The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

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Overview

In his short story "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," F. Scott Fitzgerald provides a humorous and touching journey that reveals what it's like to be born old and age in reverse.

With art by Calef Brown, this collector's edition presents this classic story in illustrated form for the first time.

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Overview

In his short story "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," F. Scott Fitzgerald provides a humorous and touching journey that reveals what it's like to be born old and age in reverse.

With art by Calef Brown, this collector's edition presents this classic story in illustrated form for the first time.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

Meet the Author

F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) was born in St. Paul, Minnesota. Upon graduating from Princeton, he served in the Army and worked briefly in advertising. He married his wife, Zelda, in 1920, a week after his first novel, This Side of Paradise, was published. His works, considered by many to be classics, include The Great Gatsby, Tender is the Night, and the uncompleted The Last Tycoon. He died of a heart attack at the age of 44.

Biography

The greatest writers often function in multifaceted ways, serving as both emblems of their age and crafters of timeless myth. F. Scott Fitzgerald surely fits this description. His work was an undeniable product of the so-called Jazz Age of the 1920s, yet it has a quality that spans time, reaching backward into gothic decadence and forward into the future of a rapidly decaying America. Through five novels, six short story collections, and one collection of autobiographical pieces, Fitzgerald chronicled a precise point in post-WWI America, yet his writing resonates just as boldly today as it did nearly a century ago.

Fitzgerald's work was chiefly driven by the disintegration of America following World War I. He believed the country to be sinking into a cynical, Godless, depraved morass. He was never reluctant to voice criticism of America's growing legions of idle rich. Recreating a heated confrontation with Ernest Hemingway in a short story called "The Rich Boy," Fitzgerald wrote, "Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are. They are different."

The preceding quote may sum Fitzgerald's philosophy more completely than any other, yet he also hypocritically embodied much of what he claimed to loathe. Fitzgerald spent money freely, threw lavish parties, drank beyond excess, and globe-trotted with his glamorous but deeply troubled wife Zelda. Still, in novel after novel, he sought to expose the great chasm that divided the haves from the have-nots and the hollowness of wealth. In This Side of Paradise (1920) he cynically follows opulent, handsome Amory Blaine as he bounces aimlessly from Princeton to the military to an uncertain, meaningless future. In The Beautiful and the Damned (1922) Fitzgerald paints a withering portrait of a seemingly idyllic marriage between a pair of socialites that crumbles in the face of Adam Patch's empty pursuit of profit and the fading beauty of his vane wife Gloria.

The richest example of Fitzgerald's disdain for the upper class arrived three years later. The Great Gatsby is an undoubted American classic, recounting naïve Nick Carraway's involvement with a coterie of affluent Long Islanders, and his ultimate rejection of them when their casual decadence leads only to internal back-stabbing and murder. Nick is fascinated by the mysterious Jay Gatsby, who had made the fatal mistake of stepping outside of his lower class status to pursue the lovely but self-centered Daisy Buchanan.

In The Great Gatsby, all elements of Fitzgerald's skills coalesced to create a narrative that is both highly readable and subtly complex. His prose is imbued with elegant lyricism and hard-hitting realism. "It is humor, irony, ribaldry, pathos and loveliness," Edwin C. Clark wrote of the book in the New York Times upon its 1925 publication. "A curious book, a mystical, glamorous story of today. It takes a deeper cut at life than hitherto has been essayed by Mr. Fitzgerald."

Gatsby is widely considered to be Fitzgerald's masterpiece and among the very greatest of all American literature. It is the ultimate summation of his contempt for the Jazz-Age with which he is so closely associated. Gatsby is also one of the clearest and saddest reflections of his own destructive relationship with Zelda, which would so greatly influence the mass of his work.

Fitzgerald only managed to complete one more novel -- Tender is the Night -- before his untimely death in 1940. An unfinished expose of the Hollywood studio system titled The Love of the Last Tycoon would be published a year later. Still The Great Gatsby remains his quintessential novel. It has been a fixture of essential reading lists for decades and continues to remain an influential work begging to be revisited. It has been produced for the big screen three times and was the subject of a movie for television starring Toby Stephens, Mira Sorvino, and Paul Rudd as recently as 2000. Never a mere product of a bygone age, F. Scott Fitzgerald's greatest work continues to evade time.

Good To Know

In 1937, Fitzgerald moved to Hollywood to pursue a screenwriting career. He only completed a single screenplay Three Comrades during this time before being fired for his excessive drinking.

