"I may not know how to fly but I know how to read and that's almost the same thing."-- Gregory Maguire, Out of Oz

"...while finding true love was one of the most splendid things that could happen to you in life, finding a friend was equally splendid." -- Felix J Palma, The Map of the Sky

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Friday, September 27, 2013

Tales from the Jazz Age by F.Scott Fitzgerald

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Other Tales from the Jazz Age 
F.Scott Fitzgerald

I've got a lot to say about this book.

First, I'd like to say, this was a pain in the ass to rate. F. Scott Fitzgerald is a fine example of why classic literature is classic... These stories should be able to hit the full mark easily. They didn't for reasons stated in my hack job rant, but in case you missed that or don't feel like reading it, let me reiterate.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Other Tales of the Jazz Age, as produced by Seedbox Press is a hack job. There are dialogues that merge into narration, words and phrases dropped from sentences leaving gaps in paragraphs, missing punctuation, and character conversations merged into block paragraphs of chaos.

I was happy to get such a collection at a bargain price until I realized the reason they offered it had more to do with its poor editing and formatting. If you're a Fitzgerald fan or hoping to become one, spend a little more than I did, and buy a better version. I will probably read more of Fitzgerald's work, I just won't buy from Seedbox ever again. In fact, if I had the time, resources and motivation, I'd pool it all into a campaign to have Seedbox shut down. For Frak's sake, where's a lynch mob when you need one?

As to the stories within this book, they are beautiful and I can definitely see why they've stood the test of time despite the glaring errors the editor made. I gave each story within the book a brief review.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Benjamin Button is born an old man and as he grows up, he grows younger. I found the story to be entertaining and vastly different than the movie. It's an interesting concept, personifying a concept like opposing age and opposing views. Personally, I found the banter between wife Hildegarde and Benjamin insightful:
"There's a right way of doing things and a wrong way. If you've made up your mind to be different...I don't suppose I can stop you."  
"But Hildegarde, I can't help it." 
In my mind, I see Benjamin Button breaking out in song, singing, "Baby, I was born this waa-aay!"

The Diamond as Big as the Ritz
John meets Percy at school, Percy claims to have a father who is the richest man in the world, because he owns the largest diamond in the world...He later invites John home for holiday, a home which is located on a top secret mountain....

This has a lot of themes going on, for such a short story; a play on capitalist America and how someone can become a slave to wealth... The Washington family can't ever leave their estate, not really leave it, they can't ever allow its discovery, they must always take care of and defend it. Or maybe it's the old adage of how lonely it is at the top of the world...To never have friends, to always be lying and fighting, so busy defending what you have that you can't have anything more.

Tarquin of Cheapside
A bandit/tumbler running through the night, being chased down by guards... This is the story of his escape and the man he escapes to... It starts with poetic imagery, slips into straight up prose. There isn't a great deal of substance besides its entertainment value... I did notice Wessel Caxter was writing a play, something about "The Legend of Chastity" and the character of Soft Shoes told a story of "The Rape of Lucrece"; so maybe there was an underlying theme of the backslide of morals or the changing of societal views on sex, or maybe I'm just grasping at something that isn't there.

O Russet Witch
Merlin Grainger, works at a bookstore and lives alone. He becomes enchanted by a beautiful woman, who he calls 'Caroline' though it is not her name. She's scandalous, she's vibrant...a contrast to Merlin, who's proper and bored. Merlin eventually marries and starts a family even though his life continues to intersect with the mysterious Caroline. As he ages, he reduces her to a figment of his imagination.

I think this story says a lot about missed opportunities. Merlin chooses the safest path, he winds up miserable with a miserable family. Caroline chooses a lifestyle more outrageous than society would hope for and winds up with the world at her fingertips.

The Jelly Bean
Jim  Powell is the jellybean -- he drifts through life. He comes from a family that lost everything, falls in love with a girl named Nancy...Nancy turns out to be the one who gets away, which brings us back to the point of Jim Powell being an idler. If he'd acted, if he'd done something different, said something different, would he have gotten the girl?

The Camel's Back
Perry Parkhurst is afraid his fiance, Betty Medill won't marry him. Perry draws up a marriage license and demand she marry him at once...Betty is so offended she kicks him to the curb where he promptly picks up drinking and shenanigans ensue.

For me, I think this story had a lot to do with fear. All the characters were afraid of something (and drunk) and were acting on those fears, and getting into trouble because of it. Perry needs to prove he brave enough to let go in order to  get what he wants.

May Day
This story was hard to keep track of, it's two stories entwined in the same timeline. Gordon Sterrett visits his friend Philip Dean; Gordon needs $300 because he's being blackmailed by a woman named Jewel Hudson.

Carrol Key and Gus Rose are demobilized soldiers looking to get a drink and get into trouble. Edith Bradin connects the two plots; she used to date Gordon, and her brother is now an editor at a socialist themed newspaper that Key and Rose and a mob of angry people plan to storm.

This may be the most honest story of the bunch; it didn't try to preach, it didn't try to glorify the era. Instead it showed something real, soldiers after the war struggling to adjust to life. It showed how easily it is for people to adopt a mob mentality when they're angry and scared.

Porcelain and Pink
This short story is actually a play! About two sisters, Julie Marvis who is taking a bath and Lois Marvis who is waiting for her companion. Julie Marvis coyly talks to a man outside her bathroom window, a man who has know idea she isn't Lois... It's cute and it's funny.

The Lees of Happiness
A story of surviving doomed romances. Roxanne and Jeffrey Curtain love each other very much, but Jeff is sick. Their friends Harry and Kitty are the exact opposite; its been a long time since they've loved each other. Roxanne cares for Jeff without question long after he can no longer care for her; Kitty takes her son and goes home to mom leaving Harry to pick up his life.

Mr Icky
A second play; I don't hope I wasn't supposed to learn anything from this, because I certainly LOL'd through it. Mr. Icky is riddled through with ridiculous innuendo. It's about a farmer and his uppity children.

Jemina, the Mountain Girl
This is a romantic tragedy parody, if I ever saw one. A blood feud between two rural families, the Tantrums and the Doldrums! Poor Jemina, caught in between.

If I had to choose just one, The Lees of Happiness was probably my favorite of the compilation.
I gave this 2 stars or, "It could've been worse," after all, the stories could have sucked.

Rating 2/5


  1. I nominated you for the shine award. Visit the link for info:
    http://thisgirlreadsalot.blogspot.com/2013/09/shine-award-nomination.html :)

  2. I love F. Scott Fitzgerald!
    Love your blog and can't wait to read more!
    New follower :)


    1. He writes beautifully; next time I read a classic, I've got to get it from a reputable source. Live and learn, I guess.

      Followed back btw!


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