Wednesday, March 26, 2014

"Tales of the Jazz Age" by F. Scott Fitzgerald

More Fitzgerald!  I think that, on a whole, I liked this collection better than Flappers and Philosophers (though it's hard to beat that title, isn't it?) just because there are more stories here that I want to read again.  Like his first short story collection, most of these had been published in magazines previously, and they're a pretty eclectic mix.  Which is such fun, because you never know what you're going to get when you begin a story.  Will it be gaudy?  Funny?  Melancholy?  Wacky?  They run quite a gamut.

Once again, here's a little of what I thought about each story:

"The Jelly-Bean" was okay, and a nice way to ease into the collection.

"The Camel's Back" made me laugh aloud.  A recommendation for this story from Dale at Mirror w/ Clouds is what led me to try Fitzgerald's short stories in the first place.

"May Day" has that depressing desperation that always feels to me like the crux of the Lost Generation.

"Porcelain and Pink" was sweet and funny and makes me smile just remembering it.

"The Diamond as Big as the Ritz" was weird and over-the-top and amusing.

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" was great.  I liked it better than the Brad Pitt movie that's based on it -- the movie went on too long, but the story is just right.

"Tarquin of Cheapside" was, um... odd.  Why Fitzgerald decided that Shakespeare stole a woman's virtue and then wrote "The Rape of Lucrece" as a result is beyond me. 

"O Russet Witch!" was also odd, but also enjoyable in a wistful way.

"The Lees of Happiness" was my favorite.  And it made me cry.  Fitzgerald has never made me cry before.  It's tragic, but not hopeless.

"Mr. Icky" was downright wacky.

"Jemina" was kind of lame, but slapstickishly funny here and there.

On a while, I enjoyed this collection a lot and would like to reread most of the stories some time.  I'll buy a copy should I come across it in the used book store or the library book sale.

Particularly Good Bits:

It is youth's felicity as well as its insufficiency that it can never live in the present, but must always be measuring up the day against its own radiantly imagined future -- flowers and gold, girls and stars, they are only prefigurations and prophecies of that incomparable, unattainable young dream.  (from "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz")

"It was a dream," said John quietly.  "everybody's youth is a dream, a form of chemical madness."  (from "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz")

Down long and sinuous lanes twisted the hunted and the harriers, always in and out of the moon in a perpetual queen's move over a checker-board of glints and patches.  (from "Tarquin of Cheapside")

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

This is my sixth book read and reviewed for The Classics Club, and my fourth for the I Love Library Books challenge.


  1. Glad you liked the stories! I still have May Day, O Russet Witch, Jemima and Mr. Icky left to read. I didn't care for the movie version of Benjamin Button, either. So far, my favorite story would go back and forth between The Camel's Back and The Lees of Happiness. Thanks for linking to my blog!

    1. I didn't exactly dislike the movie version of Benjamin Button, but it was just kind of... there. It was too glossy and trying too hard to be thought-provoking, maybe? The story is succinct and great.

      And you're welcome :-)

  2. How interesting! I've never read any of Fitzgerald's shorter works, but now I'll have to try them. Great review!

    1. I hadn't read any until this month, but I am absolutely loving them!

  3. The other day, I was in my library, and the catalog indicated that "Flappers and Philosophers" was checked in. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to locate it, not in the stacks nor on the "short story" table. I like Fitzgerald (well, "The Great Gatsby" anyway), so I would like to try his shorter works. I am definitely going to look for this one too.


    1. I hope you can find one or the other soon! If you like Gatsby, I'm sure you'll like several of the stories in these collections.

  4. I just read and reviewed this one too! My reactions to Fitzgerald's stories are mixed...they're mostly so tragic and depressing, but he writes so well that every once in a while I'm impelled almost against my will to try him again. But I loved "The Camel's Back"—I had no idea he could be so funny!