He held a very romantic view of Princeton before attending the university in 1913. However, his failure to maintain adequate grades or become the football star he dreamed to be lead to an early end to his studies in 1917.

Fitzgerald owes a his name to another famous American writer. He was named after Francis Scott Key, the composer of "The Star Spangled Banner," who also happened to be a distant relative of Fitzgerald's.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald (real name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      September 24, 1896
    2. Place of Birth:
      St. Paul, Minnesota
    1. Date of Death:
      December 21, 1940

Read an Excerpt

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Inspiration for the Upcoming Major Motion Picture
By F. Scott Fitzgerald

Scribner

Copyright © 2007 F. Scott Fitzgerald
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781416556053

Chapter One

As long ago as 1860 it was the proper thing to be born at home. At present, so I am told, the high gods of medicine have decreed that the first cries of the young shall be uttered upon the anesthetic air of a hospital, preferably a fashionable one. So young Mr. and Mrs. Roger Button were fifty years ahead of style when they decided, one day in the summer of 1860, that their first baby should be born in a hospital. Whether this anachronism had any bearing upon the astonishing history I am about to set down will never be known.

I shall tell you what occurred, and let you judge for yourself.

The Roger Buttons held an enviable position, both social and financial, in ante-bellum Baltimore. They were related to the This Family and the That Family, which, as every Southerner knew, entitled them to membership in that enormous peerage which largely populated the Confederacy. This was their first experience with the charming old custom of having babies -- Mr. Button was naturally nervous. He hoped it would be a boy so that he could be sent to Yale College in Connecticut, at which institution Mr. Button himself had been known for four years by the somewhat obvious nickname of "Cuff."

On the September morning consecrated to the enormous event he arose nervously at sixo'clock, dressed himself, adjusted an impeccable stock, and hurried forth through the streets of Baltimore to the hospital, to determine whether the darkness of the night had borne in new life upon its bosom.

When he was approximately a hundred yards from the Maryland Private Hospital for Ladies and Gentlemen he saw Doctor Keene, the family physician, descending the front steps, rubbing his hands together with a washing movement -- as all doctors are required to do by the unwritten ethics of their profession.

Mr. Roger Button, the president of Roger Button & Co., Wholesale Hardware, began to run toward Doctor Keene with much less dignity than was expected from a Southern gentleman of that picturesque period. "Doctor Keene!" he called. "Oh, Doctor Keene!"

The doctor heard him, faced around, and stood waiting, a curious expression settling on his harsh, medicinal face as Mr. Button drew near.

"What happened?" demanded Mr. Button, as he came up in a gasping rush. "What was it? How is she? A boy? Who is it? What -- "

"Talk sense!" said Doctor Keene sharply. He appeared somewhat irritated.

"Is the child born?" begged Mr. Button.

Doctor Keene frowned. "Why, yes, I suppose so -- after a fashion." Again he threw a curious glance at Mr. Button.

"Is my wife all right?"

"Yes."

"Is it a boy or a girl?"

"Here now!" cried Doctor Keene in a perfect passion of irritation, "I'll ask you to go and see for yourself. Outrageous!" He snapped the last word out in almost one syllable, then he turned away muttering: "Do you imagine a case like this will help my professional reputation? One more would ruin me -- ruin anybody."

"What's the matter?" demanded Mr. Button, appalled. "Triplets?"

"No, not triplets!" answered the doctor cuttingly. "What's more, you can go and see for yourself. And get another doctor. I brought you into the world, young man, and I've been physician to your family for forty years, but I'm through with you! I don't want to see you or any of your relatives ever again! Good-bye!"

Then he turned sharply, and without another word climbed into his phaeton, which was waiting at the curbstone, and drove severely away.

Mr. Button stood there upon the sidewalk, stupefied and trembling from head to foot. What horrible mishap had occurred? He had suddenly lost all desire to go into the Maryland Private Hospital for Ladies and Gentlemen -- it was with the greatest difficulty that, a moment later, he forced himself to mount the steps and enter the front door.

A nurse was sitting behind a desk in the opaque gloom of the hall. Swallowing his shame, Mr. Button approached her.

"Good-morning," she remarked, looking up at him pleasantly.

"Good-morning. I -- I am Mr. Button."

At this a look of utter terror spread itself over the girl's face. She rose to her feet and seemed about to fly from the hall, restraining herself only with the most apparent difficulty.

"I want to see my child," said Mr. Button.

The nurse gave a little scream. "Oh -- of course!" she cried hysterically. "Upstairs. Right upstairs. Go -- up!"

