Redheaded Neanderlady

Redheaded Neanderlady
This is a photoshopped version of something I found in National Geographic about the time I started researching

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Growing older, backwards

The film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button opens tomorrow, Christmas day. It is a strange time to open a film like this. It was originally a short story of the same name, which I first read years ago, and found it haunting, and slightly creepy, because it was about a man who was born 80 years old and "aged backwards". I don't remember where I first saw the story, except that it was in some fantasy/horror collection. Nor, despite the fact that I read it several times, could I recall the author, though I knew that he was someone well-known. It turned out to be F. Scott Fitzgerald. Once I discovered who the author was, I decided I actually wanted to see the film, though whether in a theater or on video, I don't know. The review in Salon seems to think it's an odd film, despite having Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett in the lead roles. I've seen several other reviews which seem to suggest the same thing, so I have no idea whether it's a good adaptation or not.


Every time I read it, though, I kind of shudder. I think Fitzgerald intended it to be a short meditation on how transitory life is. Perhaps he had reason to, living as he did in the long shadow cast by World War I. A lot of people were confronted with the transitory nature of life, perhaps for the first time, in that war. And it made me shudder because it reversed the way we are supposed to think about the way life progresses. What's even worse, in this fantasy/meditation, is that growing younger, Benjamin Button loses and loses and loses, and is finally a helpless baby at the end of his life, just the way we are born. In any case, it confronts you and makes you think, however briefly, about these things.


You don't have to be a Great American Novelist to do this, though obviously, Fitzgerald did this extremely well. In my opinion, and decent writer can make you consider such things, at least momentarily. Few nowadays do, at least in "popular" literature, but that is another story. The point is, I considered life's transitory nature, however unconsciously and tentatively. I was young enough to draw back when I first read The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which, I think, is why I thought it creepy. My instinct is still to draw back, but having lived for a while, I'm more cautious about doing so.


Happy holidays, dear readers,

Anne G

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