    1. What a cool coincidence that you just read this too!

      Yes, a lot of Fitzgerald is tragic or depressing -- I think maybe even more so than Hemingway. And yet, they both have such magnificent writing styles. I wallow and splash in their words even though their characters and plots leave me unsatisfied.

      And yes, "The Camel's Back" is delightful! Especially since the humor is so unexpected :-)

  5. What a great introduction to Fitzgerald! When I started I didn’t know what to expect, but I absolutely loved his narrative flavor, his turns of phrases and tone. One thing I found compelling is that, like so many other famous authors, he wasn’t/didn’t live as a Christian, but (because of artistic honesty, perhaps?) he had a tremendous handle of Christian themes and issues. Or perhaps, since Christianity is really about the nitty-gritty stuff of life a great author is naturally going to run against those themes if he’s being honest. Hmmm.

    The ones I didn’t like so much were:
    The Camel’s Back (though the scene in the costume store is priceless)
    The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
    Mr. Icky
    and Jemina.

    The others:
    For some reason, I really liked The Jelly-Bean (as in really liked it).

    May Day seemed almost like an illustration from Proverbs. Was the fairytale-ish beginning contrasting with the body of the story to say, “This is the way people wanted it to be/say it was, but this is what it was really like/what the war did”?

    Porcelain and Pink was wild…but funny.

    The Diamond as Big as the Ritz reminded me (in its set-up) of William Pene du Bois’s Twenty-One Balloons. Have you read that?

    Tarquin of Cheapside was just fascinating (plus I love Spenser so I loved the reference there :-)).

    ‘O Russet Witch!’ had some thought provoking questions along the May Day lines, but maybe illustrative more of the content of Ecclesiastes…about what makes a life.

    The Lees of Happiness was just beautiful. Sad, but simply beautiful.

    And there’s for my long comment! :-) I was wondering, would you recommend I next read some more of his short stories or one of his full length novels?

    Oh, and as of last night, I just started Mockingbird-and I’m thoroughly hooked! ;-)

    1. Huzzah! I love that you loved your first Fitzgerald. Isn't his writing just delicious?

      And I do find that he has a very staunch Protestant sensibility, much more so than Hemingway. While in real life he was pretty hedonistic, he does seem to disapprove of moral laxness in others, to point out how much misery it can cause. Writing from painful personal experience, perhaps? I sometimes feel like Fitzgerald is saying, "Look at us! We can do whatever we want... and now we don't really want to do anything after all." He's got a lot of disillusion going on, poor Fitzgerald.

      I'm curious -- what did you dislike about "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"?

      And as for whether I'd recommend you read another set of short stories or a novel... I've only read two of his novels, "This Side of Paradise" and "The Great Gatsby." Paradise is depressing, and Gatsby is dazzling. And the other short story collection I've read, "Flappers and Philosophers," is similarly enjoyable to this one. Hope that helps you choose!

      And you're making me want to revisit Mockingbird now. I NEED MORE HOURS IN THE DAY!!!!!!!!

    2. His writing is just amazing!!! And exactly! I was reading up about him today and yes, poor Fitzgerald...

      I think I mostly just didn't like the basic premise/set-up of CCBB (and not for any deep reasons). I should have mentioned that I really liked the ending though. The prose was just wonderful.

      Thank you! I think I'll try The Great Gatsby. The title's intrigued me for a while and I'd rather start with dazzling v. depressing-though I might try the other short stories first. I'll let you know when I'm done with one or the other. :-) ...and Mockingbird. ;-)

    3. I read Gatsby just about a year ago, and reviewed it here if you want to discuss it when you're done :-D Have fun!!!

    4. Thank you!! I'll be sure to let you know...and I'll probably most definitely have to discuss it. :-)

  6. Had no idea Fitzgerald was the author of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I never finished the movie b/c it was so, uh, odd? The female character annoyed me. But I'll take your word that the written story is better.

    1. I only remember bits of the movie, really. I saw it once, when it came to DVD, and was kind of underwhelmed. Definitely liked the story better!


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