By: Angie Haddock
By the Irish American Jazz Age novelist and short story writer regarded as one of the greatest American writers of the twentieth century. Flappers and Philosophers (1920) was his first collection of short stories.
F. Scott Fitzgerald is known now for his great novels – notably, “The Great Gatsby,” “This Side of Paradise,” or “The Beautiful and the Damned” – but in his own time, he was known largely for writing short stories. These were often published in weekly or monthly newspapers and magazines, but some were also compiled into books after they’d been published.
Such is the case with this tome, “Flappers and Philosophers,” which was first published in 1920. The individual stories would have all been written some time before that date – and it shows.
Some of the language here is downright cringe-worthy for people reading today, especially when he’s referring to people of color, foreigners, and women. But, as they say, it was a different time.
The other factor here that made me roll my eyes is that almost every story starred a girl of nineteen years, who was wise beyond her years and beautiful with one quirky factor – maybe gray or violet eyes, for example. That set-up got old fast.
But, if you can get past the biases of the time, the stories are all pretty good. There are eight in total, and most of them have a twist near the end. Fitzgerald’s writing is beautiful and poetic in places, which serves as a reminder of why his works are still read at all.
To give you an idea of what’s included, the stories here are titled: The Offshore Pirate, The Ice Palace, Head and Shoulders, The Cut-Glass Bowl, Bernice Bobs Her Hair, Benediction, Dalyrimple Goes Wrong, and The Four Fists.
Some topics are classics of Fitzgerald’s writing, like the differences in ideas between people who have money and who don’t. He also pits other ideologies against each other, such as those of Northerners an Southerners. One character falls into a life of crime. Religion, war, and how flappers wear their hair are concerns of other characters. In one of my favorites, a husband gives up his writing career to better take care of his wife… only to see her start a writing career while staying home, and eventually make more than he does.
A book of eight short stories is easy to get through, but do go in knowing that these are over 100 years old.