So We Read On

How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures


By Maureen Corrigan

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The “Fresh Air” book critic investigates the enduring power of The Great Gatsby — “The Great American Novel we all think we’ve read, but really haven’t.”

Conceived nearly a century ago by a man who died believing himself a failure, it’s now a revered classic and a rite of passage in the reading lives of millions. But how well do we really know The Great Gatsby? As Maureen Corrigan, Gatsby lover extraordinaire, points out, while Fitzgerald’s masterpiece may be one of the most popular novels in America, many of us first read it when we were too young to fully comprehend its power.

Offering a fresh perspective on what makes Gatsby great — and utterly unusual — So We Read On takes us into archives, high school classrooms, and even out onto the Long Island Sound to explore the novel’s hidden depths, a journey whose revelations include Gatsby ‘s surprising debt to hard-boiled crime fiction, its rocky path to recognition as a “classic,” and its profound commentaries on the national themes of race, class, and gender.

With rigor, wit, and infectious enthusiasm, Corrigan inspires us to re-experience the greatness of Gatsby and cuts to the heart of why we are, as a culture, “borne back ceaselessly” into its thrall. Along the way, she spins a new and fascinating story of her own.


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Forget great. The Great Gatsby is the greatest—even if you didn't think so when you had to read it in high school. I didn't think so back then either. As a high-school senior, I couldn't "identify" with the bland Nick or enigmatic Gatsby; nor could I connect with golden girl Daisy, who acted too much like the mean girls in the cafeteria, flaunting their shining hair and their knowingness. I thought The Great Gatsby was a boring novel about rich people.

Flash forward almost forty years. It's shortly after midnight on what is now officially Thanksgiving Day 2010. I'm fifty-five years old, an English professor at an elite university, an NPR book critic. This cultural capital is without value right now: I'm standing on a long line with my husband, Rich, in the Greyhound Bus Terminal on Forty-Second Street in New York City, waiting to board a bus that will get us back to Washington, DC, where we live, at around five a.m.—just enough time for us to take a short nap and then pick up the pre-ordered "Traditional Turkey Feast for Six" for the oddly assorted Pilgrims (our mothers, both in their nineties; our twelve-year-old daughter; a good friend; and two dogs) set to gather at our house later that day. We'd taken Greyhound up from Washington sixteen hours earlier. Ordinarily, with this tight a schedule, we would have availed ourselves of the middle-class option of Amtrak or one of those newer deluxe buses, but Greyhound was the only thing moving that still had seats left for a round trip to and from New York on the Two Worst Travel Days of the Year. Why the urgency? We did it for love. We'd lucked into two tickets for the sold-out run of Gatz at Joseph Papp's Public Theater. Gatz was the sensation of the 2010 theater season in New York—a marathon seven-hour production in which The Great Gatsby, in its entirety, was read aloud and simultaneously acted by the Elevator Repair Service theater company. We had to see it; after all, it was The Great Gatsby.

If anyone had told me when I was in high school that I would one day be making such a nutty pilgrimage just to hear The Great Gatsby read aloud for hours and hours, I would have thought that was as likely as, say, an African American president being elected in my lifetime. Even more jaw-dropping would I have found the revelation that the adult me would voluntarily reread Gatsby upwards of fifty times, teach it to generations of college kids, and travel around the country enthusing about it to gatherings of curious readers. What happened to me, a former high-school apostate (idiot), is exactly what happened throughout America, broadly speaking, in the 1940s and '50s; like me, those midcentury critics and readers gave Gatsby a second chance and were knocked out.

Gatsby's magic emanates not only from its powerhouse poetic style—in which ordinary American language becomes unearthly—but from the authority with which it nails who we want to be as Americans. Not who we are; who we want to be. It's that wanting that runs through every page of Gatsby, making it our Greatest American Novel. But it's also our easiest Great American Novel to underrate: too short; too tempting to misread as just a love story gone wrong; too mired in the Roaring Twenties and all that jazz. Compared to its two closest contenders, Gatsby seems confined. Moby-Dick takes place on the ocean; Gatsby offers a swimming pool. Huckleberry Finn "light[s] out for the territory"; Gatsby restlessly commutes the few miles of new roadway back and forth between East and West Egg and Manhattan. Being short gives Gatsby one clear advantage over the big boys: it's more likely to be assigned as required reading. In fact, Gatsby is the one American novel that most educated Americans have read. The bad news is that we read it in high school or even (shudder) junior high, when we're much too young, too defensive emotionally, too ignorant about the life-deforming powers of regret. When we make our first chain-gang shuffle into Gatsby, we spend so much time preparing for standard test prompts on the eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg and the color of Gatsby's car and—above all—the symbol of the green light at the end of Daisy's dock that the larger point of the novel gets lost. It's not the green light, stupid; it's Gatsby's reaching for it that's the crucial all-American symbol of the novel. Because it's been a mainstay for over half a century on high-school reading lists across the land, The Great Gatsby is the one Great American Novel we think we've read but probably haven't—at least, not enough.

