10 April 1925: The incredible American masterpiece, known as The Great Gatsby is released by Scribner's publishing company.
While at first, F. Scott Fitzgerald's book received decent reviews, it also didn't go over particularly well with the general public. Perhaps it was that the people of the 1920s didn't fully understand a book that was so critical of their own generation, or perhaps it was for a different reason. Regardless, the lack of love for Fitzgerald's new book left him in a deep depression, and was perhaps the beginning of his alcoholic breakdown. He wanted to be the best, to compete with Joyce and Hemingway, to live a life of riches. But without the success of a book he considered his best at the time, Scott Fitzgerald was afraid that he and his wife Zelda wouldn't be able to live the life they had made for themselves. And, it seems, he was right: A mental breakdown followed for Zelda, and she was institutionalized. Scott managed to drink himself to death, and died in 1940. And for years, no one paid much attention to the Fitzgeralds, Scott's books, or the way that The Great Gatsby was, perhaps, too true to life. (Dark, I know. But it gets better.)
It wasn't until the 1960s and 1970s that there was a resurgance of 1920s American Literature. Cheap paperback copies of books were printed and were to be distributed to soldiers fighting in American wars. F. Scott Fitzgerald, who had died alone and had been nearly forgotten years before, was rediscovered. The Great Gatsby was re-read, re-learned, and was now better understood. It was then that Gatsby became a staple both of the classroom and of the literary canon, and became known as "The great American novel," alongside Huckleberry Finn/Tom Sawyer and Moby Dick.
Today, we see The Great Gatsby as a treasure, and as one of the most beautiful pieces of literature ever written in English. It is also my very favorite novel, and today is its 91st birthday. Here, I share the story of my #1 book.
I read Gatsby for the first time as a fifteen year old, and as a requirement in my high school English class. I was a bit afraid of the text at first, as I had heard of it being a "classic," and was afraid that it would be pretentious and hard to understand. As a child, I'd been an avid reader, a bibliophile, and a writer. But as a high schooler, I'd fallen a bit out of love with books, and seriously despised the fact that reading had become a chore or homework instead of for pleasure. Amazingly, as I sat down with Gatsby, I fell in love. I read it in one sitting, which was something I'd not done in years. I began researching more information about the text and its author, and it was at that moment that I knew that literature was my passion.
I can honestly say that a great deal of me working in a bookstore, having worked in a library, and studying English at University has had to do with The Great Gatsby. This book is beautiful, poetic, heartbreaking, and serene. It has characters who are both horrible and wonderful, a plot that is angering and saddening, and a last line that is perhaps the most perfect thing I've ever read (it's tattooed on my arm. "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.) I can hardly begin to list the reasons why I love this book, and why it is one that I constantly re-read, recommend, and listen to on tape. It is such a part of who I am, and is engrained into the fiber of my being. It is the reason that books are such a big part of me.
So, Read it. Love it. Think about it, about every word and flowing sentence. Please. It deserves it. And if you do, come in to Bookbug, and we can talk about it together.
Happy 91st, Gatsby! You're pretty great! I hope you never fall from canon, that Tom is always hated, and that people always make snarky, nasty jokes around pools about Gatsby himself. Stay golden, Old Sport.
PS the attached picture is of me with a first edition, inscribed copy of Gatsby. Originally owned and signed by Scott Fitzgerald himself. Basically the coolest thing ever.