Saturday, February 07, 2009

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

This has been a great collection of short stories and the final three leave you in awe of his talent as a writer and storyteller.

May Day
In particular this story, the longest in the collection, is weaved together with a number of different characters coming in contact each other at a ball. One is almost destitute and has lost pride, employment and almost all hope, another is a wealthy young man who has avoided the same mistakes and the final element is a former girlfriend of the first.

They meet and fail to help each other leaving the stricken destitute former Yale man to take the ultimate step.

What it tells you is that in the world of all night parties, champagne and hotels those without the necessary funds were finished and locked out of that world. Equally they had nothing to offer other social groups so they end up alienated and isolated.

For those looking in, in this case two soldiers, they might be invited into the ball to have a drink by a drunk but once things have sobered up they are firmly back on the other side of the class divide and reminded of it.

This reminds me in places of the Great Gatsby because the same vacuous existence is being played out here by characters that with one slip could so easily fall from their life of luxury.

Oh Russet Witch
A strange story that doesn’t really fall into place until the very end. A young man working in a bookstore falls in love from a distance with a woman he sees from his room. They speak three or four times over a span of 40 years and it is only at the end, when he is decrepit and in his 60s that he discovers who she is.

The opportunity to get involved with a dancer who lived life to the full only becomes a prospect he realises he missed out on after he is told her identity. The irony is of course that everyone around him knew, including his wife, and never once filled him in.

Morale of the story seems to be to wake up and not only grab life by the lapels but do some basic research if you get the chance to escape the mundane.

Crazy Sunday
An odd story that ends this collection with another reminder of the fragility of those at the pinnacle of power in the Jazz Age. A young screenwriter becomes embroiled in the lives of a director and his actress wife. The director has the odd combination of affairs but an amazingly strong steak of jealousy. He even starts to suspect the screenwriter of being a threat.

That causes him to consider missing the attendance of a ball game. While he is on his way (or is he?) the telegrams charting his progress start piling up to be concluded with one telling of his death in an air crash. The wife clings to the idea it is just part of his jealous games and the screenwriter leaves with the intention of returning perhaps when is can exploit the situation more.

It shows that even those who have it all are constantly scared of losing it and that fear is the cause of their own worst nightmares being realised. A shallow world.

A review will follow soon...

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