Given the worldwide familiarity with, if nothing else, its title, the novel seems too much with us even before we've read it for the first time. The name Gatsby lends a touch of class to restaurants, condo developments, computer games, custom-tailoring stores (those beautiful shirts!), beauty salons, Kate Spade clutch purses (made to look like hardcover editions of the book), and hot tubs (really in poor taste when you consider the role of the swimming pool in the novel). The baby-name website reports that Gatsby is gaining traction as both a boy's and a girl's name and that it has "a lot of energy and that great pedigree." Riffs on Fitzgerald's title are legion. An overweight rock musician is dubbed "the Great Gutsby." A California vineyard runs a wine-tasting-and-book-discussion series called the Grape Gatsby. A friend sends around a Facebook cat joke featuring the Great Catsby. The variations accrue like hairballs, encasing the actual novel within puns and all manner of consumer dreck. Then there are the higher cultural spin-offs: the five movies (the latest is Baz Luhrmann's 3-D effort, which premiered as I was writing this book); a ballet; an opera; the radio and stage plays, including the aforementioned hybrid of staged reading and play, Gatz. Countless modern novels have helped themselves to The Great Gatsby as a template for their own stories: Ross Macdonald's Black Money, Caitlin Macy's The Fundamentals of Play, Joseph O'Neill's Netherland, and Tom Carson's Daisy Buchanan's Daughter, to name a few. Enough already: Gatsby is overexposed, mined out. But excavate your old paperback copy of The Great Gatsby and read it again. For many of us who've done just that, the novel has become, in Fitzgerald's own iridescent words, "something commensurate to [man's] capacity to wonder."1

First, though, you have to wise up a little, get older, become more vulnerable to both the sadness of everyday life and its loveliness. Nick, our narrator, certainly has to wise up. It takes him two years before he can tell Gatsby's story in any coherent way, and still you know that, like the Ancient Mariner in Coleridge's poem, Nick will spend his life thinking about Gatsby and the implications of the events that took place during the summer of 1922. Nick rereads Gatsby's story as he tells it to us, and, in doing so, he shows us how crucial it is to listen closely, go back and pay more attention to the details, look at passages again and again. I see all the time what happens to people who have the experience of rereading Gatsby after being away from the novel for even a year or two. "It becomes a better novel," my hip grad-student teaching assistant—a budding gender and sexuality theorist—coolly assured our freshman literature class last semester. "It's the Sistine Chapel of American literature in a hundred and eighty pages!" declared a brilliant history major who likes to stop by during my office hours to talk about literature. Those students—and scores of others—didn't start out thinking Gatsby was great; they grew into the novel, more alert to its layers and layers of meaning.

Over the past few years, I've barnstormed libraries and bookstores and civic halls around America to give lectures on Gatsby for the Big Read program sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts. Part literary idealism, part showbiz razzmatazz, the Big Read is a program straight out of the New Deal: a federally funded attempt to jump-start the nationwide reading (or rereading) of canonical American novels like To Kill a Mockingbird, Fahrenheit 451, Huckleberry Finn, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and, of course, The Great Gatsby. In most of the towns and cities I visited, the weeks preceding my talk were filled with spirit-raising events like Roaring Twenties balls and screenings of the drowsy 1974 Robert Redford/Mia Farrow film of the novel. The Bluebonnet regional branch of the East Baton Rouge Parish Library even sponsored a blue tarp/duct tape fashion show in which local teenagers researched books on flapper fashions and constructed and modeled 1920s outfits made out of, well, blue tarp and duct tape. (The event combined an homage to Gatsby with a nod to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, when blue tarp and duct tape were everywhere.) I missed out on that celebration, but I did get to play Peoria, where a local resident exhumed an ancestor's colorful flapper dresses with their matching wrap coats and displayed them at my Big Read lecture at the local Italian restaurant.

