Yes, we know there’s been a rather recent movie by David Fincher starring Brad Pitt and the wonderful Cate Blanchett with this very title. But it is perhaps a good idea to plunge ourselves into the depths of the “written version”, actually the “written original”. Brad and Cate are great but, as with all movies, they are not just stories but also interpretations of stories. The original always helps us get in the shoes of a director ourselves and cast our own characters in our private movies inside our heads.
The short story belongs to F. Scott Fitzgerald, otherwise known as the author of the Great Gatsby (movies seem to love Mr. Fitzgerald. This story, however, is part of Tales of the Jazz Age, a collection of short stories from the great ’20s. Benjamin Button is a strange case of backwards-aging person: he is born with the appearance of a 70-year old man and starts getting younger. You can imagine some of the complications of such a life, but can you measure with Fitzgerald when it comes to imagination? Put your imagination power to test and read his story.
The impending release of a movie version starring Brad Pitt has made this humorous tale, formerly among the least known of Fitzgerald's short stories, a hot property. DeFillippis and Weir's adaptation preserves the original's straight-faced tone describing the career of a man who begins life in his 70s and grows progressively younger. If bystanders find this more than "curious," they usually are just irritated at Benjamin for not behaving like other people. He himself is surprised as his body morphs, but is always open to new possibilities; his good-natured adaptability gives the social satire a gentle edge. Readers should, of course, look up Fitzgerald's original, but there's much to enjoy in this handsome little hardbound book. Cornell's sepia watercolor panels are especially clever at showing physical and emotional changes as Benjamin moves backward through life while America rolls forward for 70 years. A useful, gracefully written afterword by Donald G. Sheehy, professor of English, completes the volume nicely.