Audiobook Review: Five by Fitzgerald

I received this book for free from Audies in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Audiobook Review: Five by FitzgeraldFive by Fitzgerald: Classic Stories of the Jazz Age by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Narrator: Bronson Pinchot, Stephen R. Thorne
Length: 5 hrs, 6 mins
Published by AudioGO on October 6, 2011
Genres: Classics, Short Stories
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audies

Five brilliant stories from one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century. Includes the following stories: Head and Shoulders, Bernice Bobs Her Hair, Dalyrimple Goes Wrong, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and The Diamond as Big as the Ritz.

This audiobook consists of five short stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The included stories are: “Bernice Bobs Her Hair,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz,” “Dalyrimple Goes Wrong” and “Head and Shoulders.” My only previous experience of Fitzgerald, as is the case with most people I imagine, is The Great Gatsby which we read in high school. While I liked it more than I didn’t, I mostly felt meh about it. These stories, though, I greatly enjoyed, particularly the fantastical ones.

In “Bernice Bobs Her Hair,” the title character is staying with her cousin Marjorie, a bright, popular girl. Bernice, in contrast, is dull and disliked, despite her pretty face. Marjorie, sick of having to take this depressing girl with her everywhere, teachers her all the tricks to flirting with the boys and being popular. When Bernice does too well, Marjorie challenges her to follow through with her promise to bob her hair. Although I didn’t like the characters and would not like this as a full-length novel, it made a fun, light short story about the 1920s.

I must confess that I have never managed to watch the movie version of “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” I have tried twice (once on an airplane and once on Netflix watch instantly), but was too creeped out by the old man baby and too annoyed by his voice to keep going. Plus, kinda bored. The story is an interesting one, really making you consider how much it would suck to age backwards. My guess is that the movie made more of a romance out of it; I can tell you right now that the story is not romantic. Unfortunately, Pinchot chose to use pretty much the exact same creepy, obnoxious voice for the old man baby. Sigh.

The third story is both somewhat creepy (they do seem to be this way) and really fascinating. In “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz,” Fitzgerald created a family blessed with impossible wealth, their forefather having discovered a mountain made out of a flawless diamond. The eerie part comes in with the lengths they have taken to keep the source of their wealth secret. Something about this was really incredibly interesting to me, although, now, it’s hard to say why.

“Dalyrimple Goes Wrong” was definitely not my favorite story of the bunch. However, having reached the end of it, I was surprised and enchanted to find that Fitzgerald is capable of some delightful dark humor. Plus, the whole story renders a social commentary that I find quite amusing. Most, perhaps all, of his works are social commentary, but I think this one takes a slightly different bent.

This last may have been my favorite story. The main character, Horace, is a philosopher, with little interest in doing anything but read philosophical tomes. He even named his two chairs after philosophers (Berkeley and Hume). Then, thanks to a practical joke by a friend, a beautiful actress comes sweeping into his life. I don’t want to spoil the humor of the story, so I’ll stop there. Anyway, Horace is so delightfully written, fully the socially awkward, hyper intelligent personality I know so well. He reminds me of many dear friends.

Only the final story is narrated by Stephen R. Thorne. I rather wonder why they didn’t just have Pinchot finish it out. Despite finding this strange, I didn’t find the narrator shift unpleasant. However, I do not approve of a change of format that took place along with the shift; namely, Pinchot announced the chapter numbers, as each story is divided into sections, and Thorne skipped these, merely reading his story as one long, unbroken tale. I find the latter approach untrue to what Fitzgerald wrote. The audiobook does still start a new chapter with each of these, though, to aid in navigation.

As much as I disliked Bronson Pinchot’s narration on the last audiobook I finished, I was not much thrilled to see he was also a narrator for this one. Thankfully, I didn’t find his voice distasteful here. I suppose, then, that much of the obnoxiousness, like the accent, of his voice must have been assumed for the role. I don’t know why he thought that was a good idea. Anyway, I liked his work here and was almost sorry to see him go when it switched to the last story.

That said, Stephen R. Thorne did a good job as well. He played the socially awkward guy superbly well, and, given how many people I know of that type, this was very important to me.

I think I’ll be searching out more Fitzgerald in the future. Thank goodness I didn’t miss out on good things because of forced reading in high school.

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