Extraneous nonsense abounded during these lectures and so did Tom Buchanan–type remarks. A new wrinkle in Gatsby discussions over the past decade or so is the obsession about the last page of chapter 2, where Nick tells us about leaving the drunken party in Myrtle Wilson's apartment and then finding himself woozily standing beside the bed of her neighbor the photographer Mr. McKee. Across America, that passage now activates gaydar detectors and puts readers on red alert. Fashionable cultural criticism and high-spirited looniness aside, the one true comment about Gatsby that I heard over and over again on these Big Read pilgrimages was "It's a lot better than I remembered it." Amen, brothers and sisters. It sure is.

Despite the legitimate arguments against the idea of anointing any book the Great American Novel, if there is such an animal, then The Great Gatsby is it. When I served as one of three jurors for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction in 2012, Gatsby was our North Star. We were always on the lookout for a novel that managed to pull off the near impossible trick that Gatsby executed; that is, to say something big about America and be beautifully written. How did Gatsby come to soar so high and why does it stay aloft, fighting off critics and changing tastes in fiction? Why did The Great Gatsby come to be the American novel that shows up on curricula in high schools across the country? And why is Gatsby the American novel that deserves to be read at least twice in one's life, if not, say, every five years?

This book considers those questions as a way of trying to grasp the enduring power of Gatsby. My dream as an English professor would be to someday teach a seminar solely on the novel. We'd approach Gatsby the way some James Joyce fans approach Finnegans Wake: once a week, we'd meet to furrow our collective brow over a few pages of the novel. So far, my university hasn't jumped at the idea of funding such a course. (In the economics of reading and teaching, a book is worth more if it weighs more: a jumbo classic like Paradise Lost, for instance, justifies the expense of a semester-long seminar.) But what does size matter if every line, every page of the work in question, is just about perfect? That's what I think about Gatsby; it's the only undisputed masterpiece that F. Scott Fitzgerald, who died at the age of forty-four, lived to write, and it's as perfect as a novel can be. Not one narrative misstep. (Although Fitzgerald, famously, did goof up on a few words: talking about the retinas of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg when he probably meant irises; describing Gatsby and Nick riding from Great Neck into Astoria to drive onto the Queensboro Bridge when, in reality, as his friend Ring Lardner corrected him, that side of the bridge stands in Long Island City.)

I say that The Great Gatsby is just about perfect despite the fact that it goes against every expectation of what a Great American Novel should be. As the eminent literary scholar Morris Dickstein has observed, the novel "violates the first commandment of all writing programs—show, don't tell." Sure enough, almost every page of the book is about telling; nothing happens in the present of Gatsby except remembering. Anytime you try to explain to someone who hasn't read it what The Great Gatsby is "about," the book fades into just another novel about love gone wrong. ("Well, it's about a man who's been obsessed with a woman for many years and she's married…") Flailing around, you fall back on the truth: that maybe it's not so much the plot of Gatsby that makes it great but the way it's told, that incredible language again.

Here's another strike against Gatsby: judging from its plot and retrospective narration, it seems like it could have been written by a European, maybe one of those gloomy existentialists. Parts of it are almost as bleak as Sartre's Nausea, written a decade later. Like a classic film noir—which it resembles in plot (three violent deaths!) and technique (the first-person voice-over of Nick's narration, which fills most of the book)—Gatsby has a fated feel to it. All exit doors are locked before the story begins: the tragedies that transpire in the story have already happened; the end is preordained. Jay Gatsby himself fits the profile of the standard noir patsy when he acts like the past is under his control. (Classic film noir is populated with doomed dreamers: Robert Mitchum's heroic sap in the suggestively titled Out of the Past, and the gorgeous young Burt Lancaster—smitten by the even-more-gorgeous young Ava Gardner—in The Killers who just lies in his crummy bed in the framing shots of that great noir, resigned to the bitter knowledge that the past, like Frankenstein's monster, has a life of its own and it's going to seek out and destroy him.) In its ultimate pessimism about breaking free of the past, Gatsby shares the same glum worldview as these noirs and the stories that inspired them—hard-boiled detective novels that were, like Gatsby, a literary invention of the 1920s. To any reader familiar with the hard-boiled and, later, noir traditions, Gatsby's most famous tagline in the novel spells curtains: "Can't repeat the past?… Why of course you can!"2

Only the delusional think that they can extend the remembered bliss of the past into the present, that the ones they love will remain faithful and forever golden, that the future is theirs to determine. Given what happens to its main character, Gatsby hardly qualifies as an upbeat read. Then again, taken together, many of the candidates for our Great American Novels—Moby-Dick, Invisible Man, The Scarlet Letter, Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, Beloved—constitute a general chorus of restlessness and disappointment, to put it mildly. These books fly directly into the sunny face of that vaunted American optimism; in many ways, they are all un-American. Maybe Gatsby's ending desolation comes as more of a shock because the first movements of the novel (after Nick's retrospective introduction) are awash with the bubbly optimism of the Roaring Twenties. But the party ends and the lights go out. In Gatsby World, as opposed to Disney World, America is exhausted before it ever got going. It's all over, Nick decrees on the very last page of the novel.

