Magnetism: F. Scott Fitzgerald

“People over forty can seldom be convinced of anything. At eighteen our convictions are hills from which we look; at forty-five they are caves in which we hide.”

Magnetism is one of the titles from Penguin’s Great Loves series. I have a few titles from this series that I’ve collected over the years, and now I’m curious to see how some of the other selections match up. I’d hardly call any of the four short stories in Magnetism ‘great love,’ but perhaps that’s just me.

So here’s the breakdown:

The Sensible Thing

The Bridal Party

Magnetism

Bernice Bobs Her Hair.

The Sensible Thing, which competes with Bernice Bobs Her Hair as my favourite story in the collection, is the tale of a young man named George O’Kelly who, even though he’s a trained engineer, has a measly job as an insurance agent earning forty dollars a week. George is living and working in New York when he receives a letter from the girl he loves, Jonquil, who lives in Tennessee. The letter makes George nervous enough to leave his job and travel back to Tennessee. He senses that he’s losing Jonquil. He wants to marry her, but she says it’s not “sensible.” They part and meet a year later when George has become successful….

In The Bridal Party, Michael, a young man is in Paris trying to forget the woman he loves when he learns that she’s in Paris about to be married to another man.

Magnetism is the story of a handsome actor, George Hannaford, who is married to Kay. Women tend to throw themselves at George and for the most part, he’s oblivious to the attention. Trouble comes to George from two directions: he’s attracted to a young actress he works with, and a woman he knows resorts to blackmail.

Bernice Bobs Her Hair isn’t about love at all: it’s about how women undermine each other, and how women compete in underhand ways for men. Bernice, who is from Wisconsin, visits her worldly, attractive, popular cousin Marjorie. Socially, Bernice is a hopeless failure, and initially Marjorie undertakes to improve Bernice’s social life, but the plan works a little too well.

The content of the stories is typical F. Scott Fitzgerald fare, and if you’re not ready to tackle one of this author’s novels yet, or conversely, if you’ve read the novels, you may like these short stories. In The Bridal Party and The Sensible Thing, Fitzgerald cynically assesses how money influences love. While George O’Kelly and Michael are sincere young men, they have the misfortune to fall in love with women who value money above character. The gay young things of Bernice Bobs Her Hair date the story a bit but the central idea: women with their knives out for the competition is still relevant today.

TBR stack

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13 Comments

Filed under Fiction, Fitzgerald, F. Scott

13 responses to “Magnetism: F. Scott Fitzgerald

  1. I have a copy of the stories- must take a look. Thwarted love is such a perennial theme…

    • I’ve heard the title of Bernice Bobs her hair bandied around a lot over the years. At first I wasn’t that keen on it as the ‘set’ are so superficial but then when the relationship between Marjorie and Bernice kicks up, the story became a lot more interesting.

  2. A “friend” persuaded my mother to cut her beautiful long hair because “it would make you look younger”. It didn’t. It was a permanent disaster. I wonder if Marjorie has ulterior motives in getting Bernice to bob her hair?

  3. I love Fitzgerald, he has a knack for saying seep things in a light tone.

  4. I think I’ve read these stories when I was too young to fully understand them. I need to reread them. Hair was always an issue with ne and my mother – until she died she used it to manipulate. “Have you died your hair? Too bad, it makes you look older this dark.” Unfortunately I hadn’t even touched it.

    • It’s funny the things parents (and others) land on… well at least you identified it. Some people never manage that.

    • Hair was a bit thing in my growing up too – but more from my Dad. He hated long hair so as soon as my sister and I started to grow our hair he’d be negative. I never did grow mine – I’ve never had a plait or a ponytail or a bun. My sister did – but I’m not sure it made her happy. I decided that hair – or anything appearance-wise – was never going to be an issue between me and any children I had. And I don’t think it ever did.

      • Your kids are lucky.
        My dad would never say anything hurtful or try to manipulate me into changing anything but my mother did. She too hated long hair and nails.

        • To give my father credit, he didn’t mean to be mean, but he grew up seeing his baby sister who had thick curly hair hate having the tangles brushed out each day. My sister and I had curly hair too. Trouble is he didn’t realise that once we got into our teens, and responsible for our own grooming, we should learn for ourselves. My father is 98 next month and we lunch every Friday with him and my 88 year old mother. He rarely fails to compliment me on my dress, my necklace, my overall look. So it came from a kind place.

  5. I remember seeing television adaptation of Bernice Bobs her hair – back in the 1980s I think. And I think I still have the short story collection that went with the adaptation. Must get it out. I think Shelley Duval may have played Bernice – would that be right?

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