Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and six other stories - post I

You end up reading this and come to the conclusion that if you can have a really strong idea it is possible to write about it s long as you do as brilliantly as Scott Fitzgerald.

The Strange Case of Benjamin Button

In one sense this is quite a straightforward story of a man who lives his life in reverse. Starting as a 70 plus and ending as a babe in arms he leads a live often clouded by frustration and rejection. He falls in love with a younger woman but as their ages move apart he leaves her and eventually he is back in the cot in his son’s home.

Fitzgerald skips whole decades of Benjamin’s life as he sticks to the main flash points of marriage, war, work and love. That obviously provides a great opportunity for script writers to fill the gaps for the likes of Brad Pitt but for the reader it keeps the story focused.

Rather than indulging the one idea until it loses its power by showing a life in selected highlights you never forget that Button is living backwards. At times he highlights the conflict between youth and adulthood as well as questions of discrimination because of age. One very powerful idea that he carries off brilliantly.

Head & Shoulders

Again another story where the title hints at the twist. A very clever but socially isolated academic is introduced to a chorus girl and he falls head over heels for her. They get married and describe their relationship as him being the head and her being the shoulders.

But down on their luck with her expecting he decides to try some trampoline stunts and becomes famous for his death defying jumps. She meanwhile writes a bestseller. Their roles are reversed and in the final scenes it becomes clear that jealousy and the resentment over failed ambitions could well be more powerful emotions than love.

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