But he does so in the most beautiful sentences ever written about America. Gatsby's fall from grace may be grim, but the language of the novel is buoyant; Fitzgerald's plot may suggest that the American Dream is a mirage, but his words make that dream irresistible. Gatsby has it both ways. Far from being an easy read sized just right for quick digesting by our nation's high-school students, The Great Gatsby is an elegant trickster of a novel, spinning out all sorts of inspired and contradictory poetic patter about American identity and possibilities.

I want to reread Gatsby in the pages of this book and try to figure out how this strange, skinny masterpiece came to be and what it means. I also want to talk about how Gatsby was read and reread by Fitzgerald himself, who wrote untold drafts of the manuscript. When The Great Gatsby was published in 1925, the critics took their turns reading—and misreading—it; eventually, so did the movies. By the time Fitzgerald died, in 1940, his greatest novel had pretty much disappeared. In fact, during the years he was living in Hollywood, Fitzgerald would try to buy it as a gift for friends, but when he went into bookstores and asked for The Great Gatsby, he'd be greeted by blank looks. (Some of those booksellers thought that F. Scott Fitzgerald was dead and were shocked to find out that the customer requesting Gatsby was the man himself.) Flash forward to May of 2013 as Gatsby frenzy reached a peak thanks to the glitzy Baz Luhrmann film. The paperback sales of the novel crested at number two in overall book sales in the United States. In an ordinary year, approximately 500,000 copies of the novel are sold (including 185,000 copies of Gatsby in e-book format), but that figure more than tripled in 2013. Worldwide, an estimated twenty-five million copies of Gatsby have been sold, and the novel has been translated into forty-two languages.3

How did this resurrection happen, and why? Just what's so great about Gatsby? To answer those questions, I get up from my desk and go on the road. I visit Fitzgerald treasure troves at Princeton University and the University of South Carolina; I find paper traces of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald filed away in the New York City Municipal Archives. I talk to Gatsby experts and civilian readers in Bowling Green, Kentucky; Perry, Iowa; Boston; Washington, DC; and the aforementioned Peoria. By land and by sea, I tour the places where The Great Gatsby is set as well as some of the sites important to F. Scott Fitzgerald. And, in my own small way, I try to revisit, if not repeat, the past by going back to my old high school—which still stands, in the Gatsby locale of Astoria, Queens—and sitting in on classes where students are discussing the novel for the first time. That trip ends up making me rethink my bedrock assumption that high school is too young for most of us to start reading Gatsby. Through it all, I talk about F. Scott Fitzgerald's life, an undertaking I have mixed feelings about. I love Fitzgerald and I've grown to love him even more in the course of researching this book. He had an open, generous heart and a deep sense of responsibility to those he loved. He stuck with Zelda throughout the long years of her mental illness, paying the steep bills for the best private care. And, contrary to the conventional wisdom that famous writers make lousy dads, Fitzgerald was a loving, if overly strict, father. Indeed, for long stretches during the 1930s, when Zelda was hospitalized in sanitariums, Scott was essentially a single parent to their only child, daughter Scottie. But Fitzgerald also had his demons: they were called gin, beer, and champagne. (Later in his short life, a fourth demon appeared, called pills.) By all accounts, alcohol made Fitzgerald a different, much nastier person. Hemingway did an excellent hatchet job on Fitzgerald as a bad drunk in A Moveable Feast, but there are also plenty of other depressing descriptions in memoirs by Sheilah Graham, Budd Schulberg, and Lost Generation hanger-on Morley Callaghan. It's painful to see Fitzgerald at his worst and also to see what his shining marriage to Zelda was reduced to by the end. Don C. Skemer, the curator of manuscripts at Princeton and the keeper of the extraordinary Fitzgerald Papers there, told me that when the library staff began to catalog the postcards and letters a hospitalized Zelda sent to Scott during the late 1930s, the librarians found that those missives commonly began with the words Thank you for the check.

