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A 'biography' of The Great Gatsby,
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This review is from: Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and the Invention of The Great Gatsby (Kindle Edition)
This is an interesting read but it's perhaps trying to do too many things at once which serve to detract from, rather than strengthen, its import and impact. Churchwell is writing a biography of the Fitzgeralds, especially during the year of 1922 when the Great Gatsby was set, even though it wasn't written and completed until a few years later. She is also offering interpretations and readings of the novel itself, alongside contextual information on e.g. prohibition, the gangster-crooks who built America etc. And, as a third and major strand, she excavates an unsolved murder that took place in 1922 and which she rather forces into what remains a tenuous relationship with Fitzgerald's novel.
The narrative itself is fragmented with short sections mimicking the scrapbooks which the Fitzgeralds themselves kept, and the constant switching between the various stories does give this a slightly bitty feel, as if it's written for a presumed hyperactive audience with a short attention span.
That said, this is a lively read which captures the frenetic atmosphere of the 1920s, and the way Fitzgerald himself lived, encapsulated and helped to construct the idea of the Jazz Age. I especially liked the way Churchwell makes extensive use of Fitzgerald's own words from letters, essays and other writings - though her refusal to use footnotes means that it's a little fiddly to trace the sources as we need to go though separate notes sections and then a bibliography.
Churchwell's articulation of the relationship between art and life is nuanced rather than simplistic: this would be a good read for anyone wanting to know more about the fascinating Fitzgeralds, the evolution of The Great Gatsby, and the world which it depicts.