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Now that I’m back to my usual Deal Me In Short Story Project, where I’ve assigned a story to each card in a standard deck and I pick one each week, I read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s story “The Camel’s Back” from his collection Tales of the Jazz Age. After reading the humor of Mark Twain for the past week, I was surprised to find that I was reading a Fitzgerald story with a Twain-esque sense of humor. Unfortunately, by the end of the story, the hilarious premise fizzles out.
The story takes place sometime after World War I and revolves around a group of young men who seem to have a significant amount of money and spend their days and nights going to parties. For anyone who has read or knows much about Fitzgerald’s work, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. I haven’t seen the recent film version of Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, but I have enjoyed Fergie’s song from the movie “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody”. When one of the young men, Macy, is asked if he’s going to a particular circus-themed costume party, he replies ” ‘Me? Sure I’m goin’. Never miss a party. Good for the nerves – like celery.’ ”
After Perry Parkhurst is dumped by his girlfriend, Betty Medill, he intends to go to the circus-themed costume party; however, he has difficulty finding a costume. The only one left is a camel that requires two people. His next difficulty is finding someone to be the back-end of the camel. He finally pays somebody off the street to do this, eventually explaining to his friends that the man came with the costume. As he contemplates going to the party where his recently ex-girlfriend will be, he thinks perhaps that they may rekindle their romance:
His mind even turned to rosy-coloured dreams of a tender reconciliation inside the camel – there hidden away from all the world…
After accidentally hitting the wrong party, the “camel” makes its way into the right one and proceeds to flirt with Betty. Betty, not knowing that the camel is Perry, doesn’t really mind the flirting. It’s here that the story tends to leave it’s fantastic premise and stops being quite as funny. In the introduction to my copy of Tales of the Jazz Age, Fitzgerald indicates that this story is his least favorite of the group. I wonder if he would have liked it better if he simply stopped before Perry, as the camel, met Betty. That tends to be my opinion.