3.26.2014

Outside the Cabinet-makers (1928)

The automobile stopped at the corner of Sixteenth and some dingy looking street. The lady got out.  The man and the little girl stayed in the car.

This is a short little gem.  It may have more resonance to parents than non-parents, but I think any adult will understand the loss of magic and joy felt so easily by children.  It is poignant that as parents we work so hard on giving children fantastical stories and memories, but are unable ourselves to be as submersed in the magic.

"See Daddy, the good fairies are winning again."

The man was old enough to know that he would look back to that time-the tranquil street and the pleasant weather and the mystery playing before the child's eyes, mystery which he had created, but whose luster and texture he could never see or touch anymore himself..."
Credit

Please read it for yourself: Outside the Cabinet-maker's

3.24.2014

Sometimes Madness is Wisdom: Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald A Marriage by Kendall Taylor

Ok my friends, I have finally found a biography of Scott and Zelda that makes me like Zelda...a little bit. 

I enjoyed this bio.  I felt it did a good job of presenting both Scott and Zelda as they were.  Showing the good and the bad and not making either one of them to be the demise of the other.  Kendall Taylor presents situations and then presents evidence of how both of them reacted, giving a more rounded picture of situations.

As the title suggests, this is a book that focuses on Zelda more than Scott, but as it is it is too hard to have a biography on Zelda where he is not looked at as well.  In the future this is going to be the biography I recommend when asked. 

Check it out for yourselves: Sometimes Madness is Wisdom: by Kendall Taylor

On a side note: I was struck by this picture of Zelda.  When I saw it in the book I was sure she reminded me of someone.  It took me a while but I new the voice and the movements, I just couldn't place it.
Then I got it.  This picture reminded me of Lady Mary Crawley of Downtown Abbey.  What do you think?
Anyways.  Cheers

3.21.2014

One Interne, The Pusher-in-the face, The Third Casket, The End of Hate, Six of One-,  New Types, Her Last Case, No Flowers, I Got Shoes, The Family Bus, Diagnosis, The Rubber Check, One of my Oldest Friends, Not in the Guidebook, John Jackson's Arcady, The Unspeakable Egg, Diamond Dick and the first Law of Woman

I was sitting around realizing that I have been very neglectful on my goal of finishing all of Fitzgerald's short stories.  I was feeling sort of a failure for this project taking so long to complete, that it should have only been a year or at most 2 and it is much more than that.  Then I turned it around and reminded myself that this is a project for fun and it will take me as long as it takes me.  So here it is, even if I haven't read a short story of his since December I can still get back in the game.  And that is what I did.  This past weekend, my husband and I took the kids for a extended weekend stay at the Great Wolf Lodge.  As the kids went swimming and played the Magi game, I would try and find a quiet place and read.  I brought a collection of stories and had made a list of all the remaining stories I needed to read.  I wanted to get at least 5 of them done, but I really made some progress and finished 17.  As I read I jotted down thoughts in a notebook.  I will try to condense these into a quick write up.

Lets see how these shake out....
"One Interne" (1932) and "Her Last Case" (1934) are both stories that take place in a medical setting.  There are other stories where he writes of doctors and nurses, and it makes sense as he is in and out of hospitals for both his health and Zeldas.  Between the two stories, One Interne works better than Her Last Case which I have to say I hated.  You don't hear me say that too often, but in the case of Her Last Case I just could not get on board any of the story and found it completely unbelievable.  It is only interesting in that it is playing out some sad fantasy that he must have been nurturing while he was lonely, feeling unsuccessful and drunk.

Now "One of Six-" written in 1932 is one of the good stories he wrote during his drunk years.  It is a story that goes back to his fascination with the rich, but in this case he is smearing the glamor.  It is based on the idea that youth raised in the lap of luxury don't have to fight and therefore will be not be as successful as men who come up from the ranks, that all the average boy needs is the financial help to make his way.  This man provides that help and the story goes on to play out the future of these 12 boys.  What I like about this story is that you are able to see that Fitzgerald did not only see the glitter of the rich, but like in "The Rich Boy" he was able to see the hollowness that underlies their existence. 

The other ones I enjoyed from this bunch of stories include "Rubber Check", "John Jackson's Arcady", "No Flowers", "I Got Shoes", and "New Types".  I am not going to say any of these should be considered amoungst his best work, but as they are they are worth considering. 

