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Jazz Age Stories (Penguin Twentieth Century Classics) [Paperback]

F. Scott Fitzgerald , Patrick O'Donnell

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27 May 1999 014118048X 978-0141180489 New edition
"A generation grown up to find all Gods dead, all wars fought, all faiths in man shaken", was how F. Scott Fitzgerald defined his age. Perhaps nowhere in American fiction is this statement better exemplified than in Fitzgerald's first two volumes of short fiction: Flappers and Philosophers and Tales of the Jazz Age. Penguin's new Jazz Age Stories gathers all of these early pieces in one volume, which together capture the shine and seductive sound of early American jazz, the scandalous affronts to religious pieties, the nights of drunken revelry, and the impending doom of financial, moral, and intellectual dissolution. Spanning the early twentieth-century American landscape -- the Minnesota of his youth, the Princeton college years, the squalor and opulence of New York -- this collection contains unforgettable images of modern America, and eloquently expresses Fitzgerald's theme of the enchantment and disillusionment of materialism. Jazz Age Stories includes "The Ice Palace", "Bernice Bobs Her Hair", and "A Diamond as Big as The Ritz".

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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (27 May 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014118048X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141180489
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 12.7 x 2.5 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,905,166 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Important Collection of Fitzgerald's Work 7 May 2000
By Mr Mondo - Published on Amazon.com
Nostalgia has an inevitable foreshortening effect upon reputation. For most of us, Fitzgerald is the perenially young, perenially arch chronicler of the 1920s Jazz Age -- of bathtub gin, flappers, rumrunners and boats born ceaselessly back.
This collection of short stories does much to restore an unappreciated side of Fitzgerald the writer, most notably his willingness to experiment with technique, his almost existential grasp of human absurdity and his articulation of unease and pessimism about the possibilities of the American Dream.
The stories range widely in quality from precious parodies from his Princeton years ("Jemina") to profoundly moving glimpses of the human condition ("The Lees of Happiness"). Even the most insubstantial of the stories printed here are worth the read for, if nothing else, they show that even at his youngest and roughest, Fitzgerald had a keen grasp of voice and description and how to use it to breath life into wispy plot lines.
I take issue with some of the critical recommendations contained in Patrick O'Donnell's fine introduction to the collection. I did not, for instance, find "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz" particularly impressive. I think the best stories are those that hew to a psychological theme prevalent in Fitzgerald's fiction and his adult life -- the dread of what comes after youth and a nostalgic fixation on youth as the best time in a person's life. The stories I liked most -- "The Lees of Happiness," "The Ice Palace," "The Cut Glass Bowl," "Benediction," "The Four Fists," "'O Russet Witch!'" -- all tackle this theme.
Many of the stories in this volume aren't profound, but are just a delightful read. I defy you, for instance, to read "The Camel's Back" without bursting out loud in laughter over its protagonist's gyrations and setbacks in quest of his true love.
There is a wistfulness at the center of Fitzgerald's prose and his life story that seems to have faded from our collective remembrance of him as a Great American Author. This volume does much to remind us of that winsome note and to remind us that Fitzgerald paid dearly for it in his personal life as it lit up his writing at the same time.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fitzgerald - Master of the Short Story 8 May 2000
By "nickcarraway" - Published on Amazon.com
F. Scott Fitzgerald may be remembered most often as the author of "The Great Gatsby", but during his lifetime, he earned most of his income by writing short stories for magazines. This compilation includes many of his earlier classics, all dealing with the same wealthy class of people that appear in his novels. "Bernice Bobs Her Hair" is a delightful tale about the lengths (literally) that girls will go to in order to fit in socially. "The Offshore Pirate" is a compelling and romantic story with an exciting and climactic ending. In addition, "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz", a longer and quite famous story has a brilliant plot; a boy visits his wealthy friend's home, and while he enjoys himself immensely and even falls in love, he finds out that the visit may come at a hefty price. "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" is a hilarious story about a man born looking like he is 70 years old, and looking progressively younger as he "ages", so that he eventually seems younger than his grandson. All in all, you cannot miss with any of his stories, and they make great evening reads - one a day will surely keep the doctor away!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mesmerizing Words 26 Aug 2005
By Ronald Pompeo - Published on Amazon.com
Jazz Age Stories is a collection of Fitzgerald's early works and a hodgepodge of storylines that don't overlap characters (except once very briefly) and repeat similar themes. Each story stands alone as unique, some more beautiful or haunting than others; some are plain duds so short that they ended before they seemed to have even started, leaving you wondering, "and so what's the point?" Overall, this book offers a good variety of both fun and thought.

I won't attempt to describe all the stories here and I can't pinpoint the "one" that I liked best, as many are standouts. The three tops for me were "Bernice Bobs Her Hair", "The Cut Glass Bowl", and "The Ice Palace". Others I liked were "Benediction", "Head and Shoulders", and "The Four Fists".

"Bernice Bobs Her Hair" centers on Bernice who is spending a few weeks visiting her cousin Margaret; both are wealthy girls. It's a complex story about teenagers' personal relationships and how these teens deal with the opposite sex and how they interact among their own sex. It describes their obsessions to attain high social status and self-gratification, finally boiling down to their wicked pranks in using people to make themselves look good at the expense of others. The title character Bernice gets caught up in all of this. The ending is a classic!

I also enjoyed "The Cut Glass Bowl" in the way Fitzgerald masterfully builds his story around the characters coming into physical contact with the bowl and how that "contact" subsequently alters their lives. But this is not just any ordinary bowl.

"The Ice Palace" is the poignant tale of a small-town southern girl who goes north to visit her Yankee fiance and ends up experiencing a completely different world, one so foreign from her own in terms of the cold all around her, and I'm not just talking about the freezing snow and ice but also the personalities too.

"The Diamond As Big As the Ritz" got Fitzgerald a lot of attention, but I disliked it personally not only because it bordered on a bizarre science-fiction plot but also because the tone was hard-core surrealistic and dark. Even for a Fitzgerald piece, it was too absurd to enjoy because the plot was distracting. It's about a college student during summer vacation who visits his friend who comes from an ultra-super rich family living in the middle of nowhere in Montana in a jewel studded mansion guarded by anti-aircraft guns and where trespassers are kidnapped and held captive and guests are..... Well, that's an awful lot to swallow.

While Fitzgerald did write absurd plots, the tone in these were light and the storylines captivating. For instance: "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" is the reverse story of birth, in which the "baby" starts life as a 70 year old man and gradually grows younger and younger; and "O Russet Witch!", in which a single russet-hair, stunning beauty one day alights from a limousine and somehow as if by magic causes a massive traffic jam affecting the entire city of New York. Absurd, yes; but Fitzgerald's point is by no means absurd.

Finally, reading short stories in one respect is good, as you don't need to spend days or weeks to find out how they end, as is the case with novels. The downside is that since the stories are short they don't seem to deliver the same level of power or characterization that long novels do. However, with Fitzgerald's natural-born gift and exuberance for writing mesmerizing words, you can't go wrong with either kind of story, long or short.
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