quarta-feira, 18 de dezembro de 2013

TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE By F. Scott Fitzgerald By HILDEGARDE HAWTHORNE, October 29, 1922

TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE By F. Scott Fitzgerald
     We all know delightful hosts who, introducing you to a group at a country house party, will give you, in a sentence or two, some bit of illuminating information with each name. A preface to a book is supposed to perform something of the same office; but Scott Fitzgerald has gone the preface one better, and has added to each title in the table of contents to his new book, "Tales of the Jazz Age," a telling bit of explanation or exposition, as the case may be, a snatch of anecdote or history, a word that makes you feel at home with the story and predisposed in its favor.

     It is an excellent idea and it is done as well as Fitzgerald does anything that has to do with writing, which is very well indeed. Indeed, if ever a writer was born with a gold pen in his mouth, surely Fitzgerald is that man. The more you read him, the more he convinces you that here is the destined artist. Here is the kind of writing that all the short or long story schools and books will never teach to a single student. You may not like what he writes about, you may deplore the fact that most of his characters are rotters or weaklings, base or mean, That has nothing to do with the fact that he is a writer whom it is a joy to read; and if he chooses to write, for the moment anyhow, of the life and the persons with which and whom he is most intimate, if he prefers to paint wit startling vividness and virility the jazz aspect of the American scene, why not? It exists. It is quite as real as Main Street, and a deal more amusing in some of its manifestations. More than that, it is astonishingly sincere and unselfconscious. Fitzgerald is interested in it at present, he knows it, and he is portraying it with talent. Some day he may-but let us wait and see.

     There is plenty of variety in this new collection, more than in the "Flappers and Philosophers," which preceded it. Some of the stories are tragic, like "May Day," which is tragic in a bitter and sordid way, and "The Lees of Happiness," which is tragic after the Greek fashion, because the fates were unkind and the human beings helpless in their grasp.

     One, which Fitzgerald likes the least of all, is tremendously amusing, arrant fooling that it is. It is called "The Camel's Back," and the author hastens to tell us that it is no symbolic camel whose story is to be told, but a real one-or resembling reality, at least. There are other bits of fooling, too, such as "Jemima, the Mountain Girl," a skit on the red-blooded story which begins: "It was night in the mountains of Kentucky. Wild hills rose on all sides. Swift mountain streams flowed rapidly up and down the mountains," and so on. Funny enough, but it is hardly worth while to put such trifles into a book. They give too much the effect of samples, as though the author were saying, "See, here is my lightest side. I do this well and if you want it you can have it; but, on the other hand, here is a piece of my imagination, here one of fantasy, here straight comedy...," a story in each mood and manner, and every one of them god, in fact, but producing on the reader an impression of odds and ends that is unfortunate. The book is more like a magazine than a collection of stories by one man, arranged by an editor to suit all tastes and meant to be thrown away after reading.

    But Fitzgerald when he is good, when he is writing a good story, is much too good for throwing away. His "O Russett Witch" is a beautiful piece of work, where fancy runs hand in hand with perception, and understanding, giving the tale a hint of magic that does not remove it from reality. It is in the group under the heading "Fantasies" with that other story, "The Diamond as Big as the Ritz," which is, as Fitzgerald calls it, an extravaganza, but which is also true stuff, life and people living it.

    These stories are announced as beginning in the writer's second manner. They certainly show a development in his art, a new turn. His flapper stories, he says, are finished with. They were the best of their kind, but they could have used only a small part of Fitzgerald's talent. A great deal of him remains untouched as yet, and this "second manner" is surely the outcropping of a rich vein that may hold much wealth.

     The book as it stands is amusing, interesting and well done, but it is filled besides with all sorts of hints, promise and portents that make it exciting beyond its actual content. There are flashes of wings and sounds of trumpets mingled with the tramp of feet and casual laughter, and though it is, as to its performance, a finished thing, each piece polished and fit for showing, yet there is also the effect of a glimpse into a workshop where tools are about and many matters afoot. Assuredly this makes for additional interest. On laying the book down the dominant thought is: "What will this man do next? He's at something, something we want very much to see."
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