Book Club Review: So We Read On by Maureen Corrigan

Book Club Review: So We Read On by Maureen CorriganSo We Read On by Maureen Corrigan
Published by Little, Brown on 9/9/2014
Source: Publisher
Pages: 352
Buy from IndieBound

 

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.

 

  • I’ve been thinking about when to read this one ever since a wonderful book friend (wink wink) sent a copy to me… I’ve sort of wondered if it’d be good to re-read The Great Gatsy (which I love, but it’s been a looooong time) as a refresher before reading this. What do you think? Would I get more out of this read if I did that?

    • I’ve been thinking the same thing. i think it’s been about 20 years since i read Gatsby. Part of the reason I’m hesitant to re-read it is because my memories of it are so great.
      And I love Maureen Corigan on NPR, i can hear her voice right now.

      • (I hope this will reply to both you and @lovelybookshelf:disqus!) I don’t think you have to re-read it to enjoy this one, but if it’s been a long time since you have you’ll probably be itching to early on. I re-read it last year before the new movie came out and, though I liked it in high school, I adored it as an adult. I was also surprised by what a quick read it is (it’s super short!).

  • Books on the Table

    I’ve been wanting to read this one — I read Sarah Churchwell’s Careless People last year, and thought this would be an interesting companion. I did reread The Great Gatsby and it’s amazing how much more it resonates as an adult.

    • I almost wish I had read this without reading Careless People (which I enjoyed, but didn’t find the link between Gatsby and the murders convincing), since much of the dissection of the novel parallel to Fitzgerald’s life was similar. Corrigan does some really great digging into how it impacts us as Americans, though, which I liked the best.

  • Gatsby was one of the only “assigned” high school books that I really loved…I feel like I’ve read a lot of background on it, but the second half of this book does sound interesting. I also loved The Double Bind, Chris Bohjalian’s fictional take the characters and setting of Gatsby.

  • Jennine G.

    Ahhhhh!!! I’ve got to read this before next week! My Juniors start reading Gatsby Monday!

  • Ohhh I know I can’t read this until I’ve reread Gatsby, and I’m scared to reread Gatsby in case I’ve stopped loving it between high school and now. That would be so sad! But I do really want to read this, and I want to have read it coming off of reading The Great Gatsby…

    • I wouldn’t be too nervous about re-reading Gatsby…I can’t really see how you could like it less as an adult, I think we just grow into it more.

  • My book club is actually reading our first nonfiction pick this month (Stiff by Mary Roach) and I can’t wait! Even though I didn’t love The Great Gatsby, this book appeals to me because I love books about books so much. From your review, I’m also interested in finding out how Gatsby got to be so famous. That seems like an awesome bit of historical trivia to learn about!

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