"Rubber Check" (1932) goes back to the poor boy/rich girl storyline, which I happen to like very much.  Here is one where the poor boy is definitley trying to get himself in with the upper crowd, and is put into a precarious position where he is forced to cover a large meal and cannot cover his check.  This situations follows him for years and he is just unable to "make good".  Later in the story the rich are all finding that the stock market crash has made them poor.  And even then the rich have a way of isolating and insulating themselves that somehow still keep them apart from the poor.

"No Flowers" (1934), is another story where he is looking back to times that were happier for him.  This time he returns to Princeton.  It is a story that contrasts the past "golden age" to the then present "tin age" of the crash years.  It is a story of debuatantes and college dances.  It is a near miss, meaning it has a good story line, but I am not sure he was able to insert his magic, just a little off his game.

I feel the same way about "New Types" (1934), I think he was looking at the present and wanting to go back (as I am sure so many did) and was trying to juxtapose the times.  If only he was on his game and not drinking so much he may have been able to pull these types of stories off.  For me this one lost it when the "dead" woman starts to speak.

"I Got Shoes" (1933) is another story that is from the depression years.  I have some mixed feelings on this one.  I don't think it is a great story, but I am interested in how it seems to highlight how the generation who lived through the depression will value their possessions.  This is a story of an actress who as she was coming up had very little, and once she was able to get some of the necessities she held on to them, even when the need of them was passed.  The holding on of the shoes was a reminder of where she came from.

"John Jackson's Arcady" (1924)-  Yes there is an over sentimental ending to this story, and that could put a lot of readers off this one, however the I like to focus more on the heart of the story.  John Jackson is a man who tries to do his best and tries to do his best for others.  He wakes up one day to realize that by living this way he is may leave himself open for people to take advantage.  He decides that he is no longer going to let this happens.  He has a plan to let everyone know that life will only dissapoint you and you need to do your best to not let that happen.  In the end he is privy to the honest thoughts and views of his life.  He realizes that instead of taking advantage of John Jackson, the people of his town and life hold him in great regard and realize that because of his generosity things have gotten done, and he has made good.  It is a good reminder story and one I relate to.

The following stories relied heavily on plot twist or gimmicks...
"The Pusher-in-the-Face" (1925) is the story of the mild manner bachelor who never made waves, then one day he snaps and pushes a lady in the face.  He finds his power in this act and is transformed.

"The Family Bus" (1933) based on an old run down family car.  This story started strong, but fell apart when the car is lost and becomes valuable and the hunt for it ensues.

"One of My Oldest Friends" (1925) plays with the imagery of the crucifix.  Again, this one could have been a better story if he stayed away from the "gimmick" and went with the inner struggle.

"Diamond Dick and the First Law of Woman" (1924)- I loved the imagery of Diana taking up the persona of Diamond Dick as a child, and it was a good ride, until...we find out they were secretly married.  Too bad he went the plot twist route on this one.  But the first part is worth reading.

"The Unspeakable Egg" (1924)- This one is a warmed over Offshore Pirate and done without any of the magical writing.  Actually, if you go back and read what I thought of The Offshore Pirate you will see that the plot of that story I did not like, but I loved his writing.  I think in this story I prefer the plot but wish the writing was more ephemeral.

"The End of Hate" (1940)- Scott was always fascinated with the Civil war, and this was one of his few stories he set in that time.  Unfortunately, I am not a civil war buff and much of the specifics of that war are not readily known to me as they may have been to the readers of his time.  With all of that said, this story was not one that resonated with me.  If you are a civil war history buff I would be more interested in how you responded to this one.

"Not in the Guidebook" (1925)- A story of a girl who marries a "War Hero" and they decide to make a new life for themselves in Europe.  Once they hit the Continent the war hero abandons his bride.  She is left to fend for herself and comes in contact with a tour guide who takes her in.  He falls in love with her, but she wants to wait for her husband.  Eventually she realizes that she has had hero worship for the wrong man and finally marries the tour guide in the end who is the hero she thought her ex husband was.

"The Third Casket" (1924)- Even after reading this I am not sure why it is titled "The Third Casket".  The story is basically about a  business man who is getting ready to retire but has no heirs to inherit his business.  He decides to contact 3 friends and interview their sons to see if he can find a replacement. There is a bit of a gimmick here that never really pays off. 

"Diagnosis" (1932)- I hate to end on a downer, but all I jotted down after reading this one was just didn't capture any interest.  I wasn't sure if I was tired or distracted but I just didn't care.  And honestly, I don't remember much about this story.

