Monday, March 21, 2011

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald

You can download a free audio book from Librivox here.

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.

10 comments:

Jillian said...

I want to read this one! I've seen the movie, and the story sounds different...

Teacher/Learner said...

The movie was so good and I've heard that the short story is quite different. I liked the symbolism of The Great Gatsby but didn't like it too much otherwise. But I'm not averse to trying another Gatsby book. Thanks for the review :)

Zibilee said...

I saw the movie, but it seems like the short story is an altogether different affair. I also really like Fitzgerald, and would read anything that he wrote, but my especial favorite is The Great Gatsby. Thanks also for sharing that this is on Libravox. I have been looking for a new audio book, and this story might fit well for an upcoming trip.

Ben said...

I'm a Fitzgerald-a-holic too. Have you ever read Tender Is The Night? It's as good as Gatsby to me. Thanks for the link, since it's a repackaged cash-in, I will probably take the audiobook.

Kristi said...

I haven't read this, but I've heard the movie is pretty loosely based on the short story. I did enjoy the movie, but it is really long. I'd love to read this short story at some point. I think the next Fitzgerald on my list is Tender is the Night.

bibliophilica said...

My book club read this a couple years ago as part of our annual "short story month." I really liked it and looked forward to the movie version, but was ultimately disappointed by it. I was pleasantly surprised by Brad Pitt's performance though. Glad you "finally" got around to reading it.

I've thought about trying Librivox, but haven't taken the plunge yet. Do you recommend it?

-Jay

Jessica said...

This is very VERY different to the movie as the movie played more to the tragic elements of the story, when I read this I was surprised how funny parts were.

simplerpastimes said...

Another one to add to the list! I've not seen the movie, but the story actually sounds more intriguing to me than the movie trailers were.

Trisha said...

I have never read the book, but the movie is beautiful, lyrical, and haunting!

Avid Reader said...

I love Fitzgerald too, but this story was an odd one. I read it before seeing the film and the two are so different!

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