Monday, February 16, 2015

Bonus Quote of the Day (F. Scott Fitzgerald, on the ‘Curious Case’ of a Scholar’s Benefactor)

“The wholesale hardware business prospered amazingly. In the fifteen years between Benjamin Button’s marriage in 1880 and his father’s retirement in 1895, the family fortune was doubled—and this was due largely to the younger member of the firm.

“Needless to say, Baltimore eventually received the couple to its bosom. Even old General Moncrief became reconciled to his son-in-law when Benjamin gave him the money to bring out his History of the Civil War in twenty volumes, which had been refused by nine prominent publishers.”—F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” in Tales of the Jazz Age (1922)

The image accompanying this post comes, of course, from the 2008 film adaptation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story, with Brad Pitt in the title role. Believe it or not, I still, despite my love for all things Fitzgerald, never gotten around to seeing this movie, even with all its Oscar nominations. (Maybe because it was reputed to have not a whole lot to do with the original material.) I don't know, therefore, if this slice of Button's life showed up on screen (though my guess, from the film still, is that Pitt is here approximately the same age that Button would have been).

The odder thing, though, is that I had never gotten around to reading the short story itself. That is, until last week, when I listened to it, chapter by chapter, across several days, in an audio recording through Spotify. Perhaps because my eye couldn’t travel down the page to glance at what might come next, my surprise became greater—and my guffaw louder—when I heard the above quote.

At some point, I intend to write about this amazing—and uncharacteristic—foray by Fitzgerald into speculative fiction. (In case you hadn’t heard, the title character experiences the aging process in reverse.) 

But for now, I’ll confine myself to saying that, though contemporary major publishers would be even more reluctant to publish General Moncrief’s vanity project, he would probably possess even more ways than back then in seeing it into print. It’s just one more example of how, as Fitzgerald wrote just a few years later, the very rich “are different from you and me.”  

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