Wednesday, 15 April 2015

The Diamond as Big as The Ritz by F Scott Fitzgerald Review (Penguin Pocket 70s)


John Unger goes to a posh university where he meets a posh chap who takes him to his family’s posh residence – a house built on a diamond as big as a mountain! But now that John knows their family’s secret… he can never leave!

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s favourite subject was the rich. From his greatest creation, Jay Gatsby, to this, his most famous short story, Fitzgerald absolutely adores writing about the glamorous lives they led. Also, not being of that world, he was quite critical of it too and The Great Gatsby is a damning portrayal of the rich’s behaviour. The Diamond as Big as the Ritz is more of the same but is written in a more fantastical, less artistic style.

The names of the places are very unsubtle. John Unger is from Hades (Mississippi) just so at the end they can, literally, go back to Hades, to a less luxurious life, because the middle class is so ghastly/hellish, what! He attends the prestigious St Midas’s University – wealth is a religion in America and their patron saint is Midas, a name synonymous with gold. The University produces “priests” of wealth who produce more for their “god”.

Also that first page is just weird. Unger’s mum packs his bags with electric fans – what, were they like currency back in the 1920s? Why does he need plural fans? – while his dad gives him an asbestos pocketbook full of cash. He’s gonna need that money to pay for his cancer treatment from that asbestos! It’s pretty poorly dated and that’s not even mentioning the “negro slaves” constantly present in the background! 

The story itself is quite boring and overlong. Fitzgerald witters on with his descriptions of his idea of wealth back in the day (literally rolling out of bed into a bath, every single morning – ooo, how… mundane), while slowly uncovering this uninteresting story of how fabulous wealth isolates people and makes them do terrible things. It’s a dull tale with very on-the-nose themes.

I love The Great Gatsby – it’s an entertaining, bittersweet tale beautifully written with a powerful message at its core. I’ve read it at least three times. In comparison, Diamond is slow, boring, poorly written with nothing insightful to say – almost like a less talented writer is trying to parody Fitzgerald! Both stories are essentially about the same thing but Gatsby does so in far better style – read that instead.

The Diamond as Big as The Ritz

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