My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I was a little wary when I first picked up Maureen Corrigan’s So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came To Be And Why It Endures. As a reader, I tend to focus mostly on fiction (with occasional forays into poetry), and would usually much rather spend my time re-reading The Great Gatsby than reading a book about The Great Gatsby. At any other time, I think I would have skipped So We Read On, assuming that it would be more like the kind of book that gets assigned for a class or used as a resource a term paper, than the kind of book that anyone, especially an avowed fiction reader like myself, would read for fun and recreation. But when it appeared on a friend’s Goodreads shelf, something about it caught my eye and prompted me to add it to my to-read pile.
Now that I have read the book, I can honestly say that I am so glad I gave So We Read On a chance. Corrigan’s writing is entertaining and informative and rather than coming across as stodgy required reading, So We Read On felt more like having a great discussion with a fellow book lover who is as obsessed as you are (if not a little bit more) about F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gatsby. Corrigan not only draws on her own years of reading, teaching, and fixating on Gatsby but she invites other readers into the conversation, from fellow teachers and experts to students at her old high school, getting their thoughts and insights into the book and the phenomenon it (eventually) became in American culture.
So We Read On is full with interesting details and theories about Gatsby that I never really picked up on before, despite the numerous times I’ve read the book. I was particularly fascinated by Corrigan’s examination of water and drowning as a recurring theme in the novel, (not to mention her casting of Daisy – with her voice that sounded like money and gay, mad times – as a siren luring Gatsby from across the water to his eventual death). I was also interested in Gatsby’s connections to “hard-boiled” noir novels and films, and her thoughts on how old you are when you read the book vastly impacts the way you see the book and the characters in it. All in all, I can honestly say that So We Read On was both a fun read and it gave me a deeper understanding of one of my favorite books. I know that there are a lot of things that I read here that I will be thinking about the next time I pick up The Great Gatsby and I highly recommend it to my fellow Great Gatsby fans.