Fitzgerald may not have had the happiest of lives, but he was lucky in his friends and admirers. He had the best of editors and agents in Maxwell Perkins and Harold Ober, respectively. His last secretary, Frances Kroll Ring, who was a girl of twenty when she first started working for him in 1939 in Hollywood, is, as of this writing, still alive and a self-effacing champion of Fitzgerald's humanity and genius. And his daughter, Scottie, grew up to be a devoted steward of her father's work. Their names will come up frequently in this book, along with those of Fitzgerald scholars like the late Matthew J. Bruccoli, a professorial tough guy who devoted much of his life to studying and collecting Fitzgerald's work.

"There's nothing but bones to pick over," Skemer told me by way of consolation on the afternoon I had to regretfully wrap up my research trip to the F. Scott Fitzgerald Papers at Princeton. He meant that Fitzgerald's life has been mined more deeply than that of almost any other American author. Adding to the paper pileup, Fitzgerald also chronicled his own life exhaustively, through his ledger, his notebooks, his letters, and his short stories and novels. So much material by and about him has already been published, and the manuscript of The Great Gatsby, as well as Fitzgerald's ledger and some of his other works, now float in digitized form on the Internet for all to see, courtesy of the Fitzgerald collections at Princeton and the University of South Carolina. I'm not trying to add to the scholarly or biographical pile here. This is, above all, a personal excursion into the novel I love more than any other. Many, many other people also love The Great Gatsby, and my book is intended for those who want to reread Gatsby along with me, as well as for those few who haven't read it but are curious. I invoke literary and historical criticism when I think it's useful; however, this book attempts to emulate the open embrace of those midcentury public intellectuals, critics like H. L. Mencken, Alfred Kazin, Lionel Trilling, Mary McCarthy, and Fitzgerald's old friend Edmund Wilson. Those critics wrote for a wide audience of educated nonspecialists, the same kind of audience I assume I'm speaking to every week in my book reviews for Fresh Air on NPR.

"Are you tired of it yet?" my husband and close friends would ask me every so often during the time I was writing this book and, of course, rereading The Great Gatsby. I can still honestly answer "No." I don't know how he did it, but Fitzgerald wrote a novel that shows me new things every time I read it. That, for me, is the working definition of a great book: one that's inexhaustible. As I've reread Gatsby in more recent years, its toughness has really come to the fore—a toughness of attitude that clashes with the lyricism of its language. Here are a few of the subjects Gatsby is tough about, subjects that I'll be exploring throughout this book:

Social class. Class remains our national awkward topic, usually mumbled over in academic diversity workshops; indeed, most people don't know how to talk about class without automatically coupling it to race. That's because we Americans are loath to recognize that the sky's-the-limit potential we take as our birthright comes at a price far beyond what many Americans—of any race—can pay.

The Great Gatsby is America's greatest novel about class. In fact, it's the only one of its canonical peers (Moby-Dick, Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, Invisible Man, Beloved) that foregrounds class instead of race. Yet, in our high-school readings of Gatsby, if the subject of class is acknowledged at all, it's mentioned as an obstacle that's been overcome. Consider the Ben Franklin–like rise of Jay Gatsby himself. (See where hard work, single-mindedness, and bootlegging can get you in this country?) But if the novel were indeed the wistful endorsement of the American Dream that Gatsby's pathetically proud father and so many readers are encouraged to think it is, it would end happily, with Gatsby alive in his mansion and Daisy at his side, tinkling away with that voice "full of money." (Baz Luhrmann, by the way, bafflingly omitted this crucial line from his 2013 film, part of a larger project, I think, to defang the novel's class criticism.) Class is the invisible net that snags Gatsby, ultimately pulling him down, down, down into the chilly depths of his leaf-strewn swimming pool. In the novel's climactic confrontation scene at the Plaza Hotel, Tom Buchanan sneeringly dismisses Gatsby as "Mr. Nobody from Nowhere."4 For folks like Tom who are to the manner born, the reinvented James Gatz is always going to be too nouveau riche to pass as old money and be welcomed to the inner circles of high society. Some critics have delved further into the subject of passing by musing over Gatsby's hard-to-place original last name and the references to his "golden" skin. Who knows what ethnic and racial strains taint the mysterious Mr. Gatsby's blood? No wonder, given the anxious cultural politics of the novel, Gatsby is cosmically denied a happy ending with Daisy, the embodiment of Southern "white girlhood."5

Because American society was on the move after World War I (a jitteriness that's depicted in this novel in which nobody ever sits still), every chapter of The Great Gatsby contains scenes where characters quickly size one another up and decide where they fit, socially. The very first words out of Nick Carraway's mouth present his own class credentials for our inspection:

"In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.