So there you have it.  17 stories read.  I wish I could give more attention to some of these, but I either get to read a bunch and make my way through or read one or two and wait a month or so to get to blogging about them.  I am not sure which way is best.

2.20.2014

Ponjola Bob? Anyone?

I am reading a book about the Fitzgerald's and came across a description to a type of bob, not that I am an expert on all of the names given to bobs in the 1920's but this one sounded unfamiliar.  It was the "Ponjola" bob.  So as curiosity does in the age of the internet, I went to Google and tried to look it up.  Unfortunately I was not rewarded with an answer, so I am digging deeper to see what I find.

It looks like Ponjola was a movie in1923, which was based on a book.  Sounds like a good start. The Movie stars Anna Q. Nilsson, who I am not familiar with.  According to Wikipedia she was a well known silent film actress, actually...."In 1926 she was named Hollywood's most popular woman."
Anna Q Nilsson?

 Here are some images I pulled when I Googled her name.  I wonder if these are the Ponjola bob.  In the book it was referenced that they were shaving the back of Zelda's neck to show off the bob.  So these would fit.

So that is what I have found.  If any one really knows or has a picture of a Ponjola bob I would love to see it.

Also I ran across this blurb taken from an article written in 1926 about the origin of the term "Flapper".  I thought it was interesting and I had not heard it put exactly in this way before.

The term "flapper" was used originally in England to designate the girl between fourteen and seventeen years of age. And as the name implies, it meant the awkward age, before she had acquired poise and dignity. She was supposed to need a certain type of clothes—long, straight lines to cover her awkwardness—and the stores advertised these gowns as "flapper-dresses."

Thats all for now

1.21.2014

Various stories from 1935: The Fiend, Night at Chancellorsville, Zone of Accident, Intimate Strangers, Passionate Eskimo & Shaggy's Morning

Ah more stories from 1935, stories published and/or written after the publication of Tender is the Night.  This is a time that is not associated with his best works.  In this cluster I read:

The Fiend
The Night of Chancellorsville
Zone of Accident
The Intimate Strangers
The Passionate Eskimo
Shaggy's Morning


The Fiend and The Night of Chancellorsville were collected in Taps at Reveille, stories chosen by Fitzgerald to collect for publication.

The Fiend is interesting, but not well written.  It is a story of a man whose family was murdered, and he is consumed by his grief and the revenge that he is going to atoll on the man who killed his family.  After he realizes he will not be able to physically harm The Fiend, he decides he is going to torture him mentally, and goes about it by a visit every 2 weeks where he tortures the man with books of sexual diseases, and stories of lust where the pages of the consummation are torn out.  He keeps this up for decades only to find that when the man dies of natural causes he is friendless and alone in the word.  I think the whole premise is interesting, but the torture that Fitzgerald dreams up is not conveyed in a compelling manner.

Fitzgerald also collected The Night Before Chancellorsville in Taps at Reveille.  This is a very short story, almost more of a sketch.  I have to say I did not enjoy it, a story of some Baltimore girls who are heading to Virginia on the eve of the battle at Chancellorsville.  If you read this one you need to be familiar with Hooker's Army.

I found Zone of Accident and The Intimate Strangers in The Price Was High.


So that leaves The Passionate Eskimo and Shaggy's Morning, both of which I found online, and there is a reason that these have not been collected anywhere else.

Shaggy's Morning is a story about the morning in the life of a dog.  That's it, that is all I am going to say about it.

The Passionate Eskimo also left me cold (haha see what I did there.)  It takes place during the Chicago World's Fair and is about a Eskimo who goes out and sees a bit of Chicago before he has to go back home.  Even with his broken English he manages to get himself involved in a love triangle.  No he is not a part of the triangle, but we have a typical Fitzgerald triangle with a girl and 2 guys.  It seems like a stretch to me.

Next up I am going to tackle the 10 remaining stories from 1933-34.  At a quick glance it looks like I will be able to read 8 of the 10. 

1.02.2014

New Year, New Goal

Yes this is the required New Years post.  Where I state all the things I want to accomplish in 2014.  Where Fitzgerald Musings is concerned all I really want to accomplish is to finally complete the remaining stories I have to complete my reading of Fitzgerald's work.  I am so close, but as you may have noticed I am not what one would consider a fast reader.  As of right now I have 71 stories still left on my list, 13 are his apprentice works and 11 of them are Scott + Zelda's work, whatever that means.

I think this is a reasonable goal, and I am confident that I am able to do this.

