So We Read On by Maureen Corrigan

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I’ve never seen other people at the grave, but always there are tributes: flowers, coins, and miniature liquor bottles.  This book, too, is a kind of tribute, though Fitzgerald, surely, would rather have had the booze.

Maureen Corrigan’s book So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came To Be and Why It Endures is truly a wonderful tribute.  Those who love F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby can’t help but get caught up in her passion for the book; however, even those who might not be a fan of Gatsby but are still avid readers will appreciate Corrigan’s love of literature and excitement over the continuous discovery that reading brings – and “discovery” is perhaps the best word to describe this book that is part literary analysis, part history and biography, and part memoir.

The reader experiences Corrigan’s trip to the deep, dark basement of the Library of Congress to spend a few days leafing through original Fitzgerald letters and drafts and it’s as adventurous as a treasure hunt.  The nostalgia is easy to feel as she makes a trip back to her Catholic High School in Queens to see what students think of Gatsby, now.  She makes a great case for Gatsby’s initial boost in popularity (it was a flop when it was first published) arising from the Armed Services Edition paperback versions distributed to the troops during World War II.

While her portrayal of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald is sympathetic, Corrigan doesn’t sugarcoat their lives nor bypass their faults and hardships.  She mentions a group of staunch Zelda supporters who blame Scott for Zelda’s tragic life; however, Corrigan doesn’t seem to fall into that category, herself.  I found it interesting that, while she might have respect for Ernest Hemingway as a writer, she doesn’t respect him as a person.  Her research reveals Hemingway’s continuous condescension toward Fitzgerald later in their relationship.  By Corrigan’s standards, Fitzgerald was much better friends with Ring Lardner.

Maureen Corrigan is the book critic for NPR’s Fresh Air and she also has been instrumental, along with the National Endowment for the Arts and local public libraries, in establishing the “One Book, One City” programs throughout the United States.

If I could think of a dream job, it would probably be doing research for a book like this.

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7 responses to “So We Read On by Maureen Corrigan

  1. Pingback: Willa Cather: Paul’s Case | Mirror with Clouds

  2. Hi Dale,
    Sounds like a great read. I don’t remember if it’s the very last line in TGG or not, but the “so we beat on, boats against the current” etc. has always been one of my favorite literary quotations,
    -Jay

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