This edition consists of five short stories. They always talk about Fitzgerald as a writer that defined the Jazz Age and etc but for me that is not that important. What draws me to his writing is probably the way he creates his characters, sometimes managing to capture their very essence. I’ll give you a fair warning. This is not going to be a short review as I'm going to say something about every short story included in this book.
First things first.
The Diamond As Big As The Ritz
Beautifully written and absolutely unsettling because of its implications. One of them: an extremely wealthy person can get away with anything. True today as ever? Sure and as long as money equals power it will stay that way.
It was quite revolting to read because as the story started it seemed as if the writer was making that absurdly wealthy man (the diamond’s owner ) without a conscience something of a hero. Fitzgerald certainly had a way of making the filthy rich look ever so glamorous. He does that here as well but only at the surface. There is a dark and pessimistic message that comes out at the end: without the money you cannot be free. However, you cannot be free when you have money because you must fight so desperately to keep it. Either way you're screwed.
Let's face it, almost all the fairy tales tell the story of a prince or a princess and there is always money involved. What Fitzgerald does is create a fairy tale for the adults. It many ways it even reminded me of dystopian literature. If you've read the good stuff as far as dystopia goes, you would know that the bad guys almost always get the chance to explain the situation and the necessity of their choices. You almost can feel with them. Almost. Come on, the little demon would whisper to you as well if you ever happened to found the diamond the size of a mountain.
Take a look as this, doesn't it sound like a fairy tale:
" Afterwards John remembered that first night as a daze of many colours, of quick sensory impressions, of music soft as a voice in love, and of beauty of things, lights and shadows, and motions and faces. There was a white-haired man who stood drinking a many- hued cordial from a crystal thimble set on a golden stem. There was a girl with a flowery face, dresses as Titania with braided sapphires in her hair. There was a room where the solid, soft gold of the walls yielded to the pressure of his hand, and a room that was like a platonic conception of the ultimate prison--ceiling, floor, and all, it was lined with an unbroken mass of diamonds, diamonds of every size and shape, until, lit with tail violet lamps in the corners, it dazzled the eyes with a whiteness that could be compared only with itself, beyond human wish, or dream.
Through a maze of these rooms the two boys wandered. Sometimes the floor under their feet would flame in brilliant patterns from lighting below, patterns of barbaric clashing colours, of pastel delicacy, of sheer whiteness, or of subtle and intricate mosaic, surely from some mosque on the Adriatic Sea. Sometimes beneath layers of thick crystal he would see blue or green water swirling, inhabited by vivid fish and growths of rainbow foliage. Then they would be treading on furs of every texture and colour or along corridors of palest ivory, unbroken as though carved complete from the gigantic tusks of dinosaurs extinct before the age of man ...."
Indeed it seems so magical...but there are twists and turns in this one. Fitzgerald is like a magician. You never see what you think you see. There are always illusions and sometimes he shows you how it is done- the trick I mean...like with the rich and the glamour...he shows you how empty it all can be.
Bernice Bobs Her Hair
What a fantastic story! The protagonist of this story is Bernice as the title would suggest, a young thing that bobs her hair in an effort to become popular.
"As Bernice busied herself with tooth-brush and paste this night she wondered for the hundredth time why she never had any attention when she was away from home. That her family were the wealthiest in Eau Claire; that her mother entertained tremendously, gave little dinners for her daughter before all dances and bought her a car of her own to drive round in, never occurred to her as factors in her home-town social success. Like most girls she had been brought up on the warm milk prepared by Annie Fellows Johnston and on novels in which the female was beloved because of certain mysterious womanly qualities. always mentioned but never displayed."
She turned out the light in her bathroom, and on an impulse decided to go in and chat for a moment with her aunt Josephine, whose light was still on. Her soft slippers bore her noiselessly down the carpeted hall, but hearing voices inside she stopped near the partly opened door. Then she caught her own name, and without any definite intention of eavesdropping lingered--and the thread of the conversation going on inside pierced her consciousness sharply as if it had been drawn through with a needle…
"She's absolutely hopeless!" It was Marjorie's voice. "Oh, I know what you're going to say! So many people have told you how pretty and sweet she is, and how she can cook! What of it? She has a bum time. Men don't like her."
"What's a little cheap popularity?"
Mrs. Harvey sounded annoyed.
"It's everything when you're eighteen," said Marjorie emphatically...
The story itself is about the power struggles between women. He really does capture that passive aggressive side to well behaving young ladies (and social ladies in general).
While it is true that Marjorie is selfish and sometimes cruel, her cousin Bernice had it coming by living without using her head. This is a story without heroes and villains in one sense. Just human beings being human. Women being human beings. Now, that is something you won't find as often is literature as one might aspect.
The Ice Palace
Another female protagonist with a well developed character. This story is an ode to the South in one way. It is fascinating how we're shaped by the things that surrounds us, even with something that seems as insignificant as climate. Sometimes in life you may get a feeling that you're just a sum up of your surroundings and biology and let me tell you it is a depressive feeling. Still, there is no running from it.
Like the leading lady of this story, I'm cold phobic. I hate snow. Not because when I was a little girl of two up in the mountains I fell into deep snow and was buried for a short time (thought it didn't help) but because where I have grown up it snows once in a blue moon and only for a day or so.
Here is what the southern bell has to say about it:
"I'm sorry; that sounded worse than I meant it. You see I always think of people as feline or canine, irrespective of sex."
"Which are you?"
"I'm feline. So are you. So are most Southern men an' most of these girls here."
"Harry's canine distinctly. All the men I've met to-night seem to be canine."
"What does `canine' imply? A certain conscious masculinity as opposed to subtlety?"
"Reckon so. I never analyzed it-- only I just look at people an' say `canine' or `feline' right off. It's right absurd, I guess."
"Not at all. I'm interested. I used to have a theory about these people. I think they're freezing up."
"I think they're growing like Swedes-- Ibsenesque, you know. Very gradually getting gloomy and melancholy. It's these long winters. Ever read any Ibsen?"
I liked it but wasn't impressed. My mind wondered as I was reading it. My opinion is that it had too much going on, maybe too much...Too many characters and stories to follow? It feels more like a sketch of a novel. It doesn't feel finished.
I sure sympathized with Dolly and it was an interesting story. In some ways the protagonist reminded me of myself. However, something seems to be lacking. What? I cannot define it. There is something just too easy about it. I didn't make me feel anything in particular and "feeling" is what I go for in reading I guess.
So that is it. Highly recommended!