Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: September 9, 2014
Source: I received this e-galley from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
From the second I saw the title and cover art of So We Read On, I had to have it. I requested it past the publication date, so when NetGalley approved my request (quickly, thank God), I pushed aside all other reading to dive in. My students were to start reading The Great Gatsby the following week, so I'm glad I did.
Part of the book reads at a slower pace because it is meant to be read carefully, but that is to be expected. It is informational, not a fiction story. If you are a Fitzgerald, Gatsby, and/or literary Jazz Age fan, then the pace doesn't matter because you will want to soak in any new insight on these topics. I was particularly interested to see whose side Corrigan would take: Team Scott or Team Zelda. After reading Z: A Story of Zelda Fitzgerald, by Therese Ann Fowler last year, I made the jump to Team Zelda. Corrigan takes up with Team Scott, but at the same time, does not excuse his possible part in Zelda's lifelong problems or his own.
My favorite thing about this book is that it focuses on The Great Gatsby. Corrigan's look into the Fitzgerald's life correlates to the writing and events of The Great Gatsby. Sadly, like Edgar Allan Poe, Fitzgerald's work is enhanced by the sad events of his life, both in the actual writing and in the knowledge of his background. My students are always enthralled with Poe's life and look forward to his life story as much as his writing. This year, as I've read this book, I've been able to point out how pieces of Gatsby and its characters are from Fitzgerald's life, and my students' interest level has risen.
For example, when Daisy tells Nick she hoped her daughter would be a "beautiful little fool," we discussed why she'd say that in the context of the 1920s. When I told them Fitzgerald didn't write these words, but took them from his own wife's journal about their own daughter, that hit home. It's one thing for a male writer to write such things based on a time period and another to know an actual woman living in that time really thought such things due to society, life experience, etc.
Also, sadly like Poe, Fitzgerald would not see an acknowledgement of his success, nor the slight after fame, in his lifetime. This constitutes the other piece of Corrigan's research: what contributed to the revitalization of Fitzgerald's work in the years after his death.
I enjoyed So We Read On, the title so cleverly mimicking the famous last line of The Great Gatsby. It would be awesome to see more of such books discussing other highly famous titles and the authors. And I guess there are quite a few out there, but I liked Corrigan's accessibility and passion. Especially her passion. I could tell she was completely committed to her research and analysis of Fitzgerald and his work. Passion is contagious.
Which famous title/author would you want to see a book about?