A few years ago, I went on a downloading binge on librivox.com, the proud purveyor of out of copyright audiobooks. One of those books, oddly enough, was a series of short stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald called Flappers and Philosophers. I suppose I choose the title during binge because it intriguing. I certainly wasn’t because I was a fan of the Jazz Age writer. Back in high school I was forced to read his famous novel, The Great Gatsby, which I found so revolting that I didn’t finish it, which was, in itself, against my personal reading code at the time: finish what you start. I’m sure I had reasons for doing so but with the passage of time those reasons are left in the mists. All that lasts is the bad taste in my mouth when I hear those words.
With that illogical judgement in mind, I entered these stories with a bit of trepidation. What I found were eight clever little stories. From what I gathered on Goodreads, these were written early in his career. The writing, to me, doesn’t reveal that. They are in great prose and play off some fantastic ideas: how to outwit a girl who doesn’t care, what happens when a Southern girl goes North, what if a large cut glass bowl was the central plot turner in a story, what would be like to be the sister of a Jesuit, how did bobbed hair become so popular?, what is a face told a life story, and what happen to a soldier when he comes home from war. Some are downright comical others take on a more serious vein, but all are well written.
In the group, three stuck out to me. The first was “The Ice Palace” which played with the idea of what happens when a Southern girl goes north. Fitzgerald plays well with the cultural differences between North and South and how they are comparable to the respective weather: cold and distant (North) and warm and leisurely (South). I won’t tell you how the story ends but suffice it to say it is darkly comical.
On the whole the stories play with various flappers and only one story really toys with the idea of a philosopher and that is “Head and Shoulders.” It is the story of a philosophical prodigy who falls in love with a stage girl. I found it hilarious that he named his studying chairs Hume and Berkley and that relationship that drives the story begins with the female protagonist (and in a sense, antagonist) sitting in Hume. That is comical because the whole story is one of strange causation that end in the perceived role reversal. It’s ending too is darkly comical. I found myself laugh in public with earbuds on.
The third I feel deserves a whole other post so I will continue then .