I just bought a new collection of his short stories. I’ve read one or two. But before I dive in fully, I’m curious as to the opinions of fellow dopers who may be familiar with them.
Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone? Bueller?
I think they’re terrific. They’re not on a par with Gatsby or Tender is the Night, but you can see him sharpening his skills. And some of them are astounding. “The Glass Bowl” I recall was terrific. And one about some folks who are circus performers. Alas, I remember loving it but don’t remember the actual plot or title.
Oh, and “Bernice Bobs Her Hair” is justly famous.
Well notcynical sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner - I am at a client where I don’t have access to message boards, so i have to check at night…
Anyway - good for you - Fitzgerald’s short stories are amazing - some of the best written by an American author - or any author, period.
He tended to use his short stories - which he wrote more to make money, as opposed to his novels, which he considered “art” - to work out the themes, characters and plot devices he intended to use in his novels. Maxwell Perkins, his editor at Scribners, tended to publish a novel of Fitzgerald’s, then follow it up the next year with a collection of short stories originally published in magazines that related to the novel. The most well-known are the “Gatsby Cluster” stories, published one year after Gatsby in the book “All the Sad Young Men” (which has one of the coolest Art Deco dust jackets ever - except for Gatsby, of course…
of the Gatsy Cluster stories, Winter Dreams and The Rich Boy are considered his finest. I personally found Winter Dreams to be his finest work - all of the complexity and class distinctions from Gatsby packed into a short story - wonderful characters, flowing prose. As for the Rich Boy, it is the work - NOT Gatsby - that contains one of FSF’s most famous lines: “Let me tell you something about the rich - they are different from you and me.” (I may have have that exact, but you know the line).
Some of his other stories are really wonderful, too - Rags Martin-Jones and the Prince of Wales, A Diamond as Big as the Ritz (which I didn’t like, but lots of people do), Absolution, Babylon Revisited - all great.
Read and enjoy. And if you haven’t read Hemingway’s short stories, you are in for a huge treat. “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” is the best freaking short story I have ever read in my life…
I have to second on “Bernice Bobs Her Hair”. It’s funny how accurately Fitzgerald can describe reality from a woman’s (or in this case an adolescent girl’s) point of view. I remember reading somewhere that he considered himself being mentally half male half female. Some other short stories that seem to cling to my memory are “The Lees of Happiness”, a bittersweet story about love and loss, the tragic “An Alcoholic Case”, and the hilarious “Gretchen’s Forty Winks”. For stories on adolescence, budding life and great expectations (frankly, some of them are quite cheesy, still I can’t help but finding them irresistible), there is a series of them in “The Basil and Josephine Stories”, some of which are said to contain autobiographical material.
Oh, now I find myself being all jealous of you getting to read all these great stories for the first time. I keep returning to to them time after time…
Don’t forget the famous comeback (from Hemingway?): “Yeah, they have more money.”
Ah yes, “Winter Dreams”, thank you for reminding me WordMan! That’s really the essence of Fitzgerald isn’t it? The well-thumbed copy is definitely coming down from the bookshelf today…
As someone who’s read both, I’d advise you to read “Babylon Revisited” instead of (Ugh!) “The Great Gatsby”.
I am about to get onto a conference call, so I can’t check the cite, but it is my recollection that the truth is that while Fitzgerald wrote the line and it was taken from real life, it happened to Hemingway - in other words, Hemingway was the one who had been going about hanging out with rich people and one of them (I don’t recall who) retorted back “the only difference between rich people and others is that they have more money” and put Ernest in his place. He later repeated the story to others and put Fitzgerald in the humbling position, not himself.
When Jack Dann published “The Diamond Pit,” his wonderful update of “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz,” I realized that either I had somehow never read the original or more likely had simply forgotten about it over three decades. I found Bruccoli’s massive 800-page edition of Fitzgerald’s best stories and read and read and read.
WordMan is correct that Fitzgerald deliberately used his short fiction to achieve different goals than his novels, and his greatest art is in the longer lengths. When I recently reread Gatsby I was stunned at the airy purity of the prose. If any novel ever deserved its rep…
But the early short stories are slight and the later ones are repetitious in character and theme. This is a comparative statement: some are classics and all are very good by any normal standards of writing. I’d rate Hemingway superior as a short story writer, though, if only because the short stories meant more to him artistically.
I’ve also heard that Hemingway was on the receiving end of the “rich” comeback originally and vindictively turned it against Fitzgerald. Even if that’s not true, all the comment proves is that anything can be made to sound idiotic when ripped from context. Both Fitzgerald and Hemingway are case histories of the fact that if we have to discount all those deficient in quality of character from the world of art we would have a very small canon indeed.
My favorite Fitzgerald short story is “The Offshore Pirate.” I don’t really want to say why, for fear of ruining it for anyone, but try it, you might like it.