We all have that exasperated moment!
There are times when you almost tell the harmless old lady next door what you really think of her face – that it ought to be on a night nurse in a house for the blind; when you’d like to ask the man you’ve been waiting ten minutes for if he isn’t all overheated from racing the postman down the block; when you nearly say to the waiter that if they deducted a cent from the bill for every degree the soup was below tepid the hotel would owe you half a dollar; when – and this is the infallible earmark of true exasperation – a smile affects you as an oil baron’s undershirt affects a cow’s husband.
(from The Smilers)
I may have to face it – I may have grown out of that phase when Fitzgerald’s short stories were delightful, quaint, diversions. I still count some of them as my favourites, but more often than not reading his stories has become somewhat repetitive – telling fairly superficial stories about fairly superficial people, most of whom seem to be Princeton men, or Harvard men, or Yale men, or someone closely connected with them. Like the characters in Wodehouse’s stories, they never develop, never amount to anything more real than a cliche.
Unfortunately, many of Fitzgerald’s short stories seem to feature them. Even more unfortunate was it that most of the stories in this particular collection featured them.
Still, there are the odd gems. In this collection, The Smilers stood out for me. I liked it just as much as The Ice Palace, Bernice Bob’s her Hair, The Camel’s Back, or May Day, but sadly it was the first story in the collection and the rest of the stories did quite manage to live up to the quality of that first story.