Saturday, June 17, 2017

F. Scott Fitzgerald's Six Tales Of The Jazz Age and Other Stories

I've been making my way through It's All One Case, the interviews of Ross MacDonald by Paul Nolan. Slowly, because I've really been enjoying it, and also slowly because it's sending me off in new directions of things to read. (Though MacDonald's fondness for Freud is not likely to get me to read Freud. I've read quite as much Freud as I'm ever likely to.)

One of the authors that MacDonald is particularly fond of, it turns out, is F. Scott Fitzgerald. Maybe that shouldn't have surprised me, both from the chronology and from the themes, but it did, a little. For instance, MacDonald says using a character at some distance from the story to tell the story's events came to him from Nick Carraway of The Great Gatsby. I would have thought he took the idea from Chandler or Hammett (about both of whom MacDonald has plenty to say) or even Dr. Watson, but it is also the case MacDonald's Archer stands a little further to the side than either Chandler's Marlowe or Hammett's Continental Op.

All that's by way of indicating why I have Fitzgerald in my mind at the moment. And in searching for a book I had around the house and had never read, there was F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tales of the Jazz Age and Other Stories.

(It's not that hard to find a book I own and haven't read, mind you. But too many choices can be incapacitating in a different way...)

The volume I have has nine stories with an interesting introduction by his daughter from 1960. It's not the same as Tales of the Jazz Age, which came out in 1922 and has an amusingly self-deprecating introduction by Fitzgerald himself and is available from Project Gutenberg. I point this out because I didn't know it, and I ended up reading both. They overlap, but both contain stories Fitzgerald published in the first part of the 1920s.

I don't mean to write anything deep about Fitzgerald--I couldn't add much, I fear. The stories I liked best were "The Diamond As Big As The Ritz" and "The Lees of Happiness." There were one or two clunkers, too, I thought, which was reassuring in its own way.

What surprised me about the stories, since I know the novels better, and particularly The Great Gatsby, is how much humor there was, and his use of fantasy. Both books included "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," which is known now from the recent movie, and is the story of Benjamin Button who is born old and grows young. I didn't see the movie, but Fitzgerald uses this fantastic trope in the story to satirize upper middle class mores. The story "The Diamond As Big As The Ritz" is equally fantastic and equally satirical. Not entirely what I expected.

Read for My Reader's Block Mount TBR Challenge.

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