Gatsby: The Cultural History of the Great American Novelby Bob Batchelor
In 1925, F. Scott Fitzgerald produced his third novel, a slim work for which he had high expectations. Despite such hopes, the novel received mixed reviews and lackluster sales. Over the decades, however, the reputation of The Great Gatsby has grown and millions of copies have been sold. One of the bestselling novels of all time, it is also considered one of the most significant achievements in twentieth-century fiction. But what makes Gatsby great? Why do we still care about this book more than eighty-five years after it was published? And how does Gatsby help us make sense of our own lives and times?
In Gatsby: The Cultural History of the Great American Novel, Bob Batchelor explores the birth, life, and enduring influence of The Great Gatsbyfrom the book’s publication in 1925 through today’s headlines filled with celebrity intrigue, corporate greed, and a roller-coaster economy. A cultural historian, Batchelor explains why and how the novel has become part of the fiber of the American ethos and an important tool in helping readers to better comprehend their lives and the broader world around them.
A “biography” of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, this book examines The Great Gatsby’s evolution from a nearly-forgotten 1920s time capsule to a revered cultural touchstone. Batchelor explores how this embodiment of the American Dream has become an iconic part of our national folklore, how the central themes and ideas emerging from the bookfrom the fulfillment of the American Dream to the role of wealth in societyresonate with contemporary readers who struggle with similar uncertainties today. By exploring the timeless elements of reinvention, romanticism, and relentless pursuit of the unattainable, Batchelor confirms the novel’s status as “The Great American Novel” and, more importantly, explains to students, scholars, and fans alike what makes Gatsby so great.
Batchelor (James Pedas Professor, communication, Thiel Coll., Greenville, PA; Cult Pop Culture: How the Fringe Became Mainstream) seeks to capitalize on the success of director Baz Luhrmann's recent Gatsby film adaptation with this exploration of the ways in which F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 novel The Great Gatsby has been employed in American culture. The book works best when it sticks to examining concrete uses of the book throughout the years. For example, it features a brief but intriguing discussion of how David Lynch included a passage from the novel in a late 1980s television ad for Calvin Klein. Batchelor does a good job of neatly summarizing the details surrounding the novel's composition and initial reception. Unfortunately, his numerous digressions on tangentially related topics such as the importance of literature, the decline of critical thinking skills in contemporary society, and the perils of corporate greed detract from these strengths. Although these issues are clearly important to the author, they hold less immediate appeal for those chiefly interested in reading about The Great Gatsby. VERDICT While fans of Fitzgerald's work would be better served by Matthew Bruccoli's excellent biography Some Sort of Epic Grandeur, this title may still interest those wanting to investigate further the novel's enduring appeal.—William Walsh, Georgia State Univ. Libs., Atlanta
Meet the Author
Bob Batchelor is James Pedas Endowed Chair in Communication and executive director of the James Pedas Communication Center at Thiel College. He is the author or editor of more than 20 books, including: The 1900s; The 1980s; The 2000s; and American Pop: Popular Culture Decade by Decade (4 volumes), Cult Pop Culture (3 volumes) and John Updike: A Critical Biography (2013). He is founding editor of the Popular Culture Studies Journal and editor of the Contemporary American Literature series published by Rowman & Littlefield.
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