REVIEW: Where All Good Flappers Go : Essential Stories of the Jazz Age by Various Authors
“I believe in the flapper as an artist in her particular field, the art of being – being young, being lovely.” — Zelda Fitzgerald
A sparkling new collection of “flapper fiction”: stories featuring the iconic women who defined the Jazz Age
Vivacious, charming, irreverent, the flapper is a girl who knows how to have a roaring good time.
In this collection of short stories, she’s a partygoer, a socialite, a student, a shopgirl, and an acrobat. She bobs her hair, shortens her skirt, searches for a husband and scandalises her mother. She’s a glittering object of delight, and a woman embracing a newfound independence.
Bringing together stories from widely adored writers and newly discovered gems, principally sourced from the magazines of the period, this collection is a celebration of the outrageous charm of an iconic figure of the Jazz Age.
Honestly, I don’t think I’d actually read anything by any of these authors. Of course I’d heard of the Fitzgeralds (Zelda and F. Scott), Dorothy Parker, Zora Neale Hurston, and Anita Loos. But the rest, — um, no, sorry. But I was curious as to what I’d find here. Let me first warn that these are short stories that were first published between 1920 and the early 1930s. As such, there will undoubtedly be things that are thought dated and that would not pass muster now. However, overall these are interesting, fun, a window on another time, and stories that I (mostly) enjoyed.
The collection is made up of fifteen short stories that show the amazing social changes that occurred in the world during this time. The women showcased are not just Charleston dancing, gin swilling socialites. One shy girl faces social pressure to not be boring to young men and realizes too late that she’s now trapped by the line she and her cousin worked up to grab attention. Another woman is a successful real estate agent who watches the man she’s interested in almost get trapped in marriage by a serial fiancee with a mind blowing hope chest (who needs twelve dozen embroidered dinner napkins?).
One of my favorites is told biblically – A man thinks he’s found a diamond to marry but is dismayed to realize she’s only interested in his checkbook and ready for his court suit to escape alimony. A socialite whose family is now poor meets a man willing to write large checks for the use of her name and social pedigree to sell medicaments – then she gets her whole family in on it. Two band leaders face off over a dance hostess with a contest “fought” by their bands. A maid who works in the ladies room of a fancy New York nightclub sees the highs and lows of the women who repair their makeup and gossip over the course of the night.
Some stories are hilarious. Some are thoughtful. Some are sad. Zelda Fitzgerald’s entry (the first) appears to just be describing who and what a flapper is. Some women are out for marriage while another seems to use men to further her career options. One woman spikes her fiance’s efforts to take all the fun out of life. Another thinks she wants marriage with a rich, stable guy until she sees pictures of his married – and frazzled – sister.
When authors can write short fiction – and these authors all can – the stories can be wonderful little bon-bons. One or two were not ones I’d probably read again but most are chef’s kisses. B+