Sometimes I read a ‘classic’ author and I wonder why the heck anyone thinks it’s still worth reading, and other times I will read a ‘classic’ author and realize that the author is still relevant and accessible and well worth reading. This collection of early short stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald fits comfortably in the latter category.
Oddly enough, I’m not a huge fan of Fitzgerald’s novels, but I’ve long admired his short works. I feel as though his short fiction really captures the era – the jazz age (coined by Fitzgerald) – better than any other author of the time. I see it in the characters who always seem to be on the verge of crossing from innocence to experience within the confines of the stories.
Sometimes this transformation is not too subtle (remember, these are Fitzgerald’s early short stories) as in the first story “Babes in the Woods” – the second section of which opens with “Isabelle and Kenneth were distinctly not innocent, nor were they particularly hardened.”
Consider also ‘Omar’ (not the young man’s name, but …”I just call you Omar because you remind me of a smoked cigarette”) who has fallen in love with Marcia Meadow and says, “Every person I’ve met on the streets since I met you has made me jealous because they knew what love was before I did.”
I also noticed twice Fitzgerald describes the discovery of kisses – “kisses that were not a promise but a fulfillment” and “kisses that were like charity, creating want by holding back nothing at all” – which also seem to describe that moment of a characters step into a new stage of life.
My favorite story here was “The Camel’s Back” (from 1920) in which Perry Parkhurst decides that his long-time engagement to Betty Medill has gone on long enough so he presents her with an ultimatum: get married immediately or part ways. They do part ways, which sends Perry into a funk and he retreats to alcohol. Where does the camel’s back come in? You’ll have tor read the story.
Some of these stories are clearly not as polished as Fitzgerald’s later works, but that’s part of the charm in reading them, knowing that these are early works from a master.
I highly recommend this collection.
Included in the book:
“Babes in the Woods”
“The Pierian Springs and the Last Straw”
“Sentiment—And the Use of Rouge”
“The Spire and the Gargoyle”
“The Camel’s Back”
“The Cut-Glass Bowl”
“Dalyrimple Goes Wrong”
“The Four Fists”
“Head and Shoulders”
“The Lees of Happiness”
“Jemina, the Mountain Girl”
“Tarquin of Cheapside”
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Looking for a good book? The Early Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald is a wonderful collection of short fiction by a master story-teller.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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The Early Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald
author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
publisher: Dover Publications
paperback, 256 pages