Chaired by Richard Holloway
There are three things that are important to know about the book.
1) it is the story of F Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda as they return to New York in 1922.
2) It is about a real life mystery that broke when they came back to New York.
3) It is the story of the Great Gatsby itself.
Sarah done a lot of newspaper research when researching this book and this was how she was able to reconstruct and follow the murder mystery that broke when they first came back to New York.
Richard asked Sarah if this mystery was actually every solved? Short answer is no, the story broke in September 1922, a young couple stumbled across the bodies of a man and a woman. Their love letters were scattered around the scene. It became national news rather quickly as both were married but not to each other. There was no effort to cordoned off the scene and the local county physician did not even conduct an autopsy and missed the fact that the woman’s throat was slit (this was discovered when the bodies where exhumed). The mystery was never solved and it has mostly been forgotten about in America.
The Great Gatsby was written in 1924 and set in 1922, in the original manuscripts of the book they story was set in 1921 and in another one in 1923. 1922 was the year of Anglo-American modernisation. In this year, there was a sense of importance of mobility in American life, this is evident in The Great Gatsby. Also in this year, America was beginning to become preoccupied with the telling of its literary history. American envisioned itself as the continuing frontier, always an opportunity
Fitzgerald was an extraordinary writer, The Great Gatsby is only 50,000 words and it is just as appealing the tenth time you read it. Ultimately he is one of the greats.
Sarah then very movingly read the final passages of The Great Gatsby, it was extremely moving to hear these passages read aloud.
Time for some audience questions
There is symbolism of colours present within the book. Has the historical symbolism of these colours changed over time?
This is the main reason Sarah had to do research, green for example can be symbolic of many things such as hope or envy. Fitzgerald has created a very colourful world, he is very alert to the colours and in a way is playing with them. He has created a surreal heightened world. It is a world were anything is possible, lawns can be blue and music can be yellow.
The Waste Land and Ulysses where published in 1922, did Fitzgerald read them?
He was a big fan of both pieces of work, in fact he sent a copy of The Great Gatsby to Elliot inscribed from your enthusiastic worshiper. It is clear that Waste Land help to frame Fitzgerald’s vision of the modern world. He read Ulysses in Summer of 1922, it was banned at the time but Fitzgerald found a way to get a copy, he was very interested in Joyce.
Who is the hero of The Great Gatsby, Gatsby or Nick?
Both are heroes or neither are heroes. The greatness of Gatsby is ironic and it would be very naïve to treat Gatsby like a true hero.
With that a very enlightening hour discussion about one of my favourite books was brought to a end.