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WHEN the artist must eat, and at the very best night clubs, art flies out the window. F. Scott Fitzgerald has decided to live well and write too. This is forgiveable and understandable in a young man of means. But when his writings maintain him in the style to which he is unaccustomed it take a good deal of writing for the Red Book to keep the purse at the proper bulge.
His latest book of short stories is handpicked from All the Sad Young Men, his accumulated magazine work of months. And it is only the cream from skimmed milk. Fitzgerald is safe, at least for a while. Reviewers will pardon him a last youthful indiscretion or two now that he has shown himself on the verge of his long expected maturity by the writing of "The Great Gatsby", But it is that he cannot have praise without strings tied to it for the writing of "All the Sad Young Men."
This, his third book of short stories, shows more diversity of subject and treatment than any previous work of his. To say this is not wholly to praise it. It is as if he had given us examples in "All the Sad Young Men" of the many types of short stories he has written since his last publication. "Step up," Fitzgerald seems to cry. "Something for everybody. We aim to please. Flappers and philosophers, you'll find something here you'll like if only you'll look far enough."
In the old hotsy-totsy style there is the fantasy. "Rags Martin-Jones." full of the unbelievable tosh of which Fitzgerald was master. But there is something new, something un-Fitzgeraldian, which has an aroma of Sherwood Anderson. All the other stories in the book have it, now faint and thin, now strong and assailing. Perhap it is unfair to shout "Sherwood Anderson!" It may be that this is what happens to all young men who grow serious before they have grown truly wise. And so it may be that this is merely a phase in the growing-up process of which "The Great Gatsby" was a herald.
In "Absolution" there is a Catholic mysticism not wholly new to Fitzgerald but handled with a new power and a directness which scarcely falters until the end when it seems to become too much for the author and goes off into mumblings. Throughout there is the figure of Anderson looming up, omnipresent and brooding.
One of the most talked about stories in the book, and from the point of view of anyone but an undergraduate, inexcusably talked about, is "The Rich Boy." It is not consummately done. There is much extraneous matter and unsureness of touch. But for the college man there is a direct appeal. All of us may some day be, certainly a number of our classmates will be, just such men-about town as The Rich Boy. Into the bond game or the banking game they go by the score and as the years roll by and find them unmarried and greying at the temples their friends settle down and there is no one to play around with. There is The City and The Street and for some high days The College. But all these pall and there is nothing else, but work, and women, about which subject The Rich Boy knows too much ever to be able to know anything.
So, too, Fitzgerald will go on, writing about people, about whom he knows too much, too much that will sell quickly to the popular magazines, ever to be able to settle down, to take the bumps with the best of them. Fitzgerald is The Rich Boy of literature for whom his mistress Money must die that he may be born again.
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