It was I who was looking at her for the first time.

I’m sure that The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button is going to be a fine movie (read: probably not totally horrible). Fincher, despite maybe not capitalizing on his talents and seizing opportunities like he should (and wasting time befriending jackasses like Fred Durst), is still a fine director. And Brad Pitt is Brad Pitt, you know? Angelina and he may be their own walking, talking tabloid franchise and have a complete little league team living under their roof, but he’s still a solid actor, right? Her too, besides the dreck she sometimes lowers herself too. But still, the trailer for Button freaks me out.

Why? Plain and simple: The images of Pitt as a tiny old man, thanks to movie magic special effects. It throbs the vein of two of the things that scare me the most in this world: old people and midgets. Combine them and the hair on my body parts stands up and tries to strangle me with fright.

The sad thing is that I sit here, ruminating on that, and I wonder to myself if the original short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald is in the public domain (a quick check tells me that it was published in 1922, so yeah, that’s public domain). I have to remind myself that “The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button” is by F. Scott, and not James Thurber like I always want to think it is. Maybe I’m getting “The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty” and it confused, maybe? Who knows, but now I’m thinking of one of my favorite Thurber stories, for some reason, which I’ll happily share with you thanks to the beauty of fair use:

The Little Girl And The Wolf

by James Thurber

One afternoon a big wolf waited in the dark forest for a little girl to come along carrying a basket of food to her grandmother. Finally a little girl did come along and she was carrying a basket of food. “Are you carrying that basket to your grandmother?” asked the wolf. The little girl said yes, she was. So the wolf asked her where her grandmother lived and the little girl told him and he disappeared into the wood.

When the little girl opened the door of her grandmother’s house she saw that there was somebody in bed with a nightcap and nightgown on. She had approached no nearer than twenty-five feet from the bed when she saw that it was not her grandmother but the wolf, for even in a nightcap a wolf does not look any more like your grandmother than the Metro-Goldwyn lion looks like Calvin Coolidge. So the little girl took an automatic out of her basket and shot the wolf dead.

(Moral: It is not so easy to fool little girls nowasdays as it used to be.)

How very true.

I’d love to share my other favorite Thurber story with you, but I don’t want to push the limits too much. But it’s a classic, so most likely, you’ve read it before. It’s “The Unicorn In The Garden,” which I’m happy to report that you can read right here.

Other stories I’d like to share with you at the moment (some in the public domain and some not):

The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson.

The Bet” by Anton Chekhov.

Lamb To The Slaughter” and “Man From The South” and pretty much anything from Someone Like You or Switch Bitch by Roald Dahl. Oh, and “Beware Of The Dog.”

The Lady Or The Tiger?” by Frank R. Stockton, and “The Discourager Of Hesitancy.”

The Cold Equations” by Tom Godwin.

The Birthday Of The Infanta” by Oscar Wilde.

Araby” by James Joyce. And, of course, “The Dead

Eyes Of A Blue Dog” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, which starts out like this: And then she looked at me. I thought she was looking at me for the first time. But then, when she turned around behind the lamp and I kept feeling her slippery and oily look in back of me, over my shoulder, I understood that it was I who was looking at her for the first time.

Here’s a bit on other adaptations of the Little Red Riding Hood story. And The Onion‘s best films of 2008. Salon reviewed The Wrestler and this is Slate‘s best books of the year list. Oh, and this is Stephen King’s top ten films of the year, a list that literally includes Death Race and The Ruins on it, a list on par with how horrible his selections for top albums of the year, but that’s a whole other shitty story. And here’s a bit on the daily writing routines of  science fiction writers. Until next time, beware the big bad wolf out there, kids.

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3 responses to “It was I who was looking at her for the first time.

  1. it’s daisy! aren’t all fitzgerald’s daisys based on his own wife? says liz wurtzel anyway, but it is a kinda romantic idea….

  2. This movie has a terrrrible name. Benjamin Button? It’s almost as bad as the boy in the striped pajamas (yes, I know it’s a holocaust film.)

    I’ve always thought the Lottery was by Eudora Welty? I guess she has a story by the same name. My favorite short is To Room 19 by that cranky broad Doris Lessing:

    I’ve always thought Little Red Riding Hood had sexual undertones to it. I guess that idea isn’t too original.

  3. Peanut: Yeah, I think Liz is right. F. Scott was head over heels for Zelda, no matter how wonderfully crazy she was. I saw a picture of her not too long ago, so I can also add that she was beautiful.

    Maria: Half of those stories are the kind you’d find find in a junior high English class, but they’re still classics, including the story by Shirley Jackson. Haven’t heard of the Lessing one til now, but thanks. And I think you’re right, there’s very strong sexual undertones to it.

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