This was one of my favorite reads for August. What's not to love? Maureen Corrigan! The Great Gatsby! Fitzgerald biography! Literary criticism! Cinderella!
Cinderella? Wait, what?
Part of the charm of So We Read On is the Cinderella story of how The Great Gatsby lingered in near-obscurity from its 1925 publication and seemed to be stuck there at the time of F. Scott Fitzgerald's death at 44 in 1940, only to be come wildly successful as The Great American Novel, a staple of Hollywood and high school and college courses alike.
Gatsby went to the "ball", which in this case was World War II. By some fluke, (probably its brevity) Gatsby ended up on a publication list of "funny little paperbacks" -- classic books designed by the military to be comfortably carried by soldiers. These books were meant to distract them from the tedium and strain of battle. Talk about a captive audience. When the war ended, the book's reputation continued to grow, and there's still no stopping it.
The Great Gatsby's 70-year victory lap is just one of the great things about So We Read On. Maureen Corrigan discusses how Fitzgerald came to write the novel and how he scrupulously overplanned and plotted and edited the galleys so heavily that they had to be reprinted. As a result, the book is a joy to reread because readers can find something new each time. After this, I had to reread Gatsby myself, which I did via audiobook. What an inspired choice. Although I was fully aware of the luminosity of Fitzgerald's language, I never quite realized that it's meant to be read aloud. O the savor...
Anyway, this is what I found: Tom Buchanan is from Chicago! It's true that he's from an exclusive neighborhood, but this nasty brute is from the stockyard capital of the world. Is that an accident? I don't think so! It's another Fitzgerald master stroke! (I'm sure that over the years, some esteemed literary critic has noticed this as well. I have no illusions. But still.)
Back to Corrigan: I love her argument that Gatsby is a "hard-boiled" novel. It is! Daisy is a femme fatale! So true.
I can't imagine a better way to finish out summer and segue into autumn than to pair a reading of So We Read On with The Great Gatsby.