The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1922
The magic trick:
An imaginative premise
Benjamin Button – a name that has become so ingrained in our modern mainstream culture that it transcends the original short story. Brad Pitt probably has a lot to do with that, but the strength of the concept is the biggest hook.
The story itself? Meh. It’s simply not that good. Certainly, you’d think a writer of Fitzgerald’s caliber – even at the age of 26 – could have done far more with the idea than the tepid bio-sketch we get here. It never really digs beneath the surface of the issues it addresses. Fitzgerald falls back on his standby themes: the pressures of social norms, the importance of financial success and the power plays between men and women. He never seems comfortable, or even all that interested, when the story stretches him into new subject matter.
But never mind. It’s a great idea – the man who ages backward. Never dismiss the power of a great idea. And that’s quite a trick on Fitzgerald’s part.
In 1880 Benjamin Button was twenty years old, and he signalized his birthday by going to work for his father in Roger Button & Co., Wholesale Hardware. It was in that same year that he began “going out socially”–that is, his father insisted on taking him to several fashionable dances. Roger Button was now fifty, and he and his son were more and more companionable–in fact, since Benjamin had ceased to dye his hair (which was still grayish) they appeared about the same age, and could have passed for brothers.