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.