The Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald (1921)

No writer has ever defined a decade more vividly than F. Scott Fitzgerald did the 1920s.    He even coined the name for the decade, the Jazz Age  

 “The uncertainties of 1919 were over – there seemed little doubt about what was going to happen –America was going on the greatest gaudiest spree in history and there was going to be plenty to tell about it.  The whole golden boom was in the air – its splendid generosities, its outrageous corruptions and the tortuous death struggle of the old American prohibition.  All the stories that came into my head had a touch of disaster in them – the lovely young creatures in my novels went to ruin, the diamond mountains of my short stories blew up, my millionaires were as beautiful and damned as Thomas Hardy’s peasants.”

 In the year 1920, Fitzgerald hit the big time.  His first novel ‘This Side of Paradise’ was a tremendous success.  In 1919 Fitzgerald had made $800 by writing; in 1920 he made $18,000.  His stories were in demand everywhere.  Now that he earned enough money, Zelda married him, and together they lived the high life.  Ironically those were also the years of Prohibition in the United States.

 I recently listened to an audio book of five Fitzgerald stories:  ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ (1921),  ‘The Bridal Party’ (1930) , ‘Babylon Revisited’ (1931),  ‘The Lost Decade’ (1938), and ‘Three Hours Between Planes’ (1941).. 

 ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ may be the most contrived story I’ve ever read.   Benjamin Button is born a 70-year old man, and as time passes he becomes progressively younger until he becomes a baby.  Aging backward…  The story reminds me of the Bob Dylan lines “I was so much older then; I’m younger than that now.”  While the Dylan lines have deep meaning, the Fitzgerald story is mainly for laughs.  I found this the least effective story. 

 ‘The Bridal Party’ is probably the most quintessential Twenties story.  A rich American guy is getting married and rents a ship to take the whole wedding party to Paris for a celebration that lasts five days.  There an ex-American who happens to be an old childhood friend of the bride hooks up with the wedding party.  The ending of this story is also quite contrived but somehow plausible for both the groom and the old boyfriend. 

 ‘Babylon Revisited’ also takes place in Paris.  It is about a father who due to excessive drinking and partying loses his daughter, and he has now given up the party life and wants his daughter back after her mother has died. 

 “The Lost Decade” is about a man who basically lost ten years of his life due to excessive drinking.  It is a rueful story written and published near the end of Fitzgerald’s life

 ‘Three Hours Between Flights’ – During the three hours between flights, a man tries to re-ignite an old flame.  This story was published posthumously. 

 F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote hundreds of stories, most of them published in popular magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post and Esquire. Although many of these stories were written mainly to pay for the Fitzgeralds’ extravagant spending, many are close to their own lives and have a bittersweet effect.  They cover not only the excitement of the era but also its excesses.  The later stories are very much about the after-effects of the high-living Twenties.  At the time of his death, Fitzgerald considered himself a failure.  Eight years later, there was a Fitzgerald revival, and he then was considered one of the United States’ great writers.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Quite an informative site. Is there a way one can do a search on the books you have read and commented on in your Blog ?


  2. Hi Arthur Mithal,
    I’ve been remiss about setting up categories and tags as I go along, so that if I were to do it now it would be a stupendous task. Unfortunately my mind does not work well with categorization.
    There is the Search function at the top of the blog, but that is probably insufficient. ‘Complete Review’ has the best alphabetic categorization system I’ve seen.


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