As part of my current mild obsession with all things Gatsby and Fitzgerald related (and yes, this year I really really am going to read Tender is the Night after nearly thirty years of thinking about it) caused by the release of the latest film version (reviewed here) I have been keeping my eye out for any other books that touch on the subject matter.
Towards the end of May I happened to be meeting Silvery Dude for drink after work and agreed for a change to rendezvous in the rather nice little Foyles bookshop under the Royal Festival Hall. As is often the case His Dudeness was delayed by work and so I found myself in the shop by myself and because where books are concerned I have no self-control I ended up buying quite a few volumes, including Careless People by Sarah Churchwell – the eye-catching cover and the subtitle “murder, mayhem and the invention of The Great Gatsby were totally irresistible even though I’m not supposed to be buying hardbacks in more (for reasons of space, you understand).
This is one of those books where you want to grab the attention of the person sitting next to you, say “did you now…” and then read them a quote. It is full of fascinating information about all sorts of things. The structure is interesting, alternating as it does between Scott and Zelda and their move east so that he can write what would become Gatsby and a notorious unsolved murder case which may possibly have had some influence on the novel. I will admit that I found the switch between the two elements a bit distracting at first but soon warmed to it and enjoyed the juxtaposition of the Fitzgeralds’ lifestyle and the incredibly casual and astonishingly incompetent approach to investigating the death of Eleanor Mills and her married lover. It has the proverbial cast of thousands so definitely a book to dip into or read in small chunks as it ranges widely across all sorts of subjects .
On women drinking in the age of the speakeasy;
You were thought to be good at holding your liquor in those days if you could make it to the ladies before throwing up
There are all kinds of love in the world but never the same love twice
On fact versus fiction:
Unlike fiction, reality has no obligation to be realistic.
However my personal favourite snippet of information, fact fans, is that the first recorded use of the word “motherfucker” was in 1918. That probably says a lot about me.
Although the book focusses on the period around the writing of Gatsby there is an epilogue which looks at Fitzgerald from 1925 to 1940 when he died suddenly just before Christmas, far too young and if indeed he didn’t fulfil his early promise he did leave us a with a masterpiece, for which we should all be grateful.
Oh and when I tried to blame the Silvery One for my purchases the Book God pointed out that I should have stood outside the shop with my face pressed against the glass. Go figure.