Tales of the Jazz Age by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Genre: Short Stories Collection
Tales of the Jazz Age contained eleven short stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald and was published in 1922. All of the stories had previously appeared in Metropolitan Magazine, The Saturday Evening Post, Smart Set, Collier’s, Chicago Sunday Tribune, or Vanity Fair, each on its own. The anthology is divided into three parts, each exploring different themes. Tales of the Jazz Age include “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” one of his more famous works.
Tales of the Jazz Age was written nearing the height of the Roarin’ 20s, when hedonism, parties, and alcohol consumption peaked and seemed to have become a staple of everyday life. The book’s three sections are My Last Flappers, Fantasias, and Unclassified Masterpieces, each exploring a facet of life during the Jazz Age.
Tales of the Jazz Age contains the following short stories:
My Last Flappers
2.1. The Jelly-Bean
“The Jelly-Bean” is a story set in Tarleton, Georgia, in the southern United States. The story follows the life of Jim Powell, a “jelly-bean” or idler and serial gambler hoping to win the heart of Nancy Lemar. When the chance to make it big arises, our jelly-bean protagonist jumps at the opportunity, unaware of the dire consequences beyond the glitz and glamour.
2.2. The Camel’s Back
How does one win back their ex-lover? Wear a camel costume, of course! In one of the more lighthearted stories of the collection, Perry Parkhurst pressures his girlfriend to marry him or end things immediately, only to have her choose to leave, prompting Perry to concoct a most ludicrous plan to set things right. A most humorous tale inspired by an actual incident Fitzgerald’s friends witnessed and shared with the witty writer.
2.3. May Day
One of the longest pieces in the collection, “May Day,” describes the May Day riots that occurred in the spring of 1919 amid the “general panic” that heralded the beginning of the Jazz Age. The wealthy and the underprivileged come together in this story, shaping before our eyes the parallel between social classes that we see in many of Fitzgerald’s novels.
2.4. Porcelain and Pink
This peculiar tale is about a girl named Lois who finds a pink-skinned girl named Julie lying in her porcelain bathtub. The story is chock full of witty banter, written in the form of a stage play.
2.5. The Diamond as Big as the Ritz
In this dramatic novella, Fitzgerald introduces the ugly side of the wealthy through a diamond mogul family, the Washingtons. When John T. Unger is enrolled in a private boarding school in Boston, his paths cross with Percy Washington, a quiet boy whose family’s wealth holds a dark history. A story that compels readers to face America’s ugly past and the individuals who profited from it, Fitzgerald spins a tale that has readers glued to the pages.
2.6. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Yet another famous addition to the anthology is a most peculiar tale about a boy who ages backward physically and mentally. Benjamin Button is born with the face of an 80-year-old and capable of speech, much to his family’s shock. As the years pass, Benjamin’s life experiences progress backward along with his age.
2.7. Tarquin of Cheapside
What do you do when a frantic and mysterious stranger pounds on your door without warning? Wessel Caster chooses to open the door to a man who needs shelter from his pursuers. This dramatic tale unfolds as Wessel discovers the truth behind the stranger in his home.
2.8. Oh Russet Witch!
A strange tale about love and the supernatural, “Oh Russet Witch!” follows the life of Merline Grainger, keeper of the Moonlight Quill Bookshop. Merlin has little excitement in his life other than catching glimpses of a girl he calls ‘Caroline’ from his apartment window. Merlin is content keeping up this routine until one day, ‘Caroline’ enters his bookstore with four men in tow.
2.9. The Lees of Happiness
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story “The Lees of Happiness” is about the increasing love between Jeffrey and Roxanne, a husband and wife. When Jeffrey suffers a stroke, a close family friend routinely visits and supports the couple.
2.10. Mr. Icky
“Mr. Icky” is a short tale by F. Scott Fitzgerald about an unusual dialogue between Mr. Icky, an elderly guy dressed in a costume, and Peter, a little child.
2.11. Jemina, The Mountain Girl
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short novella “Jemina, the Mountain Girl” depicts the relationship between Jemina Tantrum, an illiterate girl from the mountains, and a man, whose identity is undisclosed, from the settlements. A tragic Romeo and Juliet style romance brings into question the importance of social class between lovers.
3. Writing Style
Fitzgerald is renowned for his narrative style, themes that tackle heavy topics, distinguished characterization, and use of symbols and pictures that are easily understood yet do not lack depth.
4. Frequently Asked Questions about Tales of the Jazz Age
What is the Jazz Age?
The Jazz Age refers to the period in the 1920s where great liberation and creativity were seen in the Jazz and music scene. It is also a term popularized by F. Scott Fitzgerald through this short story collection.
What are the popular stories in Tales of the Jazz Age?
The more well-known stories would be “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” the latter having been adapted into a movie in 2008, starring Brad Pitt as Benjamin Button.