She pointed the direction, and Mr. Button, bathed in a cool perspiration, turned falteringly, and began to mount to the second floor. In the upper hall he addressed another nurse who approached him, basin in hand. "I'm Mr. Button," he managed to articulate. "I want to see my -- "

Clank! The basin clattered to the floor and rolled in the direction of the stairs. Clank! Clank! It began a methodical descent as if sharing in the general terror which this gentleman provoked.

"I want to see my child!" Mr. Button almost shrieked. He was on the verge of collapse.

Clank! The basin had reached the first floor. The nurse regained control of herself, and threw Mr. Button a look of hearty contempt.

"All right, Mr. Button," she agreed in a hushed voice. "Very well! But if you knew what state it's put us all in this morning! It's perfectly outrageous! The hospital will never have the ghost of a reputation after -- "

"Hurry!" he cried hoarsely. "I can't stand this!"

"Come this way, then, Mr. Button."

He dragged himself after her. At the end of a long hall they reached a room from which proceeded a variety of howls -- indeed, a room which, in later parlance, would have been known as the "crying-room." They entered. Ranged around the walls were half a dozen white-enameled rolling cribs, each with a tag tied at the head.

"Well," gasped Mr. Button, "which is mine?"

"There!" said the nurse.

Mr. Button's eyes followed her pointing finger, and this is what he saw. Wrapped in a voluminous white blanket, and partially crammed into one of the cribs, there sat an old man apparently about seventy years of age. His sparse hair was almost white, and from his chin dripped a long smoke-colored beard, which waved absurdly back and forth, fanned by the breeze coming in at the window. He looked up at Mr. Button with dim, faded eyes in which lurked a puzzled question.

"Am I mad?" thundered Mr. Button, his terror resolving into rage. "Is this some ghastly hospital joke?"

"It doesn't seem like a joke to us," replied the nurse severely. "And I don't know whether you're mad or not -- but that is most certainly your child."

The cool perspiration redoubled on Mr. Button's forehead. He closed his eyes, and then, opening them, looked again. There was no mistake -- he was gazing at a man of threescore and ten -- a baby of threescore and ten, a baby whose feet hung over the sides of the crib in which it was reposing.

The old man looked placidly from one to the other for a moment, and then suddenly spoke in a cracked and ancient voice. "Are you my father?" he demanded.

Mr. Button and the nurse started violently.

"Because if you are," went on the old man querulously, "I wish you'd get me out of this place -- or, at least, get them to put a comfortable rocker in here."

"Where in God's name did you come from? Who are you?" burst out Mr. Button frantically.

"I can't tell you exactly who I am," replied the querulous whine, "because I've only been born a few hours -- but my last name is certainly Button."

"You lie! You're an impostor!"

The old man turned wearily to the nurse. "Nice way to welcome a newborn child," he complained in a weak voice. "Tell him he's wrong, why don't you?"

"You're wrong, Mr. Button," said the nurse severely. "This is your child, and you'll have to make the best of it. We're going to ask you to take him home with you as soon as possible -- some time today."

"Home?" repeated Mr. Button incredulously.

"Yes, we can't have him here. We really can't, you know?"

"I'm right glad of it," whined the old man. "This is a fine place to keep a youngster of quiet tastes. With all this yelling and howling, I haven't been able to get a wink of sleep. I asked for something to eat" -- here his voice rose to a shrill note of protest -- "and they brought me a bottle of milk!"

Mr. Button sank down upon a chair near his son and concealed his face in his hands. "My heavens!" he murmured, in an ecstasy of horror. "What will people say? What must I do?"

"You'll have to take him home," insisted the nurse -- "immediately!"

A grotesque picture formed itself with dreadful clarity before the eyes of the tortured man -- a picture of himself walking through the crowded streets of the city with this appalling apparition stalking by his side. "I can't. I can't," he moaned.

People would stop to speak to him, and what was he going to say? He would have to introduce this -- this septuagenarian: "This is my son, born early this morning." And then the old man would gather his blanket around him and they would plod on, past the bustling stores, the slave market -- for a dark instant Mr. Button wished passionately that his son was black -- past the luxurious houses of the residential district, past the home for the aged....

"Come! Pull yourself together," commanded the nurse.

"See here," the old man announced suddenly, "if you think I'm going to walk home in this blanket, you're entirely mistaken."

"Babies always have blankets."

With a malicious crackle the old man held up a small white swaddling garment. "Look!" he quavered. "This is what they had ready for me."

