All The Sad Young Men by Francis Scott Fitzgerald, 1926 (part 2)

Francis Scott and I have finished our journey for now… Like I told you the other day, I don’t often read short stories but I have a crush for Francis Scott, so I made an exception.

The last three stories of that book presented several aspect of Fitzgerald’s style that I haven’t noticed in his novel and this was really interesting to discover.

The sixth short story is The Adjuster and offers some fantastic elements that I wouldn’t have thought finding with Fitzgerald. Luella and Charles Hemple are a young couple with a little boy. Everything could be perfect in the best world possible for them if Luella wasn’t feeling so bored. Her husband bores her, the household bores her, even her son bores her. She takes no involvement in the household with as a consequence the servants quitting on a daily basis. One evening, Charles brings back a stranger visitor for dinner, Dr Moon and leaves him to talk with Luella. Few hours after the visit, Charles gets sick and Luella has no other choice other than act like a wife and a nurse. By staying at home, she realises how bad the situation is. She notices that even the baby’s nurse is incompetent. After the cook quits suddenly, Luella has to start doing things by herself. While she prepares the dinner for the first time in her life, the nurse’s baby appears and faints on the kitchen floor. Fortunately, the baby’s doctor rings at the door. While he’s examining the nurse, Luella goes check on the baby and finds out that he died. Luella thinks about leaving her husband but Dr Moon talks her out of it. He stays with them until Luella finally applies herself into doing the housework. After a while, he announces his departure. Their last conversation ends on a very enigmatic note : “Who am I ?” he repeated. “I am five years.” The last paragraph of the short story seems to happen five years later when Charles is back to work healthy but aged, Luella is at home with their two children.

The seventh story is Hot and Cold Blood. Jim Mather and his wife Jacqueline are a middle class couple. The story opens on Jim lending 300$ to a friend a few seconds Jacqueline walks into his office. On the way home, they argue about it and about Jim general kindness. “The words in which she couched her summary of the situation were probably the most disagreeable that had ever been addressed to him in his life.

“The trouble with you, Jim, the reason why you’re such an easy mark, is that you’ve got the ideas of a college freshman – you’re a professional nice fellow.”

Jacqueline is pregnant and Jim starts worrying about the money. He also realises that everyone around him has been abusing his kindness. One night, one of his father’s old friends, Mr Lacy, comes to ask him some money. Jim refuses to lend him any. At the end of the day, he rides the streetcar home as usual, his mind tortured by Mr Lacy’s situation. A woman sways against him while he’s sitting, he makes the resolution to not giving her his seat, he even refuses to look at her. She faints and Jim recognizes Jacqueline. Once at home, he calls Mr Lacy and lends him the money. It is a very refreshing story in which a genuinely good character tries to change but realises that he can only be happy when he is himself.

The eighth story is The Sensible Thing. George O’Kelly is a graduate from the MIT who used to work for a firm of construction engineers in Tennessee. He is now a clerk in a insurance company in NYC apparently because of a girl. She’s still in Tennessee and seems to hesitate to marry George because of his lack of money. He goes to his manager to get a vacation so he can go back to his love to convince her. He gets fired but it makes him happy. ” Only I couldn’t quit myself, you see, and I want to thank you for…for quitting for me.” He gets there and Jonquil Cary waits for him at the train station with two men. The next day, she tells him that she won’t marry him because he doesn’t have any money and because she doesn’t love him anymore. George leaves. A year later, he comes back quite changed. He’s just back from Peru where he made a fortune. He meets Jonquil and she is very cold and distant. When they kiss he knows that never things will ever got back to where they were. ” There are all kinds of love in the world, but never the same love twice.”

The last story is Gretchen’s Forty Winks. Roger Halsey works really hard to make his own advertisement company. He’s about to get really big contracts but he needs to work non stop for six weeks. He talks to his wife about it. She’s really unhappy because it means that she will have to stay at home for six weeks. While Roger works so hard, she goes out with one of their friends, George Thompkins. He’s a decorator and pretends to have found the secret of a balanced life. Roger starts to get jealous. On the last day of his working marathon, Roger slips his wife some sleeping pills and steals all her shoes to keep her at home. Two days later, she wakes up and thinks she is having a breakdown because she lost a day and her shoes. Roger goes and gets a doctor who tells him that George just had a breakdown.

This little collection of short stories was quite pleasant.

I’d give it a 6/10 !



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