Sunday, June 26, 2022

Flappers and Philosophers by F. Scott Fitzgerald

🔵 If you've been following my latest blog posts, you'd notice that I had shrunk before from reading this short story collection for #JazzAgeJune2022. I was daunted, at first, by my bulky Penguin Classics copy - 643 pages and, uh, so many stories (it's pictured in this post; gorgeous, isn't it? Probably the most gorgeous book I've ever owned!) However, browsing on google I realised that my copy isn't the Flappers and Philosophers originally published in 1920, which contained only eight stories, 200-ish pages only! And of those eight, only three stories appeared in my copy. So, I decided to keep reading Flappers and Philosophers as I've originally planned, but reading it from the original version - for which I reluctantly bought another e-copy from Play Books.

🔵 Readers, it's totally worth it! The eight stories are all awesome, and I think this is the first time that I enjoyed a short story collection this much! Each story is memorable and worth reading (usually there will be at least one or two 'meh' stor(ies) in a collection that throws off the whole book).

🔵 I will discuss about each story here, so be prepared, 'cos this would be a long post... The first one, The Offshore Pirate reminds me a lot of The Great Gatsby. The prominent theme is the American Dream. Just like Jay Gatsby, Carlyle started off in the world as poor nobody, but he was obsessed with aristocracy. To obtain it, he becomes a pirate. Ardita, on the other hand, is a wealthy young girl who is bored and craved for excitement. She is on board of the yacht that Carlyle is about to rob. This story is about the young generation who was lazy, careless, egostic; whose monomania is to get rich instantly without caring of morality. It's also about the fading away of a dream... Overall, it's a delicious story to start a book! I enjoyed the ragtime and the adventurous sea journey vibes. And when a story begins with "a sea that was a blue dream, as colorful as blue-sky stockings, and beneath a sky as blue as the irises of children's eyes"... why, I'm sold instantly! This is actually one of my favorites, the most adventurous one.

🔵 Still on quite similar theme, The Ice Palace tells about a young girl, Sally Carol, who, bored with stagnant and lazy air of the hot Southerner, but longed to get excitement, engaged to a Northern young man, who brought her to his hometown in the cold North. They visited the Ice Palace, where Sally Carol got lost and almost frozen to death. And that experience kinda open her eyes of what she really wanted. This story is the most thrilling of all eight.

🔵 The funniest story is definitely the third one: Head and Shoulders. Horace Tarbox is a young prodigy of Princeton. However, his much predicted bright future changed 180 degree after a dancer, Marcia Meadows, comes to visit him one evening. This one is extremely entertaining and hilarious, witty and ironic. And I believe, only Fitzgerald who could bring it so perfect.

🔵 Don't laugh too much, though, because right after the last sentence of the third story, Fitzgerald plunged you to the most serious and tragic story of the book: The Cut-Glass Bowl. A newlywed couple, Harold and Evylyn Piper, received a large cut-glass bowl as wedding present. Their marriage was hit by disaster after disaster, which somehow, were always connected with the cut-glass bowl. I think Fitzgerald has wonderfully portrayed marriage in the wedding presents metaphor. The chinas, punch bowls are all beautiful at first, but sooner or later things would happen that would defect them; just as marriage. "...even the dinner glasses disappeared one by one like the ten little niggers.." - hey, did Fitzgerald just borrowed the same nursery rhymes that Agatha Christie also used for And Then There Were None?

🔵 Bernice Bobs Her Hair is the most "feminine" story of the book (I think it's also appears in Tales of the Jazz Age). It tells the story of Bernice, a mixed-race rural young girl who visited her cousin, a popular girl in the city named Marjorie. Bernice isn't popular with the boys at first, but after successful lessons from Marjorie, she begins to be center of attention; however, not without consequences. Jealous of Bernice, who attracted even Marjorie's beau, Marjorie challenged her to bob her hair. Girls' hair is considered to make a girl feminine and innocence. Bobbing hair means that the girl will lose certain qualities that attract men. Now I understand why Daisy in The Great Gatsby wanted her daughter to be a fool, "a beautiful little fool", because that's a guarantee to get a good husband, and good husband means good future. This might be one of my least favorites of the collection.

🔵 Benediction brings you yet another aspect of 1920s youths. I guess Fitzgerald's Catholic upbringing must have had influenced this story. On the way to a love tryst with a young man, Lois (not a devot Catholic) visits a seminary to meet her brother Kieth, who is to be ordained as priest. While attending a Benediction in the chapel, Lois experiences a kind of spiritual change. Not a very interesting plot for a story, perhaps, but it gives Fitzgerald opportunity to discuss the 1920s youths' views of religion.

🔵 Dalyrimple Goes Wrong is the opposite of its predecessor. It's about a war veteran, Dalyrimple, a lazy and immoral young man, who contemplated that to make ends meet, "cutting corners" or being "at the other side of the fence" is not wrong. It's just of "being hard" in order to have a better life. But is it so? This one, I think, is the most boring of the collection.

🔵 Now, I believe that to be a good short story collection, the last story must at least act as some sort of closure of the various themes presented through out. In this case, The Four Fists did a good job. Samuel Meredith comes from a wealthy family, and growing up, he always lives a comfortable life. Unconsciously, that quality can easily make a person to be arrogant and selfish - two characters that lead to evil. Samuel was nearly there too, but he's saved by the four punches he'd received during his life; in school, in college, when he's falling in love with a married woman, and the last, at work. Each of these punches wakes him up from selfishness, and steer him to be more considerate to others.

🔵 All in all, I felt that this is a beautifully written, cohesive short story collection, depicted the Flappers (careless youths) of its time, but also a reminder that youths also had choices to be "on the right side of the fence". Flappers and philosophers seems to be a yin and yang of the Jazz Age era.

Rating: 5 / 5


  1. Yes, that is a gorgeous cover. Very tempting. I'm so taken with Great Gatsby that I've wanted to like more of Fitzgerald's works, but I've yet to find something. (I"ve only read two others -- that's not many). I enjoy the time period (though maybe I romanticise too much; but Fitzgerald is the quintessential 20th Century writer!). So this collection of short stories is promising. I especially think Offshore Pirate would be one of my favorite's, too.

    1. I know, other than Gatsby, I've read all Fitzgerald's novel but The Last Tycoon, and I was almost always struggled to like them. Except for This Side of Paradise. Though it's still far from Gatsby, yet I could still enjoy its innocent lightness a bit. I think Fitzgerald is a great short story writer (I loved both Tales of the Jazz Age & Flappers & Philosophers), but not of novels, except The Great Gatsby - which is truly great.

    2. I see. That's good to know. I had the same issue. So maybe I will prefer his short stories better. Thanks!


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