“Everybody’s youth is a dream, a form of chemical madness.”
Second in my novella-a-day reading challenge was another Fitzgerald, the fantastical, dreamlike The Diamond as Big as the Ritz. This book is like no other I’ve ever read. It’s a modern Fitzgerald fantasy.
The premise also shows themes of American luxury and privilege, but it’s much less depressing than my previously-reviewed May Day. Imagine you’re a privileged teenager at a fancy prep school and a fellow student brings you home for the holidays. On the way there, he tells you that his father owns a diamond “bigger than the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.” A single diamond bigger than a building. What would you think?
That’s the situation John T. Unger finds himself in when his friend, Percy Washington, brings him home to the “only five square miles of land in the country that’s never been surveyed.” It’s a long story, and I won’t spoil it for ya, but the Washington family basically has hidden itself from the rest of America, protecting this gigantic single diamond that is the size of a mountain and camouflaged as one.
The overwhelming wealth of the Washington family means indescribable luxuries that take on the quality of magic. Percy is pampered and petted by the descendants of pre-Civil War slaves who never learned they had been freed. Percy is mesmerized by the opulence around him, further heightened by the fact that no one knows this place exists.
“Afterward 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 the 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, dressed like 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.”
There are so many themes at play here but now is not the time to parse them. It’s a different Fitzgerald than the one to which I’ve become accustomed, but this book, more than anything, makes you feel like you’re floating. It’s like a dream, sometimes morphing into a nightmare, but never real, hovering on the fringes of your sparking imagination.
I don’t really ever rate books here but—5/5 stars. Amazing. Buy it for $9 at this link.
- YSP Fiction: “The Diamond As Big As The Ritz” Review (yongestreetportage.wordpress.com)
- Novella #1: F Scott Fitzgerald’s “May Day” (themosthappy.me)
- A Novella Did You Say? (aworldinbooks.wordpress.com)
- Novellas for Days (themosthappy.me)
- Win a Copy of Fitzgerald’s “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz” (vol1brooklyn.com)