Wednesday, 29 December 2010

The curious case of Benjamin Button, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

This volume contains seven short stories, published by Scott Fitzgerald from 1920 to 1932 in the USA. Like all his writings, they document his age, and so have a historical / social interest. In addition, they concisely demonstrate his skill as a writer, and his imagination.

Scott Fitzgerald lets his fantasy go quite wild in these stories, the most famous being ‘The curious case of Benjamin Button’, thanks to a 2009 (?) film based on this story. It is an intriguing idea of a man born old, who becomes progressively younger throughout his life. The author carries out this difficult conceit with skill and humour. The film diverges from the short story, with many extraneous additional material, but captures the ‘youthing’ of the main character with clever use of make up on Brad Pitt. The reversal of time’s arrow allows the author to bump up against all the practical problems this causes, extracting the comic potential to the full.

These stories all have a thread of craziness and inversion about them. For instance, I liked the story called ‘Head and shoulders’ where a brilliant shy Princeton Scholar becomes a trapeze artist, and the girl who persuades him out of the cloister of academia becomes a famous writer. They swap roles, so to speak.

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