All The Sad Young Men by Francis Scott Fitzgerald, 1926

During that trip to the library I was talking about last time, I saw on the “recently acquired”  shelf two books… Tender is the night and All the Sad Young Men by Francis Scott Fitzgerald. I read Tender is the Night many times (in French so I’ll definitely reread it in English soon) but I have to admit, even though Fitzgerald is one of my favorite authors, I read very few of his short stories. So I thought…No time like the present so here we go…

No need to present Francis Scott Fitzgerald, especially now that Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio made his works known to the non literary or bookoholic world!

He was born in 1896 and died in 1940. He met the love of his life Zelda in 1918 and some think that he wrote The Great Gatsby to get enough money to marry her. He published his first novel, This Side of Paradise, in 1920 and left an unfinished novel, The Love of the Last Tycoon, behind him after his death. The Great Gatsby has been considered as THE great American novel (as so many others) and it’s the kind of books that still sets off many controversies. As for me, it is one of my favorite book (definitely top 10)..Anyway, the topic today is that collection of short stories Fitzgerald published just after The Great Gatsby, in 1926, All The Sad Young Men.

The first short story is The Rich Boy. It is about Anson Hunter, a rich young man, graduate from Yale, successful businessman, who is in love with the delicious Paula but refuses to marry her because he doesn’t want to loose his freedom. After three years of waiting, she leaves him and gets married with another man. Anson will then have an affair with Dolly Kanger. He doesn’t love her and breaks her heart. She marries another man a few months later. Anson hears that his aunt is having an affair with a young man and solves the problem. His aunt’s lover commits suicide after the breakup though. Anson will meet Paula and her second husband in an hotel lobby. She invites him to her holidays house where she proceeds to enumerate him all the reasons why she’s in love with her husband. Anson’s company sends him on holidays because he seems so very depressed after the meeting with Paula. Three days before he leaves, he hears about Paula’s death.  On the boat, Anson noticed a beautiful young woman and starts to seduce her.

“…there would always be women in the world who would spend their brightest, freshest, rarest hours to nurse and protect that superiority he cherished in his heart.”

The second short story is Winter Dreams. Dexter is a young middle class boy working as a caddie in a golf club. He briefly meets there a young lady, Judy Jones, who will indirectly cause him to resign. He’ll become a very successful businessman after that. He meets Judy again and fells in love with her but she’s a very fickle woman. She collects lovers and doesn’t seem to have any intentions of settling down. Dexter endures that for a year before he meets Irene and gets engaged with her. He meets Judy again and has a one night stand with her. He breaks up with Irene and after a month, Judy vanished again. The War happens and Dexter becomes an officer. When the War ends and Dexter comes back, he’ll hear that Judy is married to a man that doesn’t treat her well and that she lost all her beauty.

The third short story is The Baby Party. The subject of it is quite unusual for Fitzgerald. John and Edith Andros are the more or less happy parents of Little Ede, a two years old girl who is, according to her mother, the brightest, the most beautiful creature on Earth. John seems to be more partial about that. His feelings for his daughter are not as fatherly as one could expect :”Even his feeling about his little girl  was qualified. She had interrupted his rather intense love affair with his wife, and she was the reason for their living in a suburban town…” Little Ede is invited to the next door neighbour’s son birthday party. Edith and John think about it as an occasion of showing off the exceptionality of their daughter. A conflict degenerates when Little Ede hurts the Markey’s baby over a teddy bear. You find here the blindness of parents towards the inadequacy of their children, their refusal to see that their kid did something wrong, the overreaction of the hurt baby’s parents. Mr Markey and Mr Andros end up fighting in the snow, at night, until they’re both completely exhausted. Everyone goes back home. John, then, realised, the deepness of his feelings for his daughter : “John Andros knew at length what it was he had fought for so savagely that evening. He had it now, he possessed it for ever, and for some time he sat there rocking very slowly to and fro in the darkness.”

The forth short story is Absolution. Rudolph Miller, son of a very religious man, is sent by his father to confession. He lies during it, committing a mortal sin. He tries to avoid communion the next day, convinced that God would make him die. A violent fight occurs between the son and the father just before the mass. Rudolph takes the communion and surprisingly doesn’t die. He’ll eventually confess to the priest who will tell him that God would not pay attention to that kind of sin just before dropping dead.

The fifth short story is Rags Martin-Jones and The Pr-nce of W-les. A young; rich, spoiled, bored young lady comes back to New York after a long trip in Europe. She meets a long time lover John Chestnut. Once more John proclaims his undying love to her. She explains to him that she’ll never marry an American because they are so very boring. John invites her to dinner to meet the Prince of Wales. Rags gets very excited at this idea. During the dinner she’s invited at the Prince’s table and leaves John alone. He disappears for a little while and comes back, drunk. He confesses to her he had killed a man and that the police is on its way. She tries to help him escape. The police arrives and a gun fight happens. When Rags is on the edge of fainting, John stops the gun fight and thanks all the actors he had hired to play that little joke to Rags. She’ll find all that very entertaining and will eventually agree to marry John.

I have a few short stories left to read but so far it has been a delightful experience !  I’ll keep you posted…

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