Published by Little, Brown on 9/9/2014
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Maureen Corrigan is more than just the voice on books for NPR’s Fresh Air, she’s also spent her career reading, teaching and loving The Great Gatsby. In that time, Corrigan came to realize both how well-loved and misunderstood Fitzgerald’s story is. So We Read On examines The Great Gatsby from multiple perspectives in an effort to understand the American connection to “the Great American Novel”.
My book club loves to mix things up with juicy non-fiction, so we were excited to have advance copies of So We Read On, which we read through the month of September. For much of the book’s first half, Corrigan uses the lives of the Fitzgeralds to dig deep into the text of Gatsby. Just a few months before picking up So We Read On, my book club read Flappers by Judith Mackrell, which centers on several women in the 1920’s including Zelda Fitzgerald. Because we had just read this close biography of the couple, and many of us have read other accounts of the Fitzgeralds and their marriage, our tendency was to find the first section of the book to be slow-going.
But following F. Scott Fitzgerald’s death, the narrative of the book shifts. Rather than focusing on dissecting the text of Gatsby, Corrigan works to piece together his disappearance from popular culture and eventual rise to literary fame. This is where many of us found the book’s most interesting points and content. Several members of my book club work in education, and Corrigan’s investigation into Gatsby’s use in the classroom—both secondary and higher ed—led us to discuss our reading histories as well as the potential impact of the recent push for campus-wide reading programs.
There were collective gasps as we began talking about Corrigan’s time in the Library of Congress and her discovery of the puzzle piece that moved The Great Gatsby from relative obscurity to the hands of thousands of readers. Though we felt like much of the beginning of the book was a slight repetition of what we had already read, Corrigan certainly delivers at the end of So We Read On with an absolutely fascinating, seemingly unknown bit of literary history.