Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Short Stories on Wednesday: Jazz Age Stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short stories have been on my must-read list for a long time now but I never got around to it. Last month I read Hemmingway’s A Movable Feast which shows Fitzgerald in a rather comedic and mostly unflattering light. But even Hemmingway has nothing but praise for Fitzgerald’s body of work. So I was wondering where to start when I stumbled on to Laurie’s blog Fitzgerald Musings and saw that she had mentioned stories that she thought were Fitzgerald’s finest.  Since Laurie’s blog is named after, and dedicated to F. Scott Fitzgerald, I figured I could do no better than to start with her recommendations. I’m glad I did. Onto the stories.

Winter Dreams
Dexter is an enterprising and sensible young man. Except when it comes to Judy Jones the beautiful heartbreaker. The story itself is a familiar one; we’ve all heard, read or seen it before. The beauty lies in the telling. I’ve heard it said that this story was sort of a test drive of the Great Gatsby idea. In any case it was a very well told and memorable story. Here it is if you'd like to read it online.

Bernice Bob’s Her Hair
Bernice is a well bred but socially inept young girl who’s visiting her cousin Marjorie who is hugely popular. Marjorie reluctantly gives Bernice a mini-makeover and suddenly Bernice starts to get a lot more attention from the guys. It’s all going great until a miffed Marjorie calls her bluff. I really liked the way Fitzgerald constructed Bernice’s character. I find it rare that a male author can describe a female mind without it sounding fake or stilted. Fitzgerald really nails it here. Check it out online.

The Diamond as Big as the Ritz
This is such fantastical tale, sort of Arabian nights meets a Rider Haggard adventure. John T Unger is visiting his friend Percy Washington. But Percy is not from a run-of-the-mill wealthy family. For one, they live on a giant, hidden diamond and do bizarre things to keep it hidden. As much as this is thrilling and hilarious it is also a satire on the isolation and the ethical void that the very wealthy seem to live in. You can read it here.

The Offshore Pirate
How often have you read/seen/heard a romantic comedy which was equal parts romantic and funny without the extreme cheesiness that so often plagues the genre? Fitzgerald shows us how it’s done in The Offshore Pirate.  It about an obstinate and free spirited young girl who falls for a mysterious pirate. I don’t want to tell you anymore about the story because it would ruin it for you. Read it here and enjoy.

The Rich Boy
Begin with an individual, and before you know it you find that you have created a type; begin with a type, and you find that you have created — nothing.” When a story begins with a line like this, you know it’s going to be good. For some reason that I cannot adequately explain in a few sentences, this struck me as a really sad story. Not because anything bad happens but because the gradual decline of Anson Hunter, the protagonist, is almost like watching the slow decay of a magnificent edifice. Funny when you think about it because Anson is a privileged man, adored by women, genuinely loved by at least two of them; hardly an underdog. He is in fact the sort of arrogant, spoilt, rich kid you should hate instantly. But you don’t. It’s amazing. Read it here.

I’m not for a minute suggesting that these are Fitzgerald’s best stories. For one, I haven’t read enough of his stories to judge and for another, I don’t believe you can rank and grade stories. What this list does, however, is to give you an idea of the amazing range and variety of Fitzgerald’s work. No two stories are alike but they’re all really satisfying.


  1. Thank you so much for posting these stories. I regularly read short stories and plan to include some collections in my to be read list for 2012. Sometimes short stories are so good I end up reading a novel by the author.

  2. Hi Che,
    My list of Fitzgerald that I've read is rather short. The Great Gatsby (of course), and for my book club's annual "short story month" I've read "Diamond as Big as the Ritz," and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button." This year, as part of my own project, I read "Babylon Revisited." All of which I liked, but probably Benjamin Button was my favorite. A few of my comments on Diamond as Big as the Ritz are at

    It's always good to have a guide (as you did with Laurie's blog, which I'm about to go check out) to suggest some of the best stories to get one's feet wet before wading in to an author's stories too.


  3. I love Laurie's blog, I knew nothing about Fitzgerald before stumbling upon her blog and now I definitely plan on reading some of his more famous work soon.

    The Diamond as Big as the Ritz sounds like a fun story.

  4. I am glad you enjoyed them- There are so many, and I am still working on getting through them. Keep plugging away there are many gems to discover.

  5. The only Fitzgerald short story I have read is "Babylon Revisited"-I enjoyed it a lot-I hope to read more of his stories one day and thank you for this good list of suggestions-question-have you yet read any short stories by Maim Gorky?

  6. Judaye I like to check out the stories you post on. Read Chekov's Darling on your recommendation.

    Jay I'll be reading Benjamin Button and Babylon Revisited soon. I've heard so much about them.

    Sam The Diamond... is a hilarious story. do give it a go.

    Laurie I will be watching your blog for more Fitzgerald goodness :)Thanks for leading me to these stories.

    Mel U Sadly no. I've read his Mother and Childhood and loved them so I cant imagine why I haven't read his short stories yet.

  7. Ooops sorry! I meant to tell Jay about Chekov's Darling. I'm a bit frazzled today :)

  8. For me, 2012 is going to be the year of reading short stories. Thanks for the many useful links, Che.

  9. Prashant You are very welcome. If you plan to read short stories in 2012 I hope you will join us in the Short Stories on Wednesday event.

  10. Thanks for the invite, Che. I used to read short stories but only intermittently. Short stories bring as much joy as books, perhaps even more. I've already made a small beginning with Chekov's "A Nincompoop" and "The Lottery Ticket" both of which I had in school.

  11. "Bernice Bobs Her Hair" I remember finding sharp and depressing. But I agree that Fitzgerald really slipped into the mindset of the young women beautifully. I will look into the others too - thanks for the recommendations.

    I'll also chime in and recommend "Babylon Revisited" :) It really is a great one.

  12. Prashant and HKatz thanks for the recommendations. I've just read Babylon Revisited since I heard so much praise and all of it justified :) Chekov's "A Nincompoop" next.

  13. I read a bit of The Great Gatsby and didn't enjoy it, so I put it down after a few chapters. I might give these short stories a read before I attempt to read that again. Thanks for sharing these! :)

  14. Sophie the stories I've listed are so varied that you're certain to find something to your taste. Enjoy.

  15. Hi! Thanks for sharing these stories that you have read. There are quite a few that I am interested in as I've browsed through here on your blog.

    I've never read Fitzgerald and maybe by starting with his short stories I might appreciate his novels. :)

    Thanks for dropping by my blog! :)