" 'Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,' he told me, 'just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had.' "6

That little speech should clue us in on how much breeding is going to count in this novel—as well as on just how slippery the meaning of The Great Gatsby is going to be. Indeed, the thick ambiguity of Gatsby's language is one of the reasons why, despite its scant number of pages, it reads like a much longer story. Are we supposed to think Nick is a prig for introducing his pedigree to us? Are we supposed to give him points for being aware of his own class privileges and acknowledging his social empathy? Whatever impression Nick wants to make, the novel has opened by trumpeting its obsessive subject: class. We might as well be in the turn-of-the-century New York City of Edith Wharton.

So what gives? This is America in the Roaring Twenties, after all, when, as Fitzgerald later recalled in "My Lost City," the old order had been overthrown: Taking over from Great Britain, America was now "the greatest nation" and New York its premier city.7 But perhaps because it was written in the midst of the 1920s, without the softening glaze of nostalgia, Gatsby


  • "Maureen Corrigan has produced a minor miracle: a book about The Great Gatsby that stands up to Gatsby itself."—Michael Cunningham
  • "No one is better at bringing a book to life than Maureen Corrigan. Her vividly personal evocation of Fitzgerald and The Great Gatsby is at once a labor of love, the story of a quest, and a mother lode of information and insight. As a biography of a novel, it reads like a novel."— Morris Dickstein, author of Gates of Eden and Dancing in the Dark
  • "Second only to the pleasure of re-reading Gatsby is the pleasure of talking to someone about it, and Maureen Corrigan is the ultimate someone: boundlessly erudite, blazingly funny, and infectiously passionate. . . . As with the book that inspired it, my only complaint about So We Read On is that it comes to an end."—Susan Choi, author of My Education
  • "An intoxicating cocktail of talent, celebrity, gangster noir, and the vicissitudes of reputation that create a classic."— Ron Rosenbaum, author of The Shakespeare Wars
  • "As pleasurable to read as Fitzgerald's. ... It's smart and compelling, persuasive without demeaning other interpretations...a gorgeous treat."—The Washington Post
  • "We have to be thankful to Maureen Corrigan for letting us in on her intriguing love affairs with great books, as in this wonderful account of her grand passion for The GreatGatsby. She reminds us that perhaps one true promise of that elusive green light at the end of the dock resides in our creative imagination, and the intimate relationship between a book and its reader."—Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran and The Republic of Imagination
  • "Corrigan's research was as intrepid as her analysis is ardent and expert, and she brings fact, thought, feelings, and personal experiences together in a buoyant, illuminating, and affecting narrative about one depthless novel, the transforming art of reading, and the endless tides that tumble together life and literature."— Booklist (Starred Review)
  • "A literary love letter... [Corrigan's] tone is lively and bright and her enthusiasm for the novel is infectious. You'll feel as if you're attending a lecture by your favorite prof or chatting with a brainy, bookish friend. Bursting with intellectual energy and fun facts, this paean to the 'great American novel will appeal to fans of Corrigan's book critiques and Jazz Age scholars, and will, one hopes, impel readers to pick up the brief work for the first (or fourth, or 14th) time."— Library Journal (Starred Review)
  • "So We Read On is a fine book on many levels, almost too many to list. This book is a love story about a book. It's an expression of love for one of the most lyrical and engaging and prescient novels in the English language. Maureen Corrigan writes not only with passion about her subject, she writes with an understanding of America and the elusive goal represented by the green light on Daisy's dock."—James Lee Burke
  • "Coaxing us aboard her narrative Tilt-A-Whirl, Corrigan spins us from topic to topic and back again, each revolution both reminding and enriching."
    Cleveland Plain Dealer
  • "Too genuine and moving to be resisted...[a] generous spirit warms every page of So We Read On."—The Boston Globe

On Sale
Sep 9, 2014
Page Count
352 pages

Maureen Corrigan

About the Author

Maureen Corrigan is the book critic for NPR’s Fresh Air, the Critic-in-Residence at Georgetown University, and winner of the Edgar Award for Criticism. She is the author of Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading (Random House, 2005).

Learn more about this author