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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Sunday, March 22, 2015

You've read all of F. Scott Fitzgerald's books - but what about his stories?

Of course F. Scott Fitzgerald primarily known and read today for his novels, essentially for two novels, but his contributions as a short-story writer shouldn't be overlooked - from the Cowley intro to the old Scribners edition of his selected stories I was reminded that in the 1920s selling stories was a way that writer's made their  living - his earnings from stories in most years far surpassed his earnings from novels and, though FSF was one of the first writers to try to make a living in Hollywood, the days of studio options on successful novels had not yet arrived. Read 3 FSF stories yesterday, based on recommendations from Charles May's list - and realize for first time how much he expended on the stories early in his career (for reason cited above no doubt). Some writers, can't remember who, Robert Penn Warren maybe?, cautioned young writers against devoting too much time to short stories, as they may burn up all their ideas therein. That wasn't the case with FSF, and in fact - another thing I learned from Cowley's intro - several of these were early workings of his novels. Winter Dreams hits all of the important FSF notes: a relatively poor boy from remote Midwestern town works as a caddy at the posh country club where wealthy families from the nearby city (Detroit) play and he falls in love at first sight with a beautiful young girl (Judy Jones); rather than take orders from her and her mother, he quits the job (a theme Updike picked up years later in A&P, with variants). Over course of his life he has painful on-again, off-again relationship with her - she's an incredible beauty and an impossible flirt; yearning for some stability, he engages to a "nice" girl, but there's no passion there - he tosses over the engagement for a final fling with Judy, which of course doesn't work out. Moves to NYC, very successful, years later hears from a client about Judy, and how her looks and personality have faded w/ loveless marriage - and he realizes all she has cost him and all he has lost (an echo of Sentimental Education?). Not surprised at all to read in Cowley's intro that this was essentially a first draft of Gatsby. Another story was at first intended as a prelude to Gatsby: the haunting Absolution, in which a young boy in remote town is bullied by father into going to confession, and the priest, nearly insane, talks incomprehensibly about the beauty in the world outside the window "glimmering." Boy is  totally befuddled but senses that, yes, there is a world beyond the window. This was written as a prelude to Gatsby (which FSF wisely decided not to include in the novel - leaving Gatsby's early years more mysterious and hidden). Also read The Rich Boy, which, a title will tell you, is yet another FSF account of a guy in a wealthy family who is unable to find happiness in love (or friendship) - this one of his first accounts, however, of a life ruined by alcoholic dissipation, of a seemingly successful whose life is a self-inflicted misery, and whose youthful attractiveness is going to seed. Somewhat like Winter Dreams, story ends with his encounter w/ love of his youth, now married and suburban and a little dull and far beyond his power.


  1. Another of Fitzgerald's short story that merits attention is "The Last of the Belles." This also picks up the familiar theme of an impossible love. It is also very well-written. This happens to be a quintessentially romantic story.

  2. Don't know that story; I'll make sure to read it.