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ScanAs part of my current mild obsession with all things Gatsby and Fitzgerald related (and yes, this year I really really am going to read Tender is the Night after nearly thirty years of thinking about it) caused by the release of the latest film version (reviewed here) I have been keeping my eye out for any other books that touch on the subject matter.

Towards the end of May I happened to be meeting Silvery Dude for drink after work and agreed for a change to rendezvous in the rather nice little Foyles bookshop under the Royal Festival Hall. As is often the case His Dudeness was delayed by work and so I found myself in the shop by myself and because where books are concerned I have no self-control I ended up buying quite a few volumes, including Careless People by Sarah Churchwell – the eye-catching cover and the subtitle “murder, mayhem and the invention of The Great Gatsby were totally irresistible even though I’m not supposed to be buying hardbacks in more (for reasons of space, you understand).

This is one of those books where you want to grab the attention of the person sitting next to you, say “did you now…” and then read them a quote. It is full of fascinating information about all sorts of things. The structure is interesting, alternating  as it does between Scott and Zelda and their move east so that he can write what would become Gatsby and a notorious unsolved murder case which may possibly have had some influence on the novel. I will admit that I found the switch between the two elements a bit distracting at first but soon warmed to it and enjoyed the juxtaposition of the Fitzgeralds’ lifestyle and the incredibly casual and astonishingly incompetent approach to investigating the death of Eleanor Mills and her married lover. It has the proverbial cast of thousands so definitely a book to dip into or read in small chunks as it ranges widely across all sorts of subjects .

On women drinking in the age of the speakeasy;

You were thought to be good at holding your liquor in those days if you could make it to the ladies before throwing up

On love:

There are all kinds of love in the world but never the same love twice

On fact versus fiction:

Unlike fiction, reality has no obligation to be realistic.

However my personal favourite snippet of information, fact fans, is that the first recorded use of the word “motherfucker” was in 1918. That probably says a lot about me.

Although the book focusses on the period around the writing of Gatsby there is an epilogue which looks at Fitzgerald from 1925 to 1940 when he died suddenly just before Christmas, far too young and if indeed he didn’t fulfil his early promise he did leave us a with a masterpiece, for which we should all be grateful.

Oh and when I tried to blame the Silvery One for my purchases the Book God pointed out that I should have stood outside the shop with my face pressed against the glass. Go figure.

Scan 5About The Great Gatsby:

The Great Gatsby is one of the great love stories of our time. In it the author distilled the essences of glamour and illusion so powerfully that his book has haunted and tantalised generations of readers.

When did I first read this? 1975

What age was I? 13

How may times since then? This is the seventh time that I can be sure of, possibly more

Thoughts about the book:

I was at quite an impressionable age when I read this. I think the reason I first got a copy was the fuss around the release of the film in 1974 starring Robert Redford (I had quite a thing about him at that age having seen Butch Cassidy and The Sting) and Mia Farrow who looked so ethereal on the cover of the film-tie in version which is the first edition I bought. I think I’m on my third copy now having learned not to lend it to people as I don’t get it back (I now buy books that I want people to read rather than part with my precious volumes).

I remember that it had a huge impact on me. I think it was the first really proper adult literary novel that I had read (other than some of the classics like the Brontes and Robinson Crusoe and so forth) and I was amazed that (even though I’m sure I didn’t understand half of it) so much could be captured in a book that was so short. I think I realised that Gatsby’s story was tragic both because what happened to him was unfair and because his own desire to recreate himself and try to recapture a past that never really existed was never going to end well.

As I’ve got older and re-read it I have come to really dislike Daisy for all sorts of reasons (I always hated Tom for being a bully and for setting up the denouement as he did), and realise just what an unreliable narrator Nick is (as a young reader I don’t think I was entirely aware of the concept and took everything Nick said at face value, and of course he is one of the very few people who stick by Gatsby at the end).

I was thrilled to read this again as part of my Big Re-Read project but also in preparation for the new film (which I will review over at Bride of the Screen God shortly) and to find that it has lost none of its power or lyricism. I still think it’s one of the greatest novels ever.

So we beat on, boats against the current , borne back ceaselessly into the past.

This was Part 2 of my Gatsby weekend

Bride of the Book God

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Scottish, in my fifties, love books but not always able to find the time to read them as much as I would like. I’m based in London and happily married to the Book God.

I also blog at Bride of the Screen God (all about movies and TV) and The Dowager Bride, if you are interested in ramblings about stuff of little consequence

If you would like to get in touch you can contact me at brideofthebookgod (at) btinternet (dot) com.

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June 2023