‘Babylon Revisited and Other Stories’ – Book Review

This article originally appeared on Lit To Lens on Mar. 8, 2017.

Title: Babylon Revisited and Other Stories
Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Year Of Publication: 1960
Genre: Short Story Collection, Fiction

In his lifetime, F. Scott Fitzgerald was a prolific writer of short stories. Today, while he is most remembered for his four novels (including Tender is the Night), during his short life it was his 200-odd short stories that the life for which he is remembered.

Babylon Revisited and Other Stories was published in 1960, the first of four posthumously published Fitzgerald short story collections, comprised of 10 short stories originally published between 1920 and 1937. To read it is an uneven experience – possibly the reason it took me nearly three months to knock out this work of less than 300 pages.

The title story, “Babylon Revisited” particularly shines (especially for Fitzgerald-heads like myself). The story follows Charlie Wales, an American expat, returning to Paris in the wake of his sobriety on a mission to reclaim custody of his daughter, Honoria. The primary narrative is intercut with remembrances of Charlie’s past life in Paris – the money, the music, and especially the alcohol – crafting tension around the question: how did we end up here? The answer is both tragic and, like must of Fitzgerald’s work, deeply personal.

Fitzgerald was a master dramatist of class conflict, and his best (read: my favorite) stories in this collection concern class and their influence on relationships. Examples of this in the collection are “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz,” “Winter Dreams,” and “The Rich Boy.”

For me, the rest of the collection sags. In “Absolution” and “Crazy Sunday” Fitzgerald denies his reader a satisfying emotional payoff in exchange for the illogical – the ending of “Crazy Sunday,” in particular, was disappointing in relation to where Fitzgerald had taken me.

The language is as beautiful as Fitzgerald acolytes may expect (he may be our greatest American writer of clouds in their various forms) and his lessons are as modern as they were of their time – love and loss, failure and redemption, alcoholism and sobriety.

That last one is a joke, but hopefully you get the idea. To read Fitzgerald is often to prop oneself at the bar and hear from a man who knows his way around a mistake.

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