When the movie version came out a couple of years ago, I decided not to watch it until I read the short story. I didn’t read the story, though, until a couple of days ago. Something always seemed to stand in my way—either I didn’t have time or there was another shorter story I needed to read. When I stumbled upon a free Librivox audio book though, I decided it was time.
The titular Benjamin Button is born in the body of a seventy-year-old man. His wealthy parents are horrified, and they keep wondering why this had to happen to them. Benjamin’s father tries to delude himself by thinking that Benjamin is a normal baby. As the years go by, it becomes apparent that Benjamin is aging backwards, and, throughout his life, he tries and always fails to fit in with the “normal” people around him.
I’m a big Fitzgerald fan, okay? I freaking love the guy. I’ve read his first novel This Side of Paradise which I will never read again unless I’m threatened with Chinese water torture, and The Great Gatsby which I thought was veeeeeery beautiful but also veeeeery depressing.
As a result, I’m confused. I don’t know where to pigeonhole The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It still showcases Fitzgerald’s brilliant writing. The plot is slightly depressing because I felt sad for Benjamin. At first, he has to bend over backward just to please his father, and, in the end, he has to try to please his son. He fails miserably on both accounts. But it was also so funny. There’s a scene where a six-hour old Benjamin asks his father to buy him a cane. Funny, right?
Underneath all that humor, though, the short story spoke to me on a personal level. I guess, at one time or another, we've all felt left out. Fitzgerald transformed and heightened that feeling until it became comical but universal. Benjamin struggled with who he was, and, on an inner level, so do I.
Despite my confusion, I’m really glad I read The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The story showed me a different side of one of my favorite authors of all-time. I learned that besides being a certified literary genius, F. Scott Fitzgerald also had a great sense of humor.