Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Six Other Stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald

PAPERBACK; 202 P.
PENGUIN, 2008/1932
SOURCE: FROM THE LIBRARY

Full grown with a long, smoke-coloured beard, requiring the services of a cane and fonder of cigars than warm milk, Benjamin Button is a very curious baby indeed. And, as Benjamin becomes increasingly youthful with the passing years, his family wonders why he persists in the embarrassing folly of living in reverse. In this imaginative fable of ageing and the other stories collected here – including “The Cut-Glass Bowl” in which an ill-meant gift haunts a family’s misfortunes, “The Four Fists” where a man’s life shaped by a series of punches to his face, and the revelry, mobs and anguish of “May Day” – F. Scott Fitzgerald displays his unmatched gift as a writer of short stories.

This book is part of the Jazz Age January event hosted by Leah at Books Speak Volumes

Around this time last year, I read Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited and dived deep into the dazzling 1920s. I’d never before made a conscious effort to look up titles published in certain years and found the experience of immersing into a time period very enjoyable. Thus when Leah announced that she’d be hosting another Jazz Age January, I signed up immediately. I didn’t really have a clear idea of what I wanted to read, except that I wanted an American narrative instead of a British one. Thus I ended up browsing the shelves of my local library, contemplating between Fitzgerald and Hemingway.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Six Other Stories is a collection of seven short stories, compiled from three of Fitzgerald’s short story collections. Three of the stories are from his first collection, Flappers and Philosophers (1921), three from the second collection Tales of the Jazz Age (1922) and the last story was part of the Babylon Revisited and Other Stories (1960) collection. The stories are all set around different characters in various life situations; the title story being probably the most famous one. As with many short story collections, there are some that are absolutely wonderful and that you want to continue reading, and some that you don’t really care for that much. My favourites in this collection were definitely Heads and Shoulders and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button as well as “O Russet Witch!”.

Fitzgerald’s writing is stunning and he has a talent on incorporating a variety of feelings between his lines that slowly seep into your consciousness. Although The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Six Other Stories was a short read, I took breaks between the stories, because I feared that the magic would disappear if I would read it too quickly. I really enjoyed reading Fitzgerald again – I’ve only read The Great Gatsby before -, but I must admit that as a whole the collections didn’t quite live up to my expectation. Fitzgerald captures the sense and the feel of the time well in his short stories, and I’ll definitely continue to read more of his works in the future. I’d recommend The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Six Other Stories to those who loved The Great Gatsby and want to try out some of Fitzgerald’s short stories.

3.5/5

 The years between thirty-five and sixty-five revolve before the passive mind as one unexplained, confusing merry-go-round. True, they are a merry-go-round of ill-gaited and wind-broken horses, painted in pastel colors, then in dull grays and browns, but perplexing and intolerably dizzy the thing is, as never were the merry-go-rounds of childhood or adolescence, as never, surely, were the certain-coursed, dynamic roller-coasters of youth.

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13 thoughts on “Review: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Six Other Stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald

  1. I generally love Fitzgerald but I haven’t read this book, I have only seen the movie. Honestly, I didn’t like it so much as I expected. But, seeing that you put only those stars, isn’t good as I hoped it would be. Great review!

    • I actually haven’t seen the film – but I have listened to the soundtrack (Desplat<3). However, when I was reading the story I did get the sense that it could be easily adapted into a full-length film. So I'm still a bit interested in watching the film adaptation. Thank you for your comment!

  2. i just read Maureen Corrigan’s book about The Great Gatsby (And So We Read On) and she argues that The Great Gatsby is a masterpiece — in fact, THE Great American Novel — and that his other work, while excellent, doesn’t compare. I enjoyed your review — makes me want to go back and reread some of his short stories.

    • Thank you! The first (and so far the only time) that I read The Great Gatsby, I didn’t really get the subtext. However, I’ve since then seen the film and read several articles about the book, and now understand why it is generally understood as the Great American Novel. However, I think during Fitzgerald’s lifetime it was This Side of Paradise that was the most popular of his works?

  3. Lovely review! I had read ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ last year, I think, and I really disliked it for some reason. I was really disappointed because I had loved ‘The Great Gatsby’ and I expected so much more. I’m really curious to read more of his short stories now, though, because I’ve heard very good things about them.

    • Thank you for your kind comment! It’s hard to compare a short story to a novel, because the other one is limited to a shorter length and thus often cannot portray several characters as deeply as a novel. But I’d still definitely recommend checking out Fitzgerald’s short stories!

      • Yes, I absolutely agree with you. In novels, the author has a lot more ‘space’ to develop the characters and the plot compared to a short story. I guess I expected to be blown away by ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ and when that didn’t happen I was disappointed. Perhaps this particular story just wasn’t for me (I pretty much hated the movie as well), but I will check out his other stories 🙂

  4. That’s the problem with short stories.Sometimes,though you can’t really pick up any flaw with them,they let you down,because of the promise of the author – you expect something far more heart-wrenching,or something of that sort.

    I read short stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Kafka,and I was not fully satisfied – there were some good ones,but other than that,the rest was bland.I expected something far greater,but at the same time,what can novelists do with short stories,which demand and require a shorter time frame,concise narrative,and virtually no character development? Also Munro,upon winning the Nobel,said that she wished people would regard short stories as an art,not just something you play around with until you get a novel.She said this in regard to what many people – rightly – think; many great authors wrote short stories before their best-known novels.So,yeah,many of our favourite writers were at the start of their careers when penning short stories,hence why these are a far cry from their masterpieces.

    I guess the best short-storytellers are the ones who have only written short stories in their lifetime,mastering this art beyond imagination,like Munro and Borges,whose works I read and enjoyed! (How I mention Borges again! You must be bored of I repeatedly referring to him over and over!)

    I’m saying all this because I didn’t want to be disappointed with Fitzgerald after he mesmerized me with The Great Gatsby.That’s why I turned a blind eye on his collection of short stories,and instead held an interest in reading his other well-known work,The Beautiful and the Damned.

  5. I always forget Fitzgerald wrote Benjamin Button! His stories can be kind of hit-or-miss for me. I think he often bashed out a bunch of stories just for the money, so not all of them are great. But if you want to read some more of his short stories, A Diamond as Big as the Ritz is an excellent one.

    Thanks for sharing this post and taking part in Jazz Age January!

  6. Pingback: Jazz Age January: Week 4 Linkup - Books Speak Volumes

  7. Pingback: Jazz Age January: Wrapping Up - Books Speak Volumes

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