Boats Against the Current

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, that’s no matter, tomorrow we will run faster, stretch our arms out farther… And one fine morning– So we beat on boats against the current borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

The Great Gatsby

The relentless waves of The Great Gatsby have touched almost everyone’s shores at some point. For many of us Gatsby is presented to us during our high school years; for others, he floats on from the silver screen as we watch Robert Redford in the 1974 classic. It is a story we know well, a mixture of romance, big parties, and even bigger dreams. But Maureen Corrigan, book critic for NPR’s Fresh Air brings us to new shores in her book So We Read On: How the Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why it Endures. Published in the Spring of 2014, Corrigan’s book was released after Baz Luhrmann’s blockbuster film, The Great Gatsby.

Corrigan’s approach is not the extravagance  of  Gatsby’s West Egg parties or the haughty, arrogant nature of East Egg. Instead Corrigan takes the reader on an intimate journey through her own discoveries and realizations about the author and his text. Her narrative style is refreshing, pulling the reader layer by layer through biography, critical reading, and the reflections she gains from listening to her own students.

She believes that even now, The Great Gatsby does not get its due claiming that we are too young to understand it the first time that we read it and by the time we may be able to fully grasp its greatness ( our college years and beyond) we are not given the chance.  Corrigan notes that works by Fitzgerald are rarely if ever taught in academic circles. Instead, Gatsby is treated today, very much like it was treated upon its release: as a book written by a second-rate Midwestern hack of a writer. A story out-of-place in its time. A story that wouldn’t even last decades.

But Gatsby has made a lasting impression and Corrigan’s work will do the same. Her mix of literary criticism, memoir, and mystery lure the reader into on one voyage that he won’t forget.