"Babies always wear those," said the nurse primly.

"Well," said the old man, "this baby's not going to wear anything in about two minutes. This blanket itches. They might at least have given me a sheet."

"Keep it on! Keep it on!" said Mr. Button hurriedly. He turned to the nurse. "What'll I do?"

"Go downtown and buy your son some clothes."

Mr. Button's son's voice followed him down into the hall: "And a cane, father. I want to have a cane."

Mr. Button banged the outer door savagely...

Copyright © 1922 by P.F. Collier & Sons Co.



Continues...


Excerpted from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald Copyright © 2007 by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Table of Contents

CONTENTS

FOREWORD

PREFACE

HEAD AND SHOULDERS

BERNICE BOBS HER HAIR

THE ICE PALACE

THE OFFSHORE PIRATE

MAY DAY

THE JELLY-BEAN

THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON

THE DIAMOND AS BIG AS THE RITZ

WINTER DREAMS

DICE, BRASSKNUCKLES & GUITAR

ABSOLUTION

RAGS MARTIN-JONES AND THE PR-NCE OF W-LES

"THE SENSIBLE THING"

LOVE IN THE NIGHT

THE RICH BOY

JACOB'S LADDER

A SHORT TRIP HOME

THE BOWL

THE CAPTURED SHADOW

BASIL AND CLEOPATRA

THE LAST OF THE BELLES

MAJESTY

AT YOUR AGE

THE SWIMMERS

TWO WRONGS

FIRST BLOOD

EMOTIONAL BANKRUPTCY

THE BRIDAL PARTY

ONE TRIP ABROAD

THE HOTEL CHILD

BABYLON REVISITED

A NEW LEAF

A FREEZE-OUT

SIX OF ONE —

WHAT A HANDSOME PAIR!

CRAZY SUNDAY

MORE THAN JUST A HOUSE

AFTERNOON OF AN AUTHOR

FINANCING FINNEGAN

THE LOST DECADE

"BOIL SOME WATER — LOTS OF IT"

LAST KISS

DEARLY BELOVED

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Introduction

Questions for Discussion

1. How does Fitzgerald use tone and style to create a world that is fantastical and dreamlike, yet realistic?

2. How does Fitzgerald employ humor in the story? In what ways is the idea of someone aging in reverse inherently humorous?

3. By the time Benjamin takes over his father's company, his relationship with his father is dramatically different. Fitzgerald writes, "And if old Roger Button, now sixty-five years old, had failed at first to give a proper welcome to his son he atoned at last by bestowing on him what amounted to adulation." Benjamin's reverse aging is responsible for many of the highs and lows of his relationships with his father and his son. Do you think these relationships in some ways parallel those of all fathers and sons?

4. How does this story, though written almost a century ago, reflect our society's current attitude toward age and aging?

5. What is ironic about Benjamin marrying a "younger" woman? What does the story reveal about our perceptions of age and beauty?

6. The happier Benjamin becomes in his career, the more strained his marriage grows. Fitzgerald writes, "And here we come to an unpleasant subject which it will be well to pass over as quickly as possible. There was only one thing that worried Benjamin Button: his wife had ceased to attract him." Why does he fall out of love with Hildegarde?

7. How does Fitzgerald use Benjamin's condition to ridicule social norms?

8. How does Benjamin's reverse aging ironically mirror the modern midlife crisis?

9. When Benjamin returns from the war, Hildegarde, annoyed with his increasingly youthful appearance, says, "You're simply stubborn. You thinkyou don't want to be like any one else.... But just think how it would be if every one else looked at things as you do — what would the world be like?" Later Fitzgerald writes of Roscoe, "It seemed to him that his father, in refusing to look sixty, had not behaved like a 'red-blooded he-man'...but in a curious and perverse manner." What is significant about their attitudes? How is it ironic that Hildegarde and Roscoe seem to believe that Benjamin should control his aging?

10. Why do you think that fantasy and stories that manipulate time are so popular in our culture at the moment? What are some of the films, TV shows, and books that reflect these trends? Are you a fan of fantasy and stories that play with time, or do you prefer more traditional forms of storytelling?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Read other books about characters who age in reverse, such as The Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer, The Body by Hanif Kureishi, and the Fitzgerald-inspired story collection The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Apt. 3W by Gabriel Brownstein.

2. Host a movie night. Check out the new David Fincher film, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, or pick up The Great Gatsby, starring Mia Farrow and Robert Redford.

