The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Timed, no doubt, to the release of the upcoming feature film, Penguin Classics has reissued its collection of F. Scott Fitzgerald's Jazz Age Stories as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The titular tale, an absurdist parable of a man who is born in old age and regresses to childhood over the course of 70 years, is just one among the 19 stories gathered here, the full roster of Fitzgerald's first two collections. In a way, Fitzgerald's early stories are a training ground for the author we've come to know, full of his habitual wit but with more whimsy than usual. In such stories as "The Camel's Back," about a man disguised as a camel at a costume party who tricks his noncommittal lover into marrying him, and the classic "Diamond as Big as the Ritz," we catch a glimpse of the decadent exuberance of post-WWI America, unconstrained by the trifling boundaries of realism. Still, these stories are, for the most part, hardly without Fitzgerald's melancholy touch -- the novelette "May Day," in particular, is a somber indictment of the ravages of the Jazz Age and the aftermath of war upon a set of young men and women whose lives intersect one fateful night in New York. Fitzgerald's more ambitious stories, "May Day" among them, outclass some of the collection's more lighthearted efforts: "Head and Shoulders," in the O. Henry–esque orthodoxy of its structure, would seem the work of a less than mature creator. But then, that is one of the great pleasures of this collection -- the chance to see one of America's most iconic authors in the throes of his literary evolution.

July 26: On this day in 1602 "A booke called the Revenge of Hamlett Prince Denmarke" was entered in the Stationers' Register by printer James Robertes.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

advertisement
Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.

Pastoral

When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).