While browsing the bookshelf for my next victim, I ran across this collection of F. Scott Fitzgerald short stories. Since I just got married at the Ritz Theatre, I took it as a sign. (Yes, that's about how complicated my selection system is these days.)
I like Fitzgerald. I enjoyed The Great Gatsby the second time around, and I loved his short stories that I read in my college English classes. I'm a big fan of 1920s-era history, so his niche is clearly right up my alley. Here's the thing about Fitzgerald, though: he is much, much better in small doses. The lifestyle at the center of his writing is so exhausting. I can only deal with so many pages full of some useless rich party guy whining about that one chick who didn't dance with him.
OK, I'm over-simplifying, but if you've read enough Fitzgerald, I think you catch my drift. It's fun and whimsical to read one short story full of lavish parties and fretting over the length of your evening gloves. Two or three (or five) of such stories in a row is just annoying. I mean, don't these people DO anything? Anything useful? Aren't there Model Ts to assemble or something? Dang.
Anyway, I do have good things to say. It's clear why "Diamond as Big as the Ritz" is the collection's namesake. It was the best short story by a mile. It was what Fitzgerald described as one of his "fantasy" short stories, seeing as how it's full of impossibilities. It's a great little story about a young man who visits the family of a rich classmate who lives atop a single diamond that is literally the size of the Ritz Carlton. That family has a lot of stranger things in their lives, as it turns out. It's a fabulously written story with a twist that comes from nowhere and even more bizarre ending.
My other two favorites in this collection were "Bernice Bobs Her Hair" (the perfect 1920s-era Mean Girls-esque chick-gets-her-revenge story, I think) and "May Day" (the epitome of the exhausting lifestyle I was talking about -- during the historic May Day riots of 1919, some rich folks are too caught up in their own petty business to care).
The others were mediocre at best: "The Ice Palace" (Southern girl moves to the north, whines about it) and "The Offshore Pirate" (spoiled girl is sailing to Florida, gets hijacked by "pirates," falls in "love" with the captain) and "Jelly Bean" ("aw shucks" sort of guy pines over a swanky girl).
There are some very, very repetitive themes here. That's his thing, though, so whatever. I have a feeling I'd have much better things to say about these stories if I'd read, say, one per month instead of all five of them in a couple of days. It truly all boils down to the fact that I get really frustrated with the uselessness of these characters when I'm overloaded with it. It's kind of the same reason I don't read books in a series in succession. I don't want to get tired of the characters or the plot, so I split it up over time. Might have been a good choice here, too.
Read from December 1, 2010 to December 3, 2010