I was not the biggest fan of Gatsby and, consequently, Fitzgerald. I read Gatsby in 9th grade and was underwhelmed–read it again in 11th and didn’t think much more of it. While everybody gushed about how incredible the book was and how they couldn’t wait for the movie, I thought to myself, Am I missing something? Though I felt guilty about it, Gatsby didn’t impress me the way I thought it should. Honestly, I really couldn’t figure out what the big fuss was about. This collection of short stories completely changed my mind.
After reading the eight stories in Flappers and Philosophers, I reassessed my ambivalent attitude toward Fitzgerald. Pretty much everything I read was delightful regardless of its individual mood–I flew through the book, always excited for what came next. The writing is fast-paced (thanks to the short story format), the characters are similar yet not identical, and the general jazz-age atmosphere pervades every inch of the text.
Most of Fitzgerald’s stories focus on headstrong, rebellious, beautiful young women. Each girl very clearly has a magnetism about her that keeps other characters as well as readers engaged, but it never feels like you’re reading eight different stories about the same character. The best thing, in my opinion, about Fitzgerald’s girls is that they’re somewhat predictable, yet at the same time believable and compelling. I genuinely enjoyed following the characters and wish that I could read more about every one of them.
Some of the most celebrated stories in Flappers and Philosophers are The Offshore Pirate, Bernice Bobs Her Hair, and Head and Shoulders. While the more famous ones are all enjoyable, my favorites were Benediction and The Cut-Glass Bowl. They stand out from the rest because they’re a bit heavier, poignant, and don’t end with a clear resolution (well, it’s clear but not neat and tidy). In particular, the Cut-Glass Bowl, generally ignored by critics, stuck with me because of its drama. When I read Gatsby, I felt like the things that happened were written in a very understated manner. Cut-Glass Bowl isn’t melodramatic, but I found it much more moving. In fact, Fitzgerald himself was said to have valued it more than many of his other pieces… Isn’t that saying something?
All in all, these stories are well worth reading. This is Fitzgerald at his finest. His storytelling never lags and every piece has something special to offer. The eight stories are unique, intelligent, and just wonderful. For Fitzgerald fans, I’d recommend reading Flappers and Philosophers. For people who aren’t sure how to feel about him, I’d strongly recommend it.