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F. Scott Fitzgerald versus Andrew Sean Greer

December 24, 2008 | 12:15 pm


Shaft from Baby Got Books joins our discussion of "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."

I can't help but make comparisons to Andrew Sean Greer's "The Confessions of Max Tivoli," a book that I absolutely adored. So even though Fitzgerald beat Greer to the punch on this concept by almost a century, I read Greer's book first, and it set the bar pretty high. However, unless instructed otherwise, I'm going to try to participate in this dialogue without any reference to Greer's book.

I think the first thing that struck me about this story (if something can strike you first on a second read) is what a gift for the English language Fitzgerald had; put aside his ideas or the structure of his stories -- the way he constructed his sentences was flawless. If I had his same gift, I would describe his gift better.

As for the story, unlike Amy's perspective (i.e., looking through the lens of a soon-to-be-first-time-mother), I've got two children but still couldn't compare my experiences with those of Roger Button, mostly because his took place in a completely different era. When I think back to the birth of my children, I think of the incredibly futuristic tools and resources in place at the hospital, so it's hard for me to relate to a nurse dropping a washbasin down the steps of the hospital, etc.  And this underlying theme of not being able to relate personally to the details of the story takes on a bigger role as the story progresses; in the present age of mass media, it is incomprehensible that a woman could give birth to a grown man but not have the story instantly available to everyone in the world. This has nothing to do with the merits of the story; it's only a reaction to Amy's initial take on it. Like her, though, I found the whole dynamic of a grown man being treated like a baby (at least by his father) to be hilarious.

Quick side note: I'm sure I'm not the only one who came across the sentence at the end of Part IV that said, "It was the biggest mistake that Yale College had ever made.... " and immediately thought of George W. Bush.

-- Shaft