Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tarquin of Cheapside by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Audio Book, Copyright 2007
Short Story Published 1917

The audio playback book I borrowed from my local library consisted of four short stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald, which were first published in a book titled Tales of the Jazz Age. At the time I only planned to listen to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, but was intrigued by the description of another story titled: Tarquin of Cheapside.

This short story is told in narrative style. As the story opens the invisible narrator and reader are in the home of Wessel Caster. Wessel is reading The Faerie Queen when he is suddenly disturbed by frantic pounding at his front door. When Wessel opens the door he finds a man exhausted and frightened. The man, called "Soft shoes" by the narrator, quickly explains he is running for his life and needs a place to hide. Although Wessel has his concerns he decides to help Soft shoes into hiding and awaits the pursuers... All the while wondering what has caused this man to flee. Once the pursuers are gone the man demands the stranger explain, which he does in written form that Wessel begins to read aloud as the story comes to a close.

Published in 1917, Fitzgerald wrote Tarquin of Cheapside during his college days at Princeton. At the time Fitzgerald dreamed of becoming a poet and was particularly fond of the ring of every phrase in the story. And it is a pleasant story to hear read aloud. Fitzgerald uses beautiful and descriptive prose that paints vivid pictures for the reader. The story is intriguing, but the ending is a little ambiguous. It was the type of story I would have liked to have discussed with other readers to see what they got out of it, so if you have read it and have comments, please feel free to leave one.

Still, I enjoyed Tarquin of Cheapside for the prose and think I may, at some time in the future, read more of Fitzgerald's works. For those interested in reading Fitzgerald the stories contained in Tales of the Jazz Age may be the place to start, even though The Great Gatsby has long been considered his masterpiece.


Carrie said...

Huh! I've never heard of that one before (so I'm afraid I can't comment for discussion sake). But I would be curious to hear more discussion on it if you find some people who have read it!

Unknown said...

This story has some veiled references. The story that Wessel Caxter is reading when Soft Shoes comes into his home is an incomplete poem "The Fairie Queene" by Edmund Spenser. Its first draft was written in 1590 and its second was written in 1596.

Caxter allows soft shoes to hide in his home because Caxter is fond of writers and soft shoes is none other than William Shakespeare. Shakespeare wrote the poem "The Rape of Lucrece".

The setting of the book is in London 1594. This can be inferred from the title (Cheapside is a street in Cheap ward of the City of London) and that Shakespeare wrote "The Rape of Lucrece" in 1594.

I really enjoyed this story, unlike most people in my literature class including my professor. The text flowed like a poem and made you think and analyze each sentence.