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Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and the Invention of The Great Gatsby by Sarah Churchwell

New research and new angles on The Great Gatsby and its place in history.

carelesspeople

Sarah Churchwell (The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe) takes on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s mythically proportioned masterpiece in Careless People, an expansive study of biography, history, literary criticism and cultural connections. Her inquiries focus on a double-murder involving a socially ambitious lower-class woman and a respected rector, both married but not to each other, found shot to death in each other’s arms. The case captured national attention in 1922, the year Scott and Zelda returned to New York–and the year in which The Great Gatsby is set.

With an appealing, freshly curious manner, original research and newly discovered resources, Churchwell explores the possible connections between Fitzgerald’s experiences in 1922 and what happened at the same time in his most highly regarded novel. She also compares the plot of The Great Gatsby to the real-world action of 1922. In the book, which alternates between the Fitzgeralds’ lives during the period The Great Gatsby came to life with the unfolding of media coverage of the murder case, Churchwell incorporates Fitzgerald’s correspondence, including delightful poems exchanged with Ring Lardner, and lists of slang (including some 70 ways to say “drunk”).

With elements of fun and tragedy–like the lives of its subjects–Churchwell’s study of the Fitzgeralds, The Great Gatsby and the world that birthed it presents new perspectives on a literary icon.


This review originally ran in the January 28, 2014 issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers. To subscribe, click here, and you’ll receive two issues per week of book reviews and other bookish fun!


Rating: 8 unattributed clippings.

3 Responses

  1. I think I’m going to put this on my list

  2. […] latest from Stephen King and James Lee Burke; this lovely novel; a little literary history (oh and here’s another); some plants*; and two that are still to come: We Make Beer, and Older, Faster, […]

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