3. Learn more about Fitzgerald at http://www.fitzgeraldsociety.org.

Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

Questions for Discussion

1. How does Fitzgerald use tone and style to create a world that is fantastical and dreamlike, yet realistic?

2. How does Fitzgerald employ humor in the story? In what ways is the idea of someone aging in reverse inherently humorous?

3. By the time Benjamin takes over his father's company, his relationship with his father is dramatically different. Fitzgerald writes, "And if old Roger Button, now sixty-five years old, had failed at first to give a proper welcome to his son he atoned at last by bestowing on him what amounted to adulation." Benjamin's reverse aging is responsible for many of the highs and lows of his relationships with his father and his son. Do you think these relationships in some ways parallel those of all fathers and sons?

4. How does this story, though written almost a century ago, reflect our society's current attitude toward age and aging?

5. What is ironic about Benjamin marrying a "younger" woman? What does the story reveal about our perceptions of age and beauty?

6. The happier Benjamin becomes in his career, the more strained his marriage grows. Fitzgerald writes, "And here we come to an unpleasant subject which it will be well to pass over as quickly as possible. There was only one thing that worried Benjamin Button: his wife had ceased to attract him." Why does he fall out of love with Hildegarde?

7. How does Fitzgerald use Benjamin's condition to ridicule social norms?

8. How does Benjamin's reverse aging ironically mirror the modern midlife crisis?

9. When Benjamin returns from the war, Hildegarde, annoyed with his increasingly youthful appearance, says, "You're simply stubborn. Youthink you don't want to be like any one else.... But just think how it would be if every one else looked at things as you do -- what would the world be like?" Later Fitzgerald writes of Roscoe, "It seemed to him that his father, in refusing to look sixty, had not behaved like a 'red-blooded he-man'...but in a curious and perverse manner." What is significant about their attitudes? How is it ironic that Hildegarde and Roscoe seem to believe that Benjamin should control his aging?

10. Why do you think that fantasy and stories that manipulate time are so popular in our culture at the moment? What are some of the films, TV shows, and books that reflect these trends? Are you a fan of fantasy and stories that play with time, or do you prefer more traditional forms of storytelling?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Read other books about characters who age in reverse, such as The Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer, The Body by Hanif Kureishi, and the Fitzgerald-inspired story collection The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Apt. 3W by Gabriel Brownstein.

2. Host a movie night. Check out the new David Fincher film, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, or pick up The Great Gatsby, starring Mia Farrow and Robert Redford.

3. Learn more about Fitzgerald at fitzgeraldsociety.org.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 59 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 15 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 10, 2012

    Good story and easy read!!

    I was surprised that this book was quite different than the movie. However, it was still a very fun and quick read. Did not take me long at all. I liked that it was light and humorous at times but also sad kinda like the movie.Reading about a child born old was different and unusual, which is what made it fun to read. If you want a really quick and easy read about something totally different, then you should read The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Aging in Reverse

    Since this was recently a major motion picture I was surprised to find this was a book of only 60 pages.

    Inspired by a Mark Twain's observation that the best things in life happen at the beginning and the worst at the end Fitzgerald explores the ramifications of "aging" in reverse. Benjamin, or Methuselah as we was first named, makes his entrance into the world as an old man of 70 with a long gray beard and talking. His father notes his son "was a poor excuse for a first family baby." (pg. 18). To cope his father ignores the idiosyncrasies and tries to force him into chronological age appropriate behavior to which the younger Button attemtps to conform. Benjamin eventually marries, fathers a child, becomes a successful business man, and has a successful military career. However, his reverse aging causes great difficulty as he loses interest in his wife and eventually needs the care of his son as a father figure.

    It is a solid read providing food for thought for a culture that yearns to capture a forever young attitude

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 5, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    very good.

    really good story. very different from the movie. its worth reading. its super short too so you can read the whole thing in less than an hour. fitzgerald has a great writing style and im definitely intrested in reading more of his work.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2009

    Great Classic

    I enjoyed the book and am now ready to watch the movie.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2009

    Cute story...

    I liked the story, Still left me questioning the ending

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  • Posted January 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Ok for a quick read

    Because I knew of the movie before reading this, I knew the plot. I'm surprised that this was stretched into an almost 3 hour movie, I haven't seen it but I can guess a lot of things had to be added. The book was a quick and easy read, and this edition had nice, interesting illustrations to go with the story. The plot was fairly predictable considering the time in which it was written - someone born different and having to overcome obstacles from everyone else, even his own family.

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    Posted February 26, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2009

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