Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Review)

Labels: A Lighter Touch

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The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1922
64 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
December 2010

This short story reverses time's arrow. In turn, hilarious and sad, it takes aim at aristocatic pretensions, one of Fitzgerald's favorite targets. It's a story with bite. (The Brad Pitt movie with all its earnestness? Not even close. Film and story have little in common.)

The story opens as a young society couple anticipates the birth of their first child. Arriving at the hospital, however, Mr. Button is met with an "appalling apparition"—no gurgling infant but a bearded creature crammed into his crib. There he sits, demanding food, clothing, rocking chair and cane. Roger's Button's newborn is a grown man of seventy.

How Roger deals with this catastrophe is by far the funniest part of the story. Feaful of society's condemnation, Roger pretends that nothing—nothing!—is out of the ordinary. He clips his son's beard, dyes his hair, dresses him in child's clothing and sends him out to play with other boys. Eyebrows (and questions) are raised of course—but really...what can one say?

When Benjamin reaches age 10, the mirror shows him a man less frail and stooped than he's used to seeing. By the time he's 18, Benjamin resembles a handsome man of 52. His age eventually crisscrosses that of his father...and, later, of his own son: the two grow older as Benjamin grows younger.

Fitzgerald has written a marvelous fantasy, a genre he occasionally visits. It's a good read for book clubs—particularly when you need a break from longer, tougher works. You'll have fun talking about the entire conceit—reverse aging (what would it be like!)—and F. Scott's hilarious potshots at America's self-proclaimed peerage. Read and enjoy!

Please see our Reading Guide for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

 

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