Program Offers Fresh Take on Gatsby’s Greatness

The following is a guest post by Abby Yochelson, English and American Literature Reference specialist at the Library of Congress’s Main Reading Room, Humanities and Social Sciences Division.

Maureen Corrigan, book critic for NPR's Fresh Air

Maureen Corrigan, book critic for NPR’s Fresh Air
© Nina Subin

Maureen Corrigan, book critic for NPR’s Fresh Air and a lecturer and critic-in-residence at Georgetown University, has been a consummate researcher at the Library of Congress over the last three years. After decades of teaching The Great Gatsby to students and traveling throughout the country for the National Endowment for the Arts’ Big Read program, Maureen decided to write her own book on why Gatsby endures. While initial reviews of the novel were mixed and F. Scott Fitzgerald died thinking the book was a failure, its reputation rose quickly after his death. Gatsby is now one of the most assigned novels in American high schools, and each generation re-interprets the work through movies, plays, musicals, and even a ballet. Fascination with the book and the Jazz Era it depicts is worldwide.

Book Cover, So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures

So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures (book cover)

Reviews of the just-published So We Read On: How the Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures comment on Corrigan’s research conducted here at the Library of Congress and in other archives, including Fitzgerald’s papers at Princeton University and the Matthew J. and Arlyn Bruccoli Collection of F. Scott Fitzgerald at the University of South Carolina. With more than eighty books of literary criticism on Fitzgerald and an additional fifty specifically on The Great Gatsby in the Library of Congress’s collections, it was daunting for Maureen to contemplate what she could add to the discussion.  Her research here also took her to Rare Book and Special Collections Reading Room to view the Armed Services Edition of Gatsby, one of the important factors for the book’s increased reputation. The Motion Picture and Television Reading Room provided a trailer from the first version of a Gatsby film, a silent one which has been lost, as well as the 1949 film version starring Alan Ladd. The Manuscript Division produced a letter from Zelda Fitzgerald describing her husband, but sadly there was no doodled portrait in the margin.

Maureen found plenty to write about The Great Gatsby, and we’re pleased to announce that she’ll be speaking at the Library of Congress on Monday, September 15, at 12:00 noon in the Mumford Room, 6th floor of the Madison Building. No tickets are required to attend the event.

We hope to see you there!

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