. So the ending idea seems to be: whose prayers will really prevail and "save" the other? (not ultimately, but in the sense that our prayers are used by God). So in the end she goes off, but there's still a hope that someday she might come back. The only thing I can't quite figure out is whether Fitzgerald himself was tossing the church itself out completely (in this story particularly; I know he himself turned away)--so I can't quite figure out the whole chapel bit (with the candle-flame and the "dead men", etc) factors in. But then there's such an emphasis on the "Blessed be God" response, and such good fellowship and camaraderie and love between the monks. What are your thoughts on it?

    Is Dalyrimple Goes Wrong a critique of a corrupt government?

    And The Four Fists was probably my second favorite. I just really liked the tone and the whole take on the "growing to maturity" theme. And he learned his lesson (I always like characters who do that). And it had some wonderfully memorable, quotable bits. Thanks so much for letting me ramble! And I'd love to know what you think! :-)

    1. Oh, but now you're asking me to remember details about short stories I read three months ago! Okay, here's my best at discussing your questions:

      In "The Off-Shore Pirate," I think she realized she couldn't fake her way through life anymore -- she'd been out-faked.

      For "Head and Shoulders," um... I don't know? It felt like a pat and over-neat story to me, and I didn't spend much time thinking about it.

      I think that in "Bernice Bobs Her Hair" she's found out just how useful fitting in can be, and how unuseful. I feel like she would go home and adjust both her expectations and behavior a bit.

      I like your take on "Benediction." Really, I couldn't tell at the end of she was tossing aside the guy or her brother, or what -- like I said, that one confused me.

      I think "Dalrymple Goes Wrong" is about corruption on all levels, and how easy it is to give up convictions for convenience.

    2. Oh, dear, I thought it might be hard -- you remembered quite excellently! And thanks...a couple of them were rather bugging me and that does all make a lot of sense! :-)

    3. I tend to remember novels better than short stories, as I spent longer in their worlds. Unless I like the short story well enough to read it more than once -- that helps :-) Glad I at least un-bugged you on a couple things!


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