So We Read On by Maureen Corrigan (Little, Brown and Company, September 2014) is a tribute and examination of the often-named Great American Novel, The Great Gatsby. Ms. Corrigan is a true fan of Fitzgerald’s slim novel, and in her tribute to the work, she reviews not just the content of the book and the context in which it was written, but she goes beyond to ask the question: why did this novel become so popular today when it was so unimpressive to the first reviewers and readers?
It’s obvious that Ms. Corrigan enjoys reading and rereading the work. As an avid reader myself, I too have found myself drawn back to Gatsby many times since my first read of it in my Junior year in high school, during which time I spent an extended amount of time researching and writing about Nick Carraway’s relationship to the text. I had to revisit it in college at least once, and I’ve reread it a few times in adulthood as well. I can’t say that I love Gatsby, though, and I cannot imagine spending time in a theater listening to an actor recite the entire book from memory. What is about Gatsby that draws me in, even though I can’t say that I even like it?
I don’t know, and I don’t believe that Ms. Corrigan is able to identify the draw at the end of her book. But there is something so satisfying to know that other readers — even Gatsby experts — likewise cannot put their finger on the draw of The Great Gatsby. In that sense, even after finishing the book, I feel the subtitle of Ms. Corrigan’s volume is never fulfilled, “How the Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why it Endures.” It is not a statement that really can be explained because everyone has a different perspective of the book.
And that is the point. There are so many ways to approach The Great Gatsby. The text is spare and the volume and plot are literally slim. But there is something to be found in it for most sincere readers. I have not brought myself to watch the most recent movie with Leonardo DiCaprio, mostly because I know (as Ms. Corrigan suggested) that there is something superficial about trying to capture the language, events, plot, and point of The Great Gatsby in the big screen. This is not a made-for-a-movie book.
The Great Gatsby is something much more complex, but I can’t quite tell you why, even after reading Ms. Corrigan’s perspective on why it persists.
So We Read On is certainly not a book for everyone. But if you too are fascinated by or appalled by or even slightly curious to revisit Fitzgerald’s novel, then So We Read On is a volume to check out. It certainly made me want to reread Gatsby yet once more. I think I missed something the first half a dozen times.
Note: I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration.