Fitzgerald’s “Taps At Reveille”
During his lifetime, Scott Fitzgerald was known primarily as a short-story writer. In his twenty-year career, he published a hundred and sixty-four stories in various magazines, and forty-four were written in the last six years of his life. Published by Scribner’s in 1935, “Taps At Reveille”, a short-story collection, composed eighteen of those last efforts. Critics met it with mixed reviews: one called it “appealing”1 while another, “feeble and inadequate”1.
But the 1930’s were particularly difficult years for the Fitzgeralds. By mid-decade (and the year of publication for “Taps At Reveille”) Scott’s drinking had spiraled into full blown alcoholism, Zelda, Scott’s wife, was in the throes of a third schizophrenic break-down which would require hospitalization, and both Fitzgeralds were heavily in debt 3. In addition, the United States was in the middle of the Great Depression, which exacerbated money-related problems for everyone.
Matters never really improved for Fitzgerald after “Taps” came out. Around 1934 he began to write stories almost exclusively for the magazine Esquire, which contemporary critics see as having been a bad move on his part: “The Esquire years…constitute a low point from both a popular and an artistic standpoint 2.” The audience that had made Fitzgerald a fiction-writing success was no longer pleased with his product output by the time “Taps” made its debut, maybe because Fitzgerald had increasingly been succumbing to his dismal monetary, marriage, and health problems. The short stories from “Taps” were darker in tone and subject matter than Fitzgerald’s earlier work had been, and Tender Is The Night, Fitzgerald’s admittedly autobiographical account of a psychiatrist who marries one of his patients did not sell well, either. Perhaps it is because both it and “Taps At Reveille” hit so very close to home for Fitzgerald, who had both a tendency towards bouts of depression and a wife who suffered from schizophrenia3. The most widely acclaimed story from “Taps” is probably “Babylon Revisited”, which follows the life and...