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A Curious Case

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," the movie, is based on a 1922 F. Scott Fitzgerald story inspired by a remark by Mark Twain that it's a pity that the best part of life comes at the beginning and the worst part at the end. I haven't read the story as yet but after seeing this whimsical, life-affirming movie, I was curious, and bought a new collection of forty Fitzgerald stories, just a fraction of his total short story oeuvre--160. I can’t usually read a short story anthology straight through, but Fitzgerald’s clear, rich prose is carrying me along. Of course, many of the stories are familiar as I’ve read them before, but not all by any means. When I’m done with the book, all 700 plus pages, I plan to reread the novels and a biography if I can find a good one.

I often immerse myself in a writer's work in this way, reading and re-reading all they have published and everything there is to know about their writing life. In just two decades, F. Scott Fitzgerald created a lasting body of work and one master-work, "The Great Gatsby." How did he do this?

Sometimes students tell me that they have dipped into the reading list I provide in my syllabus but that they find good writing too awe-inspiring and/or intimidating. Inspiring, yes, but not awe inspiring, please. Every successful writer works hard to achieve publishable work. Every successful writer is a model and inspiration.

I've just started a new short story myself. Fitzgerald's vivid voice is knocking around in my head. I want to write something as good as "May Day," or "The Ice Palace." I'm getting there.

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