12.21.2013

1926-1927: Presumption, The Adolescent Marriage, The Love Boat, Your Way and Mine, and Jacob's Ladder

Well, again it has been a spell since I have been able to get a few of the remaining short stories under my belt.  Once I hit mid-terms my time is just eaten up with projects until finals.  By the way I had a great term and was very happy with both my projects.

Anyways, back to Fitzgerald.  This time I am working through the remaining stories of 1926-1927.  It seems that this was a period of transition. Scott was trying to work on Tender is the night, and struggling.  The stories of this period are not so great as they were written for the money.

The six stories I am writing about today are:
Presumption
The Adolescent Marriage
Your Way and Mine
The Love Boat
Jacob's Ladder

I found Presumption, The Adolescent Marriage, Your Way and Mine, and The Love Boat in the Bruccoli collection "The Price Was High".

I love that Bruccoli adds a brief description regarding the story and thoughts Fitzgerald had about them or insight on what was happening in his life that may have affected his writing.

"Your Way and Mine" was a story that Fitzgerald was not proud of.  He specifically asked Ober not to offer it to the Post.  He said : "it's the lousiest I have ever written, just terrible."  And he was right.  "Your Way and Mine" just does not live up to his standard.  It is a mess and is not worth reading, unless you are a completest like me and feel the need to read all of the stories.  Basically it is a bout a man who is fat, lazy and pig-headed.  He does things in his own way.   He is forced to become more productive and has a nervous breakdown and becomes paralyzed because he is forced to do things not in his own way.  This part is not good all on its own, but he does not leave it at that, no.  He then feels the needs to tack on a bit about his daughter and her suitors.  This part does not make it better and really had no point.  It is just a mess of a story.

The Adolescent Marriage, Presumption, and the Love Boat were better.  These are all stories that go back to relationships.  "Presumption" is a dating story of a cocky young guy, who falls for a girl in a station above his own.  It was written after Gatsby and has a bit of that feel to it.  It is a typical Fitzgerald story,  where the boy falls for the girl, but she cannot be with him because of the money situation.  Boy goes and makes something of himself.  He comes back to her believing that she loves him and wants to be with him.  This story wants you to believe that the girl has moved on and wants nothing to do with him, but it is a case of mistaken identity.  She does love him and they end up happily married. Yay!

"The Adolescent Marriage" is about a young couple who run off impetuously to get married, and shortly after learn that maybe they should not have done that.  They look to get the marriage annulled. The boy of this story throws himself into his work, he is an architect.  They run into each other and it brings up all sorts of angry feelings.  We learn that the girl is about to marry another.  The architect wins a contest and had his dream house built and it is then that he realizes that the girl was the inspiration and he really does love her.  The annulment never happened.  It sounds trite, but I did enjoy this story.  It was not overly sappy, I don't know I just liked it.

"The Love Boat" moves into longing for a lost love, or a lost idea of what could be.  This time the boy is the rich one and the girl is too poor.  I am not sure if this has been the case very often in his works.  He loves her, but is informed by his parents that it could never work out.  He does genuinely fall in love with someone else and starts a family.  Eleven years go by, and he is starting to get bored or nostalgic or whatever.  He thinks back to the girl he loved all those years ago and wishes he could go back.  That is what he tries to do.  He goes back to see the girl, of course she has moved on with her life and married one of the boys college friends and is happy and successful.  She has not pined for his as he has for her.  He then goes back to the "scene of the crime" where he met the girl and tries to relieve the moment he met her.  Here it gets a bit creepy where an older man dances and flirts with High School girls.  He finds out he can't recreate the past, that it is gone.  I did really like this one, and will probably read it again.  It stared slow for me, but when I got to the second part, after the marriage, I liked where he went with it.

These 3 are a good cluster to read together.

I found "Jacob's Ladder" in Bruccoli's the Short Stories of F Scott Fitzgerald.  This is a story I have read before back in 2008.

Jacob's Ladder is the best of this bunch of stories.  But even with it being the best I always struggle with it.  I have a hard time relating to the characters.  And older man falling in love with a young girl of 16.  This time I was fascinated with Jenny, the young, uneducated girl who matures from simple and naive to important and sure of herself.  The story of Jacob is equally interesting, of a older man who knows she is too young to an older man who can't help himself from loving.  He has insight and knows that he should not move forward but he is in the grip of love so he does nothing.  Like I said it is a really good story and has some very interesting parts to mull over, but I just struggle with reading it and I am not really sure why.


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