The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Apt 3W
by Gabriel Brownstein
This collection of nine short stories, five of which are set in an apartment building on Manhattan's West 89th Street, is narrated by one of the residents, the voyeuristic young Davey Birnbaum. Most stories rework classics. Brownstein brazenly lists writers from whom he has borrowed characters and plots: Fitzgerald, Auden, Hawthorne, Kafka and Singer. The title story is based on F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, whose hero is born as an old man and ages in reverse. Meanwhile, in apartment 7E, a lawyer named Zauberman re-enacts the life of Hawthorne's Wakefield, abandoning his family so he can spy on them. Of the four original stories, Bachelor Party is the best. The plot and dialogue are spot on, proving Brownstein needs no help to make his writing pop.