Apart from knowing that ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ had originally been penned by Fitzgerald before being made into a multi million dollar movie, I had heard little about the existence of these short stories. Indeed the short story was something that I had rarely come across since the fairy tales I was read as a child.
Yet, far from the fairy tales of childhood, these stories are the fairy tales of the Jazz Age and the time that followed it; they are darker, filled with intense glamour, but cloaked in a great shadow. It is the stuff of a beautiful yet terrible dream. Even our characters, when looking back on this era of opulence, cannot be quite sure that it happened. We are witness to a form of black magic, but also an underlying reality that communicates universal themes such as the inevitable fading of beauty and the passing of time.
Fitzgerald captures the absurdity of wealth and its irony in stories such as ‘The Diamond as Big as the Ritz’, hope, illusions, frustration and disenchantment haunt these pages. It is ‘all very rich and very sad’. Nonetheless, a wittiness pervades his narrative, and the tales documenting the unfortunate progress of Pat Hobby are incredibly amusing. In ‘Babylon Revisited’, a story of fatherhood, we find a great tenderness that appears to come from the heart of the writer himself. And in the last lines of the collection, amidst the final story ‘The Lost Decade’, there lies the possibility of regeneration.
Though his short stories lack the great sorrowing tragedy that lingers throughout many of his novels, we glimpse brief moments of such intensity, that leave the reader suddenly aching at both the beauty of the language and the emotional force of Fitzgerald’s writing. For although we continually witness enchantment followed by crushing disillusionment, we continue to read on, turning one page and then the next. For those who know and love Fitzgerald as a writer, these stories are further confirmation of his ability to enchant and compel with words and tales, but they also stand as a wonderful collection of stories in their own right; beautiful snippets of an age we all secretly wish we could have been part of.