Guest Author - Siobhain M Cullen
This informal F Scott Fitzgerald Book Recommendation (and movie trailer review for The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button) might appeal to those readers who yearn for something different in the world of short stories.
Some students/readers may like a change from the great American novelist's usual themes of the Jazz Age, The American Dream, rich kids living it up, having it all and throwing it all away through parties, drink, psychological breakdown, glamour, fashion and flirting.
Well, Benjamin Button is certainly different! A nasty shock awaits a proud new upwardly-mobile dad as he rushes panting up the steps to the maternity hospital to visit his wife and new baby. All is 'Not Well' as he gleans from the tragic expressions on the faces of the hospital staff on his way to the nursery!
(Spoiler follows - for maximum effect, read the story without consulting the blurb on the book jacket or the movie reviews!)
Our hero approaches the frilly cradle, all beautifully clean and starched ready for the arrival of the new, pink, cherub-like arrival into his family...... only to find an oversized occupant squashed into the folds of the soft linen. Its arms and legs protrude over the edge as they are too long to fit properly - because - the cradle's occupant is a grey-haired, wrinkly old man!
In terror, our hero (Brad Pitt in the movie version) gazes wildly around him in shock and disbelief - only to be told that there is no mistake! That 'new arrival' is most surely his, and though Dad is quite patently in denial, he must surely take up the challenge of his responsibilities - and bring Junior home to bring up as part of the family! No arguments can be brooked and heads shake frimly from side to side!
Sadly, our hero heads for a clothing store, wondering what best to buy for his new 'son' and how best to bring him up! From here, both the short story and the movie handle the tricky trials of growing up - backwards. Or rather, 'growing down' for as the elderly 'baby' ages, he appears younger while others such as family, girlfriend, wife, brother, son.... grow older, greyer, fatter, uglier.
Eventually, all the character meet in the middle. This difficult concept of manipulating time seems (according to the beautifully filmed-sepia effect movie trailer ) to be handled sensitively and insightfully in David Finscher's new movie.
From a personal point of view - the viewpoint of a reader/viewer who has some prior experience of Scott Fitzgerald - the short story was a delight! Vaguely aware of the story line, I still found it funny - it was still a shock-induced laugh to read the incongrous moment of discovery. It is difficult to explain why, except to posit the theory that maybe it was because I had already heard 'from the horse's mouth' some of Fitzgerlad's own jokes,through the medium of his published letters! Also, there is something delightfully droll about Scott Fitzgerald's 'drily deadpan' and deliberately disingenuous 'delivery.' Apologies for the pun!
In these very personal and delightful works by F Scott Fitzgerals I had already seen strange glimpses of 'the quirkiest sense of humour.' The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button just encapsualted some of that comedy talent into a story - if only we had had more of it. Other examples I suppose could have included the Pat Hobby stories.
The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button is highly recommended as a good read - and the movie trailer gives a mistily romatic period drama impression of the movie - I look forward to it!