sexta-feira, 20 de dezembro de 2013

TAPS AT REVEILLE by F. Scott Fitzgerald Scott Fitzgerald's Tales By EDITH H. WALTON - March 31, 1935

TAPS AT REVEILLE by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Scott Fitzgerald's Tales
By EDITH H. WALTON - March 31, 1935

     According to his publishers, Mr. Fitzgerald has chosen for inclusion in this volume the best short stories that he has written during the past decade. It is a curious and rather disturbing admission, coming as it does from a writer of Scott Fitzgerald's stature. The characteristic seal of his brilliance stamps the entire book, but it is a brilliance which splutters off too frequently into mere razzle-dazzle. One wishes for more evidence that he has changed and matured since the days of "Flappers and Philosophers" and "Tales of the Jazz Age."

   Most in key with those earlier books are the three stories grouped under the heading, "Josephine." With a kind of deadly accuracy, Mr. Fitzgerald describes a specimen of the predatory young who makes Mr. Tarkington's Lola Platt seem like a milk-and-water baby. Josephine is sixteen-beautiful, ruthless and fickle. Whether or not he is earmarked as somebody else's property she goes out and gets her man with an appalling directness. Proms and tea-dances are her natural habitat, and she takes a certain pride in being considered fast. She dates-more, perhaps than Mr. Fitzgerald realizes-but her wiles and adventures are undeniably comic.

     Better, and poignant as well as amusing, is the longer sequence of stories which deals with a pre-war boy in his middle teens. Though his method is different from Booth Tarkingtion's, Mr. Fitzgerald approaches at times the same startling veracity. Basil Duke Lee is a bright, sensitive, likeable boy, constantly betrayed by a fatal tendency to brag and boss. He knows his failing, especially after the minor hell of his first year at boarding school, but again and again he is impelled to ruin an initial good impression. Two of the Basil stories-"He Thinks He's Wonderful" and "The Perfect Life"-are small masterpieces of humor and perception, and Mr. Fitzgerald is always miraculously adept at describing adolescent love affairs and adolescent swagger.

     A full half of "Taps at Reveille" is given over to these tales of youth. The remaining stories vary greatly in mood and merit. "Crazy Sunday," which has Hollywood for a setting, is clever but contrived; "Majesty," for all its irony, has a strangely hollow ring; "One Interne" is entertaining, but get nowhere and has no real characterization. Even "The Last of the Belles," with its undertone of regret for youth and bright gayety, fails to make a point which one can regard as valid. Far better is "A Short Trip Home," a ghost story which yet can be considered as definitely realistic.

     Three of the stories point toward directions which Mr. Fitzgerald might profitably take. "A Trip to Chancellorsville," in which a trainload of light ladies is catapulted unawares into the realities of the Civil War, is restrained irony at its best. "Family in the Wind," the story of a Southern town ravaged by tornadoes and of a drink-ridden doctor who stumbles on salvation, strikes a new and healthy note. "Babylon Revisited," which seems oddly linked in spirit to Mr. Fitzgerald's latest novel, "Tender is the Night," is probably the most mature and substantial story in the book. A rueful, though incompleted, farewell to the Jazz Age, its setting is Paris and its tone one of anguish for past follies.

     It has become a dreadful commonplace to say that Mr. Fitzgerald's material is rarely worthy of his talents. Unfortunately, however, the platitude represents truth. Scott Fitzgerald's mastery of style-swift, sure, polished, firm-is so complete that even his most trivial efforts are dignified by his technical competence. All his writing has a glamourous gloss upon it; it is always entertaining; it is always beautifully executed.

     Only when one seeks to discover what he has really said, what his stories really amount to, is one conscious of a certain emptiness. "Taps at Reveille" will bore no one, and offend no trained intelligence, but when one remembers how fine a writer Mr. Fitzgerald could still be, it simply is not good enough.
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