Fitzgerald’s short stories remain the broadest and most comprehensive summary and analysis of the Jazz Age. He was far more successful in his lifetime with his stories than he was with his longer fiction, and yet both have endured the test of time as entertainment, social catalog, and reflection of their time.
Fitzgerald published over 160 stories in his lifetime, beginning in his adolescence. This collection includes stories from the years between the wars. There are recurring themes of romantic loss, financial and social excess, the change in family values and the effect of war upon the nation and the world which weave a thread through this collection. That is not to say that the thirteen stories summarised here are similar. There is a diversity of setting, a quality of description and a breadth of imagination shown in these tales that is uniquely exciting and enthralling. There may be characters who over time have become typecast: the flapper, the petulant teenager, the innocent rose and the dashing hero. However, within each story the characters are credible – even when placed in incredible situations. Observe characters such as Benjamin Button, who is uniquely afflicted with the curse of growing young instead of old. His progress through life feels as human as the path the rest of us follow, and his sad condition almost seems possible.
The emergence of the spirited, confident and beautiful heroine of Fitzgerald's long fiction is predicted in these stories. Ardita, Bernice, Jenny, Sally Carrol, Nancy and Stella are each individuals within a type, all unique yet typical of an age. Our heroes such as Toby, Jim, Joel, Dexter, Charlie and Jacob exemplify the qualities of bravery, excess, extravagance, selfishness, obsession and regret in different proportions and in different circumstances.
There is an overwhelming tone of regret in these stories. Charlie Wales has lost his wife and is unlikely to regain his daughter; Jacob Booth has made a star but lost a girl. However, there are other sentiments too: humor – held in the foolish antics of Mr In and Mr Out, drama in the pretend adventures of the ‘pirate’ Curtis Carlyle and fantasy in the house upon a diamond.
All of these stories were sold to magazines and published in full. In his lifetime, Fitzgerald made most of his earnings through selling such stories. As a result, many are written expressly to sell, and have cuts and changes reflecting the desires of editors and audience.